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5 things professionals in business can learn from elite sports men and women

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

Photo by Pascal Swier on Unsplash

Cristiano Ronaldo's recent transfer to Italian football team Juventus at the age of 33, is a reminder that professional sportspeople can teach professionals in business powerful lessons when it comes to self-development.

1. Practice, practice, practice (training) – the best sportspeople in the world practice more than they play. They train, day after day, hour after hour, relentless repetition to cover all aspects of their game.

Business people don’t have the same setup as elite sports but still have ample opportunities to get the practice in. For example, if you want to become a better public speaker then practice, find opportunities and then practice, practice being bad until you are good. Seek out the best training courses and consistently strive to improve all aspects of your performance at work.

2. Review performances, both good and bad (seek feedback) – in today’s game, elite sports have the benefit of real-time, immediate feedback and analysis. They can review the performance and contribution of each player to the success in delivering the strategy.

Professionals in business have to work harder but seeking out feedback from peers, from team members and from leaders should be a given. Do not wait for an annual formal appraisal to find out how you are doing. Get people together to review what went well or not so well for recent projects, meetings, presentations and own the remediation actions as well as giving praise and positive feedback when it is deserved.

3. Control their boundaries (schedules/calendars) – elite sports are set up to control the environment in which the men and women operate. By working hard to control the environment, whether it is the training facilities, the nutrition going into their bodies or their day by day training schedules, elite sports work to ensure they have the best chance to achieve their goals.

It is more difficult for working professionals to define and control their environment but the first place to start is the weekly schedule. The day by day calendar controls where your scarce time and attention is focused. Do your utmost to make sure only the most important meetings make it onto the schedule and hence consume your time and attention otherwise the risk is busyness, not business.

4. Support networks (coaches and mentors) – elite sports have coaches for every aspect of the game and the very best experts available to ensure players and athletes can give their best when it matters.

In business, search out mentors and trusted peers to help with your career. Mentors and coaches are worth their weight in gold, if you don’t have one, now is the time to start. Every day you delay will make it more difficult.

Coaching is not an expense, it’s an investment.

5. Take responsibility (own your self-development) – Ronaldo has risen to the very top of his game by taking ownership and having a routine unlike any other player. Whilst Ronaldo is perhaps an extreme example, I think the following quote from the late Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel sums it up:

“Your career is your business, and you are its CEO.”


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