Business lessons entrepreneurs can learn from sports

While sport is a great spectacle and source of entertainment for many, it also provides inspiration and ideas for leaders in the business world if studied closely

Business lessons entrepreneurs can learn from sports

Sport in many ways is like business. Apart from long hours and limitless stamina both require there are many lessons to take away from watching your favourite matches . Having spent the last ten years consulting top athletes, sports teams and organisations sharing the high performance methods I have identified the parallels between both the industries. 

Here are four lessons that all business leaders must be aware of.

(1) Have a compelling goal

One thing that attracts millions of people to watch sport and stay committed to their teams is the emotion it stirs. Sport makes for compelling viewing and none more so than when your team is competing to win a prestigious competition.

Emotion is the fabric of life and drives much of our behaviour. In sport, having a clear compelling goal helps in keeping everybody focused and committed to giving their best. However, in businesses, the question is if your goals really engage your team at an emotional level?

An example of this is a pharmaceuticals sales team who were under pressure to meet their targets. They redefined their goal from the nuts and bolts of the job to the difference they were making. Their goal went from selling drugs to doctors to saving patients lives. The result?

They smashed their targets by over 160%.

(2) Know your success indicators

Sportspeople depend on results to gauge their success which come thick and fast. They often play a match every week. 

With this relentless schedule, there’s constant pressure to deliver. The goals are clear. Every few days you go again, in search of a clear result. There is no hiding place as there are thousands of fans cheering you on. Most businesses don’t operate in an environment like this and the results can take a lot longer depending on what sector you are in. But it’s still important to be really clear on what success means to you. Ask yourself – do you have a scoring system that everyone understands? Can you measure it easily to know how well you’re performing?

(3) Concentrate on success

Learning from your mistakes is absolutely essential to success. But according to Sir Clive Woodward, the man who lead the England Rugby team to World Cup Glory in 2003, we must be smart about this. “I prefer to concentrate on success,” he said. 

When he took over the England Rugby team, he found a culture seen often in business, which is when you win, you celebrate. And when you lose, you ponder.

However, in order to drive high performance we must focus on success because what we focus on tends to expand. Great sportspeople know this and shift their focus away from the negatives and keep the team in high spirit.

(4) In it together

One simple way business leaders can achieve their goals quicker – how Sir Clive introduced it – is to have regular team meetings. Moreover, start each meeting focusing on the achievements and targets which were met. Build on the positives before reflecting on the negatives. This helps engage the brain and puts your team in a better state of mind.

Don’t wait until you lose to call a team meeting, call your team meeting after every win and ask them about what they can learn from that success? 

Martin Robert Hall
Martin Robert Hall

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