Businesspeople, of course, love sports. This is evident in so many ways.
From the vast sums spent by companies on sports advertising, sponsorships, luxury suites, etc., and more to the point from the common sayings and cliches of both worlds.
These range from the classic sales axioms – “take your swings,” “get the deal across the end zone,” “this one is a Hail Mary,” to the universal pleas of coaches and managers “to be a team player,” “support each other”, and my eternal favorite to “bring your A-game.”
The sayings might be trite, but the mindsets and daily actions of top athletes and top executives are very similar.
It starts with sports at its most fundamental – keeping score and at the end of the game having a winner and a loser.
Top executives lead from a similar “no excuses” frame.
Top marketers know their prospects either filled out the “Contact Us” form or they didn’t.
For top salespeople, their prospects either bought or they didn’t.
Top managers have either happy, productive employees, or they don’t.
And the companies that top CEOs lead are either growing and profitable, or are shrinking and losing money.
And just like with top athletes, it is all on them and them alone.
The flip side of this tough love “win or lose and there is no in between” frame is how “tabula rasa” sports naturally are.
The best athletes always focus on the next game.
They don’t rest on past glories and accomplishments nor catastrophize the “damning effect” of past losses and setbacks.
Famed coach Bill Belichick is a great example in this regard.
Before he won five Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, his record in his first head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns was a middling 36-44.
Yes, it is nice to have a track record of business success, and for sure it is discouraging to have one of failure.
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But…top executives know that the true value of their enterprises is based solely on its intended plan of accomplishment – and its probability of achieving that plan– in the months, quarters, and years to come.
And then my favorite, and hardest, lesson from sports for business is how much top executives can learn from the life choices of the very best and most successful athletes.
For the very best, it is far more than a game.
It is a burning desire to win that runs as deep and hard as desire can.
And from that desire flow a whole series of life choices and disciplines.
What to eat, what to drink.
When to sleep, when to rise.
Who to have as trainers, advisors, coaches.
All of these life and professional decisions and more are guided by the simple goals of winning, of striving to win, of being the best.
Now, does being a peak performing executive require the same kind of monomaniacal focus and discipline?
Yes it does.
The negative of this is that it is a lot of work and sacrifice.
The positive is that for the executives at the top of their profession, and for those striving hard to get there, their work is truly a labor of love.
And the sweetness and joy and satisfaction they feel when it all comes together and their businesses just take off and prosper….
….makes it so much worth it!