High performance business environments share a lot of similarities with the world of elite sport: the drive to excel, sharp clarity of focus on goals and the need perform under pressure, to name a few. In fact, sport doesn’t simply provide a useful metaphor for business – it provides practical approaches that, when applied to business, can produce real results.
1. Resilience is key
The ability to bounce back from injury and failure is fundamental to success in the sporting world. Long-distance runners talk about ‘breaking through the wall’ when their physical and mental strength begin to lag; they develop the resilience to muster their remaining power and push through the challenge ahead.
Actively building personal resilience is just as important for managers. On a personal level, you need to be able to withstand the stresses of the workplace and perform under pressure. Not only that but you need to bolster organisational resilience by effectively leading your team to raise their game when the going gets tough.
2. Good people make good players
The New Zealand national rugby team have a saying that goes ‘Better people make better All Blacks.’ (They also like the slightly pithier ‘No d******s.’) Routines like ‘sweeping the sheds’, which sees some of the world’s most famous rugby players tidy up after themselves in the locker room, ensure humility and consideration – rather than big egos – are team hallmarks.
In the business world, managers must also strive to be ‘good people’ and avoid falling into the trap of becoming controlling and domineering. Bad habits like micromanaging can seriously undermine team morale and erode performance. Initiating good habits like the All Blacks – adopting the policy of shaking hands with team members, for example – can reap long-term benefits in terms of individual job satisfaction and team performance.
3. Mindfulness can unlock improved performance
The practice of mindfulness has become a key component in sports psychologically, enabling elite athletes to focus their attention on the present moment and excel under intense pressure and scrutiny. World No. 1 tennis pro Novak Djokovic says “mindfulness helps me process pain and emotions. It lets me focus on what’s really important…Imagine how handy that is for me in the middle of a grand slam championship match.”
Mindfulness – “the intentional, non-judgmental focus of attention on the present moment” – has been proven to sharpen focus, improve decision-making and increase empathy – all valuable managerial traits. NYU’s Stern School of Business Consider has even begun providing mindfulness training to MBA students.