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"Every day above the ground's a good one!"
By Catherine DeVrye   Printer Friendly Version

'Life is the biggest and fastest game of all and when the final score is in, it's not whether you win or lose but how you played the game.' Doc Carlson

The founder of basketball never anticipated the mega-salaries for players today, and as Sydney hosts the 2000 Olympics, cynics might well chose to re-frame Carlson's words as:

'It's not whether you win or lose but how good a lawyer you have to negotiate your contract!'

Whether a basketball star or lawyer, many of our sporting parlance and principles are transferable from the stadium to the business arena. Certainly, we do participate more often than we actually win!

Individual participants
A survey of 60 managers attending the Monash Mt. Eliza Business School revealed a positive attitude toward sport and almost 98% voluntarily participated at some stage. Over 68% had engaged in formal competition, a useful foundation for management where one must constantly compete not only for market share but resource allocation within an organization.

Competition in sport provides a background for a realistic assessment of the strengths and weakness of your opponent and yourself. It instils a belief in reward for effort, the ability and persistence to fight back after a defeat or injury and the importance of critical timing -all traits sought in a manager.

Team players
Over 2/3 of managers surveyed, cited active participation in team sports. Frequent references are made to management teams in business and the good team player is a valued asset. Such a person recognises that the joint effort is greater than the sum of the parts and strives toward realisation of a common corporate objective, while still seeking individual recognition by giving their personal best.

There is acceptance that it is sometimes necessary to hand the ball to someone else even though you would prefer to score yourself. The expectation is reciprocity in the next play or game. Participation in a sporting team, teaches one that help must be given in order to be received.

Into his 70's, the founder of Sony, Akio Morita, was still an active golfer, skier and tennis player, and once compared the volatile Japanese money market to a golf game, where holes have a different handicap each day. Morita's friend, John Opel, also used a golf reference, when asked if he would do things differently, as CEO of IBM:

'All of us would but I don't carry those things around in my head or it spoils the bigger picture. If you worry about the putt you missed on the third hole, you'll ruin the rest of your game.'

Thousands of successful captains of industry in the private and public sectors have proven their competitive skills in formulating successful game plans for their own organizations. It is not surprising that a number of these leaders have been active participants in sport.

Nor is it to say that those who have not participated in sport will not succeed in business, or that a gifted sportsman or woman would necessarily be good in business. However, there are some commonalties of competition, perseverance, decision-making, team play, leadership and motivation.

Almost 7% of managers responded that they had been a sporting coach, and the same percentage registered as a team captain. A manager is a coach of an organization and must carefully consider a game plan to obtain optimal performance from all positions on the field or on the shop floor. He or she must scout for the basic talent and then nurture skill, both obvious and latent, in every individual player. Pre-game training and post game analysis must be ongoing and in addition to those individual components, a coach must cultivate and consolidate an overall team spirit.

Adroit delegation is also critical so each player clearly understands the role expected of them and how it relates to other team members, in order to avoid unnecessary confusion in key situations. In many sports, you must call 'yours' or 'mine' when going for a ball. Likewise, a good manager communicates precisely to employees what is 'theirs' in terms of responsibility.

They support risk taking and encourage employees to test their limits, without taking punitive actions if initial mistakes occur. The person who makes no mistakes in sport or business must simply be sitting on the sidelines and that could be the biggest error of all! That's why it's important to remember that:

'Life is the biggest and fastest game of all and when the final score is in, it's not whether you win or lose but how you played the game.'

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