6 Game-Changing Business Lessons Straight From The Hockey Field
Like me, anyone who has any experience playing team sports will have a shared understanding of the euphoric feeling of success and the wounding feeling of failure, no matter what level. To win is everything; to lose is painful, every game, every time because it matters. The desire to be a part of something greater than ourselves gives us a sense of social belonging. At our most basic, this is what we crave.
1. Believe in your abilities and take a risk.
It is my belief that sport can hurt, but it can also heal. It can polarise, and it can galvanise and it can separate and it can integrate. In my opinion there are many synergies in terms of the mindset required to be successful in sport and business. Every four years, the Olympics allows us to observe, appreciate and admire those who make the most extraordinary sacrifices to pursue the ultimate goal. What does it take to win a gold medal in any sport, whether it’s an individual endeavour or a team effort? We watch in awe. We are inspired and emotionally invested in witnessing people we don’t even know taking their place on that podium and cementing their place in history. Sports professionals have sacrificed so much and trained all their lives to achieve one moment of life-defining glory on the track or field.
I play to win in both business and sport, but sometimes we over-emphasise the results and don’t focus enough on the process. I am a keen hockey player. Like many team sports, I believe that hockey provides several skills and benefits beyond just the physical. Some key lessons translate straight from the pitch directly into the workplace. As a centre-back, I know that the defence plays a significant role in supporting the team. Defenders can see everything in front of them and are adept at helping teammates with positioning, protecting the goal whilst assisting the team in going forward. They have to be great communicators.
You miss 100% of the opportunities that you don’t take. Backing yourself, taking chances when they present themselves and being courageous is all part and parcel of being successful. Be brave, be bold and don’t be deterred by the fear of failure. Routine, comfort and certainty are all things that we cling to, but if we do what we’ve always done, we get what we’ve always got. For the almost 100 billion neurons we have in our brains, a minuscule percentage deals with unfamiliarity, new situations and environments. We are conditioned to thrive on patterns and daily habits by default, but we don’t succeed by playing it safe. As Lord Coe once said: “If you don’t know why you failed, how can you improve? If you don’t know why you succeeded, it must be an accident.” Don’t stifle your creativity. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn. .
2. Stay hungry for success.
Skills can be taught, but the desire to achieve is innate. That hunger is your driver and motivation to succeed. It feeds continuous improvement, pushes you to the next level, and can be a real game-changer. After a big win, don’t rest on your laurels and pat yourself on the back. Even if you have a blinder, never be content with how you played. Always be on the hunt for the next opportunity. Go after that deal, keep persevering with that client and always make sure you’re match fit. Even if it feels like a David and Goliath situation, having that desire to win is half the battle. Everybody loves an underdog. In sport, we often hear “they wanted it more” when referring to the opposition. Don’t let that be said by anyone in the office.
3. Master the art of anticipation
Work on honing your ability to read the game and be one step ahead. Don’t just play where the ball is; play where the ball isn’t as often; that’s where opportunities can be won and lost. Sometimes, timing is everything. Analyse and question different scenarios, as this will help build a better overall understanding of what you’re up against and how to break it down. Take notice of the little things that impact your overall success and the success of the team. Experience is beneficial when dealing with current and future scenarios. Take in as much detail as you can, look past what’s happening, and be more aware of what’s not happening. Pay attention, and you won’t ever have to utter the words, “well, I didn’t see that coming.”
4. Always stay humble and gracious in both success and defeat.
Those who overtly express humility, both on the pitch and in the office, make better leaders. Humility creates a culture of continuous improvement. Openly celebrating the achievements of others boosts confidence and self-esteem and helps foster a culture where everyone is valued. Humility allows you to accept challenges without the fear of failure. When those failures come, you’ll be more inclined to use what you’ve learned to do it better next time. Be ready and grateful for that substitute appearance. That’s your opportunity to show what you can bring to the team, how your skills are different, and what you have to offer can positively influence the overall goal.
5. Think Agile
Agile Methodology dominates the technology world, but many principles are easily translated from what happens on the hockey field to what happens in the office. There has to be a strategy. What’s the game plan? It’s about breaking things down into sections or phases. The constant collaboration, the continuous improvement and the criticality of evaluation are essential aspects of ongoing success. Plan – execute – evaluate. The hockey pitch is all about focusing on increasing the productivity and results of a highly diverse, proficient and multi-skilled team. Enterprise agility reflects high ambitions for performance improvement. Commitment and discipline are key, a mantra that every hockey player lives and breathes.
6. Remind yourself why you play
For whom are we working? What is it we love about the game? We all put in the hours, whether it’s on the training ground or in the boardroom. The hard work and the graft have to be worth something. The minute you question why you’re doing something, you lose part of the desire. For some, it’s for the buzz that comes with that unexpected win and the sense of achievement. For others, it’s the camaraderie, the drinks and the bonding with other team members. For all, it’s the pride that comes with being good at something, being acknowledged for what we bring to the team and feeling a part of something bigger than ourselves. The feeling of accomplishment and the ability to realise our potential gives us self-actualisation and acceptance. We want our families and friends to be proud of our successes.
My final thoughts are, whether it’s winning a tournament or winning a deal, clearing a shot off the line or bringing around a waning customer, the passion and emotion shown by high achievers in sport and business are the same. We all want to impress the new boss. Business leaders continue to offer an increasing interest in learning lessons from sport. I feel the parallels between the hockey pitch and the business world are continually strengthening. You only have to look at the power of the Olympics and the ability of sport in general to capture the attention of millions. After all, what is life without goals?