In the last two issues of Smart Business Chicago, we’ve featured two CEOs who pursued the dream of being a professional athlete. Chris Clawson, the president of Life Fitness, wanted to be a professional baseball player. He spent three years playing for farm teams of the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros before injuries forced him to give up the game he loved.
In May, we spoke with Stu Crum, president of Bridgestone Retail Operations LLC. Crum wanted to play pro football and spent three years as a kicker in both the National Football League and the former United States Football League. Crum had the physical tools, but felt like his inability to tune everything out and focus on those key moments when he had to deliver for his team proved to be his undoing.
Both men moved past their relatively brief athletic careers and have found prosperous careers in the business world. But the lessons they learned from playing sports have proven to be quite valuable in leading their companies.
Grab a whistle
Many CEOs have played sports, but few made it past Little League or the high school junior varsity team. But even if that was all they did, they often cite the lessons they learned about camaraderie, discipline and selflessness that sports teaches and how it has helped them be better leaders.
As you look at your employees and think about what they need to perform at their best, it’s OK to put yourself in the role of being their coach. While you’re probably not going out on a baseball field or a basketball court to do your job, you often have an arena in which you’re expected to perform. Think about the mindset that you and your team need to have as you enter a conference room with a key client.
Check in with your team before important meetings. Are they ready to present their plan and answer questions? Do they seem confident or do you see doubt in their eyes? What can you do as the leader to ensure that they bring their best effort when they “take the floor?”
Looking beyond the meeting, how much do you talk about goals and numbers in terms of where you’d like your business as a whole to be and where you want your individuals to be performing? Who is meeting their goals and who is falling a bit short?
Find a spark
If you haven’t brought a coaching perspective to your leadership, it might be something to consider to spark your team. If it feels forced or you go too far on the analogies, you’ll probably get more laughs and eye rolls than renewed energy and commitment.
But presented the right way, it could help give your employees a boost to make that next project the best it can be.
Everybody likes to win and when you present work in those terms and give your people meaningful goals to pursue, you might end up pleasantly surprised by the results.