5 Best Lessons Leaders Can Learn from Sports

Engaging in any kind of sports is a mental game as much as it is a physical one. Whether you follow soccer, swimming, basketball, or cross-country skiing, you’re probably aware that carrying out sports involves personal skills, mental resilience, and leadership abilities.

The field of sports is competitive. And to be successful in it, there needs to be teamwork, the right mindset, strong interpersonal relationships, planning, and more.

For business leaders looking for insights, studying what sets apart top teams and individuals from others can lead to improvements in how you run your business.

Here are the key lessons all leaders need to pick from the world of sports.

Have a shared vision and mission

When people enter into a sports field, it’s typically because they have a natural interest in this area. Even so, coaches and leaders in different fields work hard to create a shared vision and mission that the entire team can believe in.

When it comes to businesses, you typically have people join up for different reasons. Some people are passionate about the industry. Others have general skills that fit into your business. While some others are simply part of the business because of need rather than preference.

These differences in motivation can make it more challenging to pull your entire team in the same direction.

What you need to do is to develop a shared mission and vision that resonates with everyone in your organization.

It’s when you create a shared sense of purpose that your employees will feel more motivated. And the overall work that they do will have meaning for them.

I recommend reading Simon Sinek’s Start With Why and the follow-up Find Your Why by David Mead, Peter Docker, and Sinek. These books give you clear reasons and means to deriving a ‘Why’ for your business.

As your business starts to develop a strong overarching purpose, it will reflect in your work and impact your customers positively.

Allow people to play to their strengths

The only way a team can do well in any sport is if each individual is doing the activity they are good at. As a leader, this means knowing your own strengths and that of your team members. You have to be willing to drop a front-facing role or put aside your own ideas in favor of someone else’s.

In my business, I’ve had to step back and get fresh ideas from my partners. This led to even more growth and had positive outcomes for everyone in the team.

It’s also important to talk to your team and test their abilities and work to gauge their interests.

When you put people in the right roles, you’ll build a robust team that works well.

Routine and discipline matters

The key to success in sports and in business is to continuously improve and become more skilled by learning and practicing.

Before the lead-up to an event, sports teams have to practice and work together for a long time before they actually do the final event.

In business, what’s important is to sustain good practices over time rather than to pick up new marketing trends that appear and go away.

You have to have regular meetings, track KPIs, make social media and blog content, and focus on small tasks rather than on expensive one-off marketing campaigns.

Doing things like engaging with your community on social media every day or drafting regular content creates better results over the long run.

Use visualization techniques

The use of visualization techniques is a well-known and common practice for top athletes. Before doing an event, athletes visualize every step of their performance and imagine themselves winning the first prize. Visualization is also used to memorize tracks and arenas so that sportspersons are familiar with the environment in which they’ll be performing.

How should business owners and leaders use visualization?

If you’re a startup that’s going to pitch to an investor, then you should visualize delivering your presentation perfectly and seeing the investor nod along or smile.

Or if you want to build a great product, then you can visualize what a happy customer says and thinks when they use your product.

Visualization helps your brain begin to filter information and work on finding answers from ‘under the hood’. As a result, you’ll start picking up articles, books, and websites related to your goal. You may also start to connect with different people because you are talking about your goal more.

Make visualization a regular practice and try to make it as detailed as possible to see the best effects.

Preparation and checks are critical

Safety is paramount in sports. You need to check your equipment several times and account for external factors like the weather. Not only that, but you also have to ensure that every team member is physically and mentally in a good place.

Likewise, in a business, a leader has to have checks and setups to ensure that everything is working optimally. These checks can take the following forms:

  • Staying on top of customer sentiment around your brand. Use social media monitoring tools to pick up what people are posting and sharing about your brand and products. You’ll be able to pick up PR issues and deal with negative chatter before it gets out of hand
  • Using data analytics to track the performance of your website and your marketing campaigns. Depending on the KPIs you set up, you’ll quickly pick up something if your campaign isn’t working as it should
  • Financial auditing and regular checks on your budget, income, and other factors are all important to ensure that your business has the cash flow necessary to grow
  • Doing regular surveys for your employees and customers. By doing surveys you learn whether your employees are happy or if they have needs that aren’t being met. And learning about how your customers feel and what they want also gives you relevant information that tells you how to manage your business

It’s through constant monitoring with the help of KPIs, tools, and outreach in the form of surveys that you’ll have a finger on the pulse of your business.

Conclusion

The field of extreme sports requires great leadership skills and strong teamwork – two things that businesses also need.

In this post, I’ve highlighted the top lessons from sports that can be applied to your business. Think about sports events that you follow or practice in everyday life. What lessons can you apply from them to grow your business?

There are many similarities between managing a sports team and managing your business. By understanding what works in one area, you’ll be able to grow yourself in the other.

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Author: Thomas Griffin

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