I’m interested in the idea of learning from things I’m passionate about (Sport): what can we take from other disciplines to enhance our own working lives? A lot has been written about mindfulness, but here I want to look at what sports psychology can teach us in the world of work.
Obviously, one key difference is that successful sports people train hard for key events. A rugby player may bring their fitness to a peak once a week, while for a sprinter like Usain Bolt, there could be just a handful of significant occasions a year for which he has to be on top of his game.
So how do you do this? I’m reminded of a brilliant piece in the Harvard Business Review, published back at the turn of the millennium. Like all the best insights, The Making of a Corporate Athlete hasn’t dated, and authors Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz have done compelling work on connecting emotional, physical and spiritual needs in what they call “the performance pyramid”. Their goal is to outline the conditions necessary for “sustained high performance in the face of ever-increasing pressure and rapid change” – in other words – to create, or enable The Corporate Athlete.
Loehr and Schwartz emphasise the need for “endurance, strength, flexibility, self-control and focus,” and use insights gained from the sporting world to understand the conditions for peak performance, They asked “hundreds of athletes to describe how they felt when they were performing at their best. Invariably, they used words such as ‘calm’, ‘challenged’, ‘engaged’, ‘focused’, ‘optimistic’, and ‘confident’.”
Once you begin to address your own performance at work in the light of sports psychology and preparation, you can begin to gain invaluable tools for meeting your daily challenges like presenting to your board or motivating your team.
But what can you do when the conditions for peak performance just aren’t being met?
When I start to work with a candidate at TalentHub, my goal is not only to place them in a role where their skill set matches the requirements of the brief, I also want them to find a position where they can confidently reach their peak performance – not just occasionally, but every day.
How do we go about this? At TalentHub the process takes place over a sustained conversation, but you can address some of the key points yourself in three stages:
1. Unlike a regular job interview, I ask candidates to work with me and look back over their entire career to pinpoint those moments when they felt they were working at their peak, bringing their A-Game every day, and thriving on it. Essentially knocking it out of the park every day and enjoying it!
2. Next, I ask them to consider and explain what were the environmental and management conditions that enabled them to deliver this performance.
3. Finally, we clearly identify these catalysts and use them as key pointers to their ideal next role. Sometimes the results are surprising!
Reading Loehr and Schwartz’s Corporate Athlete piece really brought home to me the rightness of this approach, and it clearly benefits both candidate and company.
On the playing field or in the boardroom, high performance depends as much on how people renew and recover energy as on how they expand it, on how they manage their lives as much as on how they manage their work. When people feel strong and resilient—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—they perform better, with more passion, for longer. They win, their families win, and the corporations that employ them win.
I have to credit Justin Cullen, Digital and Data Officer at Core Media, who brought ‘The Making of a Corporate Athlete’ article to my attention. Justin, whose own insights are backed up by Core winning Best Place to Work for the past four years, adds “some people play sports competitively, some for the camaraderie of being on a team, and some for the sheer joy of finding out how far they can push themselves and what they can achieve. Bringing that back to the workplace enables us all to work together better, and to shine.”
Author: Morgan Cummins
Morgan is an experienced marketer who has been lucky enough to work in markets like Australia, the Middle East and Ireland. After an 18-year (award winning) career in advertising, He transferred his skills and knowledge of Industry into Recruitment. Morgan goes that extra mile by helping people identify the peak performance in their career and apply that to their next role.