- On the surface, success in sport and business may look very different. But when we look closer, corporate and sporting excellence are perhaps surprisingly similar. As an athlete making the transition from a sporting to a business environment, there are a number of skills that athletes already possess that could enable them to flourish within business. For success in both disciplines, the ultimate aim is to stay focused on the end goal and to do whatever it takes in order to achieve this. Part of this success is down to mental strength, and utilising this to enhance individual performance within the workplace, along with helping to deal with the stressors associated with the transition.
Here are five key skills that athletes have learnt from careers in sport that can be transferred to a career in business.
Communication is key in all effective teams, not only for success and direction towards the end result, but in developing positive cohesion and working relationships. Athletes know that communication needs to be clear and concise, and can draw on examples from competition and training as to when they have had a positive experience of communication, and the results that have come from those positive exchanges. Athletes are also used to communicating with a wide variety of different people including teammates and opposition, officials, support staff, board members and the media. These different people all require different styles of communication, which is not dissimilar to the business environment, with different styles of communication required to communicate with team members, prospective clients and those in a position of management.
2. Giving and receiving feedback
Following on and closely linked to communication, giving and receiving feedback is a key skill learnt by athletes that can transfer into a business environment. A characteristic of high-performance sport is a desire for constant improvement and striving for excellence, with feedback coming both internally, from the feel of the movement or personal reflection, and externally from coaches, teammates and statistics and results. Athletes are used to receiving and dealing with feedback, whether positive or negative, and using it positively to strive for improvement. This could be key for athletes when transferring to a new role in a business environment, taking feedback positively from more experienced team members and using it to better themselves.
Another important skill that athletes possess is the ability to work together in a team. Understanding and promoting the strengths of team members to maximise the chance of success is a critical component for high performing teams. Along with maximising strengths, athletes can aid with motivating and inspiring fellow team members, promoting a positive working environment and a strong team culture. These teams that are high in social cohesion foster strong working relationships, which can lead to an open environment, where feedback and ideas can be shared with no fear of judgement or ridicule.
4. Performing under pressure
Perhaps the most obvious transferable skill from sport to business is dealing with pressure. The sporting environment is by nature high-pressured and competitive, and athletes have to learn to cope with these demands in order to be successful. The business environment has its own levels of demands. Time constraints, delivering presentations, customer relations and gaining professional qualifications are all common stressors found within a business environment which could cause pressure. The skills athletes have learnt from performing under pressure in the sporting world can help them to deal with the demands of a business environment, and allow them to excel in the fast-paced changing environment.
Another aspect of sporting life is dealing with adversity and failure. Many athletes have failed more times than they have been successful, but have continued to learn and grow amidst the failure. The ability to deal with failure is of equal importance in business, and can be transferable to any career. Being resilient and bouncing back from failure is a vital skill in leading to a positive future outcome.