Not too many CEOs will be able to look back on a career at the top level of sports. There may be some that excelled when they were younger – and even played to a good standard. But it is more likely that they focused their energy on being successful in business rather than sports.
But even the most sports-averse CEO can learn a lot from top athletes. The CFL’s Zach Collaros may not immediately seem to have a lot in common with the likes of Elon Musk.
But they are both hugely successful in their chosen fields – and have probably used many of the same techniques to help them get to where they are today.
Here’s what CEOs could learn from sports athletes to become more successful and productive.
Working towards something and creating deadlines gives focus to everyone, regardless of what field they are in. Athletes will train all week ahead of a game, using it as a target to be at their best. CEOs can use the same techniques to really concentrate on what is needed.
But that focus should also be relevant to all of the team. Individuals will have their own responsibilities, on the field and in the business sector, but everyone should understand the bigger picture.
Realigning your individual targets into a common goal will help everyone understand what is needed, while still allowing you to achieve what is required from a CEO.
As much as a CEO is many times the focal point of any success achieved in business, they will very rarely be able to get to that point alone. Teamwork is key to business and that is something that is very obvious in a sporting environment. The parallels are very clear.
Just like a star quarterback needs to surround himself with the best supporting teammates to win games, a good CEO has to have trusted and skilled people around him or her.
Taking complete control of a task is very tempting – especially if it is something that you have come up with – but ultimate success will need the help of talented support.
At first glance, this might seem at odds with our last piece of advice. But any good and effective team also needs a leader. In sports, it will usually be a captain who inspires and shows by example what is required. Every team member needs to fulfill their role to achieve their aims – but the captain is the focal point.
This is a relationship that must feel very familiar for anyone involved in business – and especially CEOs. A good CEO is only really as good as the people that work in the organization. But that CEO also needs to have confidence in his or her own abilities to lead the organization.
Success does not happen overnight. We mentioned the training regime of athletes before. No elite sportsperson can expect to perform to the highest ability in a game without preparing thoroughly beforehand. Whether it is physically or mentally, some degree of training is essential.
This can easily be transposed into a business environment. A brilliant and promising idea for a business will not immediately provide results. A lot of work will have to be done from inception to practice – and it is the lessons learned along the way that will help achieve ultimate success.
Many sports athletes will talk about feeding off of the pressure of opposing fans or players. If there is a hugely successful sports team, you can be sure that all the other teams in the league will be trying to emulate it. Athletes want to win - and the best way to do that is to beat the best.
This point may be slightly different for CEOs. Competitors may not have to be beaten in the same way. There is usually more room for numerous winners in most business sectors.
But by looking at how competitors operate, CEOs can adapt and replicate successful techniques and practices to bring success to their own organizations.