Today, it seems that these two areas are becoming more and more inextricably linked. The days of amateurism are far behind us, the time when we played sport for the fun of it, and actually even paid to take part. I can remember losing money from work, and also having to pay my own travel costs to play sport. Agreed, the Corinthian ideal is still around in some areas, but most highly profiled sports are very financially driven. And, there, we have our first direct link between the two.
What are the main drivers in the high profile sporting arena? Certainly winning. This of course is of huge financial benefit – TV revenues; competition participation reward; increased attendances therefore more revenue, attracting investors etc. Business is not really so different – all teams in the professional sporting leagues are companies and many show up on the various stock markets, maybe not so many mergers, but lots of acquisition is taking place. Companies are often on the lookout for that USP.
What then, can make our company a winner?
Maybe the answer is already part of the company. Our personnel, maybe that’s the USP. This is where I see a big cross over between sport and business and where mutual learning can take place.
For example, let’s take a football team. We need a manager (above that of course we have our Board of Directors), we need a coach/manager, and we need support staff. There might be 11 people on the pitch at any one time representing a team, but the ‘back-room’ staff are many more. Let’s think about the team. We need a captain, sometimes even a vice-captain. We need people in particular roles, defenders, midfielders, strikers. But, the interesting thing about a football team is that usually people are playing to their strength areas. A natural left-footed player will generally receive the ball to his (or her) left foot. Communication happens, albeit sometimes quite basic.
This doesn’t always happen in companies. Sometimes we don’t even know the strengths of our fellow team members, and communication can be a nightmare. Team leader might be there by default, and not necessarily a motivator.
Success, scoring a goal, winning the game is celebrated, by players, support staff and thousands of fans alike. How often do we celebrate success in our organizations so spontaneously? Is there a common goal? Are we playing to win at work, or are we playing not to lose?
Coaching is sometimes seen in organizations as not always needed, or it’s only for the really top people, or it’s perceived as not affordable. Back to football teams; coaching is key – this is where the success and the ROI come from.
Maybe, just maybe, companies could learn from sporting models.