We often hear stories of professional sporting success translating to success in the boardroom but what attributes make athletes so well placed to thrive in a business environment?
As a competitive rally car driver, Corinne Ripoche, CEO Adecco Americas & Pontoon Global, leads with a similar approach to business as she does on the race track.
“You must have total trust in your co-pilot and be aligned with one common purpose. You cannot be afraid to fail. If your strategy has energy, focus and determination you will succeed.”
At Pontoon, where entrepreneurial spirit and playing collective are actively encouraged, we experience the positive that professional athletes can have on business, with clients and with colleagues.
Katina Graham played for the Women’s Professional Football League (now the WFA) for 4 years and was nominated to the Women’s Professional American Football League (WPFL) All-Pro Team twice. Katina is a Team Leader in the Toledo Customer Hub, North America.
Lee Humphrey played professional basketball for the University of Florida, the NBA G-League and for teams across Europe. Lee is Head of Midmarket Business, North America.
Shuron Washington played professional basketball in the NBA LA Summer League and in the Federal International Basketball Association for various teams across Europe. Shuron is an MSP Program Leader in North America.
Which behaviours/traits did you use playing the sport that have crossed over to help you find success in your professional career?
Katina Graham: Not only was it tough physically playing a full-contact sport, but also mentally and emotionally balancing school, work, practice, games and travel. It took a lot of preparation and time management, dedication and hard work. It was challenging but developing those skills has been invaluable in my professional life.
Shuron Washington: Leadership, time management, competitiveness, accountability & responsibility, commitment and most importantly teamwork. There is no “I” in team. We move as one.
How does your leadership style correlate to leading your teams when playing your sport?
Lee Humphrey: Every team member or colleague has an important role. The best teams have leaders who lead by example. Your teammates won’t follow you or buy into your vision if you don’t.
Shuron Washington: To be a good leader you must be confident, resilient, a strong communicator and willing to put the team’s goals ahead of your own.
How does training in sports relate to developing your career and achieve goals in a professional setting?
Katina Graham: If you slack at practice, it shows in the game. It is the same with business. If you don’t continue to challenge yourself every day, take risks, seek additional training and growth opportunities, you won’t grow professionally.
Shuron Washington: In both sport and business you must set goals. It helps you focus your attention and is critical in maintaining your motivation. By setting sharp, clearly defined goals you can measure your progress and continuously motivate yourself to achieve the vision you have for your professional life.
Describe how we can apply an athlete’s mentality to winning business and providing the best experience for our customers.
Shuron Washington: Simplify – no matter how difficult the task at hand appears to be, the key to managing it is to simplify.
Play to your strengths – when you are leading a team, know what each individuals’ strengths and weaknesses are. Move beyond reviewing their experience to get to know how they see themselves. You may discover a hidden talent that could support the overall results of the team.
Keep feedback channels open – feedback is similar to playing back film of your team performance
Appreciate your team – never forget about the individual contributions of your team members no matter how small.
Coordinate with your team – avoid wastefulness of redundancy and the inefficiency of conflicting interests. When everyone has the big picture in mind and knows how to navigate their place in it your entire business will thrive.
Prioritise consistency – what you put into each business today has the potential to yield incredible results down the road.
Visualise the success – take the time to imagine important meetings and presentations. Picture the development and success of your projects. It will activate your brain to manifest your goals that much faster.
How do you think former athletes can benefit corporations?
Katina Graham: Athletes bring passion, grit and comradery to any business. They take charge when things get tough. They know how to celebrate big wins but also how to pick the team up when things are low.
Lee Humphrey: The experience of working in teams with people from different backgrounds and varying skillsets. Adaptability to be able to work together, motivate each other, move past mistakes and be patient to ensure everyone is on the same page. All athletes learn fast how to deal with pressure. Balancing this pressure whilst remaining able to perform at your best is essential.
Find out more about the Adecco Group Athlete program.