If you sit down with some of the best-known entrepreneurs, business execs, and leaders in the world today and ask them how they stay focused, sane, and innovative when the pressure is on, the answer may surprise you: Many will swear by a daily run (or bike, swim, climb) ritual to keep them feeling confident and passionate in the projects they choose to undertake.
Despite the fact that many of them are performing a major juggling act, athletes are often high performers in their professional lives, even when they work in an industry that’s totally unrelated to their fitness goals. Athletes have had to develop some pretty difficult-to-teach skills- including the ability to handle setbacks, unwavering discipline, and ruthless determination when the going gets tough. Because of this, many employers seek out athletes to fill key leadership roles within their companies to drive creativity and efficiency.
So, what else is it about athletes that make them such great hires for businesses looking to stay three steps ahead of the game?
It’s all in the habits they build.
1. Excellent Time Management
As an athlete, time is gold. There’s never enough of it, but they always make it work. While others around them worry about work, family, and some semblance of a social life, athletes have an extra category (a physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding one) to maintain and conquer. Doing it halfway when things get busy doesn’t work either- when life gets hard, athletes have learned to double down and figure it out.
2. Constant Planning and Pivoting
A strict schedule with little time means that every day must be planned ahead of time, accounting for the parts that might go wrong. Whether it’s turning a commute into a run or bike- commute, a quick lunchtime swim, or catching up on stretching in the office behind desks, athletes are master pivoters. There is always a Plan B and even a C when lunchtime pizza causes a stomach ache or bad weather hits.
3. Desire for Specific, Quantifiable Goals
Much like any effective workplace goal, most athletes focus on very specific metrics they are aiming to hit. After every race or workout they finish, they analyze and strategize, recognizing what they could do better. Then they pick themselves up and they try again.
4. Respect for “You Get What You Put In.”
Sure, there’s some genetic luck thrown in when one becomes an athlete, but for most of the athletes who have long, successful careers, it’s the time and effort put in that matters the most. Whether it’s adding morning yoga, new stretches, or physiology guides to a bedtime ritual, athletes remain students of sport. For a lot of us, it can be become easy to accomplish the bare minimum, never venturing outside of what is expected of us in our roles.
5. Ability to Fail Well
The ability to experience failure and grow from it is one of the most important qualities in a great hire. At some point point or another, every athlete has failed in a way that was disappointing and probably even devastating. That same athlete got up and tried again. Over and over. They don’t become over-emotional, angry, or a poor sport when something goes wrong. They learn from the experience and become a more effective athlete (and worker) for it. They are accountable and coachable.
6. Gritty Determination
Ever seen a coworker flounder when the tough gets going and the path forward isn’t clear? Athletes are leaders who are used to experiencing and finding ways to manage uncertainty and immense discomfort, all with a positive attitude. Whether it’s by re-adjusting, asking for help/mentorship, or jumping right back in, you want that type of person on your professional team to get you to your finish lines.
7. Respect for Balance and Good Health
Employees who take care of their minds and bodies perform better, are more productive, and stay with their companies longer. The proof exists in the numbers and the booming employee wellness industry. Athletes have spent a lifetime working toward the highest functioning of their bodies and know the importance of strong mental game, even while under pressure. No gimmicky, expensive wellness programs needed here.
8. Team Players
When an athlete grows up training with partners or teammates, he or she learns to develop empathy for others and a drive for the greater mission of the group. Being a star player is nice, but the best athletes understand that working empathetically with others to go further is even more important. This means taking on tasks when no one else will, learning to relate to colleagues who have differing perspectives, and assisting team members around them to become even better versions of themselves.
Yes, they’ve got too many pairs of sneakers stacked up under their desk. Yes, you never stop seeing them snacking. Yes, they spend their Friday nights prepping race gear and drinking water. But by embracing failure, always looking for ways they can do better, and lifting up the others around them, athletes will change the way your company and team grows in the ways that matter.