Corporate Learnings from Sports

07 Oct. 2010 General

I have always been of the opinion that the concept of “coaching” in the corporate world stemmed from the sports coaches. The corporate world handpicked some coaching techniques and translated them into processes and models that would work for them like coaching for peak performance or situational leadership. For every manager, the challenge is to get their unit or team very focused, goal aligned and fully committed towards the vision.

Next time when you watch a team game, whether professional or amateur, dwell a minute or two over the types of training that may have been applied to put teams and individual members in high performance zones. Empathize with the rigors and discipline they might have undergone to see this light of the day. Think about the similarities between your corporate teams i.e HR Team, Accounts Team, Dot Net Team, Java Team, PMO Team, etc and the sports team- can we borrow some training ideas from them?After all, they too chase a goal; they too have a benchmark to achieve, they too toil hard and work to earn their bread and butter at the end of the day, just like us.

Due to the need of potential & capability enhancement for teams, many organizations are building serious training programs to provide corporate learnings for their employees. It was once a wide belief that a sports person’s natural talent and hard work could propel him or her into the winner’s circle. Now, performance coaches argue that a big part of sports people’s success belongs to attitudes, beliefs, or thought processes – some of the very criteria, standard corporate learning programs are built upon. Through their personal development training, sports persons learn to develop better focus, match day composure, and self confidence through mental strength. These characteristics are essentially important while working in the corporate world as well. Overcoming the day-to-day challenges, customer demands, team management, deliverables, etc., requires you to deliver the best, every single day, just like an athlete entering the field.

It would also seem ironic that sports personalities need team building activities, but they do. I remember one real experience in my previous organization where a recruitment executive was passionate about playing badminton. He would practice on court, socialize and play with a diverse cadre of individual’s everyday, both in the morning as well as evening. One fine day, while reviewing the rewards program chart for HR Team, his name flashed as the high performing recruiter. He fulfilled all resource requirements before the recruitment SLAs and all the resources he hired were deemed as quality recruits. I observed that while playing, he brought more social networks under his repertoire and branded the company. He never referred any job portals or consultants to achieve his tasks and believe me, he successfully hired 128 people in a single quarter, and what’s more, all were laterals.

Change management is another aspect that is traditionally followed in the sports field and is used in the world of professional corporate set up. Think about a football game and how each individual’s decision, right from the coaches down to individual players, can impact the entire game and the entire team’s success. Experts have adapted time tested change management courses to enhance decision making skills as per individual and group needs. Through this type of training, players learn to quickly assess the situation and can make their own decisions. HR professionals unanimously agree that change management & OD (Organizational Design) interventions are challenging in today’s corporate scenario. To make matters worse, there are unrealistic expectations to make this happen overnight! The best way is to undergo change management and understand the organization by evolving and categorizing initiatives as “good to do” and “must do”.

Incorporation of training methodologies adopted by sporting fraternity in corporate circles will always remain an exceptional challenge. However, with expanding horizons and cross functional leverages no avenue is isolated from each other.The most important thing is to evolve with time and incorporate the best from all possible worlds.

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