Five business lessons from the weekend paper’s sports section

Collingwood

Jordan de Goey leaves the field after winning the round seven AFL match between the Geelong Cats and the Collingwood Magpies at Optus Stadium in Perth on Thursday, July 16, 2020. Source: AAP Image/Richard Wainwright.

If you’re like most people, you probably keep tabs on your favourite sporting team’s news and statistics. 

You might be surprised to learn, however, that if you look closely, you can actually learn powerful business lessons from the weekend’s action. 

Here are five reasons why business owners and startup founders should read the sports section.

1. Holding leaders to account

When teams are falling down the ladder, who’s the first one to get blamed? Who’s the first one to leave?

It’s not the players, it’s the coach.

We’ve seen countless examples of coaches being replaced with new ones and seeing their performance turn around.

So why doesn’t business run the same way?

When things go wrong in the workplace, who’s the first to get the blame?

Usually, it’s the frontline staff. 

It’s time to look at problems from a different perspective.

Your staff can only perform as well as they’re set up and coached.

2. Coached to success

Think about the last time you played a team sport.

It may have been in school or on the weekend. Maybe it was the local footy club, or weekly tennis rounds.

If you remember a time when you were at your peak, it’s safe to say that you probably had the help of a coach. 

The same is true in business. In Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Entrepreneur, the main character learns that the best way to improve the profitability of his business is to coach his team to a higher level of performance.

Which leads to the next reason why should be reading the sports section…

3. Customer service is management driven

On game day, where will the manager or coach be sitting?

In the change rooms? In the office?

Absolutely not. They’d get sacked.

The coach is right there on the ground.

They’re watching the game being played. They’re right there before the game starts, at quarter time, at half time.

They’re making decisions, changing positions, improvising in the moment based on the gameplay. They’re responding to the loss of momentum. 

But what happens in business? Where is the manager when the customer service game is being played?

Unfortunately, most managers are sitting in the office while the game is being won or lost.

The lesson here? Get out of the office. It might be time to make a change and call a huddle.

4. The importance of keeping score

Why is sport so exciting?

What drives people, week in, week out, to follow a team throughout an entire season?

It has a lot to do with the scoreboard.

Whether it’s table tennis, hockey, or curling, there is someone keeping score, so you know exactly how the team is going. 

What happens in business?

It’s not that business doesn’t keep score.

The problem is that by the time people get the score, it’s already too late to make a difference.

By the time you look at your bottom line financials, you’ve already played the entire game.

It’s like a saying we follow: ‘Using your financials as your main measurement is like driving using your rear-view mirror.’

Teams are more motivated about playing the game when they have a frequently updated scoreboard.

5. Perfecting the fundamentals

When the game is not being played, what are the best sports teams doing every day?

They’re training.

Even the best in their field spend hours perfecting the fundamentals.

Tiger Woods was notorious for staying behind after a game practising his golf swing.

Again, what do most businesses do?

Most managers allow their team to go on the field without any warm-up or training in advance.

They’re fumbling the ball while the game is being played, and this is costly to a business where word-of-mouth is critical for success. 

Ultimately, its time for business leaders to learn from the best sporting teams in the world.

Become a coach for your staff, be on the ‘ground’ when the game is being played, help your team keep score, and offer training to your staff.

These are critical ingredients for better word-of-mouth growth and repeat business.

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