What business can learn from sport

With our local football team making its way back to the top tier of soccer, it seems an appropriate time to look at what pearls of wisdom a business can learn from a sports team.

The crossover between sport and business is well-known. It is the reason many corporate companies like to invite medal-clutching sports people to address their staff or speak at conferences. There is a belief that much of what goes into sporting preparation and success is equally valid for the business community.

Teamwork, desire to achieve, motivation to meet goals, target-setting to make improvements – these are all performance-related areas that are relevant across both the sports world and the business environment.

While we are massive sports fans here at Pursuit Software, (particularly of Norwich City FC) we still appreciate that there are many, many differences between sport and business. However, in this article, we are concentrating on some pointers from sports coaching that can be equally effectively applied to your own workforce.

Giving universal respect

The first point is that within any team, sporting or workplace, we should be giving equal respect to everyone within the organisation. This principle extends to staff meetings, formal and informal discussions and any interaction between members of staff and/or management. From the newest recruit to the most senior worker, the most healthy workplace will be one in which everyone feels they are allowed an opinion and that people will respect their opinion, even if they disagree with it.

Relevant to this point is the inclusion of retired personnel in discussions. Most companies say goodbye to long-serving staff with a party, a gift and goodbye. But think how much knowledge you may be losing. Sometimes it is worth inviting a former employee to give their opinion – ‘how might you have dealt with this?’ It’s amazing how valued the former employee will feel and the quality of information you may gain.

Stay positive

The use of positivity is very important. When a manager is setting targets or giving feedback on a project, try to think about the language used. Think in terms of ‘working towards’, rather than ‘unpicking’ something. For example, if someone in the sales team has fallen short of their monthly target, talk about how new targets can be met, rather than focusing on what wasn’t done in the previous month. Of course, the failure to reach targets must be addressed but the over-riding message is how to make improvements not to dwell on mistakes.

Analysis of opponents

The careful analysis of opponents is vital to a team’s game plan. And so it can be for your business. If you can spot what your competitors are doing well, you will be able to counteract it with some innovation of your own. Keep an eye on your opponents and you will be able to develop your own strategy to corner a larger share of the market.

Know your team’s strengths and weaknesses

If Manchester City or Liverpool are failing to score enough goals, they will go out and buy a new striker. Or get their current strike force to put in some extra training.

If you know the strengths and weaknesses within your workforce, then you can plan your business strategy accordingly. If, for instance, you know that PR is not your current strong point, then a recruitment campaign for a PR person, or contracting PR out to a specialist company might be the way forward. Along the same lines, if you know that there are knowledge gaps within your workforce, seek training opportunities that will both chance the employee’s skill set and be of benefit to thew workforce as a whole.

These are just a few examples of how principles that are true to many successful sports teams can be transferred to the business environment. We would love to hear any more ideas on how ideas from other sectors – sport or otherwise – can lead to a winning formula.