What You Don’t Know About Why Athletes Make Great Team Members In The Business World…

In Mental Toughness
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Hiring managers and owners like hiring athletes and former athletes to join their organizations— and it’s not just so they have a better chance of winning softball and basketball games at the annual company picnic. 

There are some traits that are disproportionately found in athletes as compared to the general population that, with proper job-specific training, make them great for the business world. 

I lay four of those traits out below. 

1) Athletes understand roles and are COACHABLE. 

1) Athletes understand roles and are COACHABLE. Click To Tweet

A good sport team, and good music band and a good business are all the same in one way: everyone knows and accepts their role. 

On the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s, only one guy could be Jordan. There was only one Steve Jobs at Apple. Everyone cannot sing lead for a band. 

Today, more and more people are chasing fame and attention and looking to make themselves a star. On a successful, team, however, there can only be one star. 

Athletes understand this, know how to play their roles and are willing to listen when it is suggested that they could be even better in those roles. 

Meaning, athletes are willing to be trained and told what to do. We listen to and respect authority (at least, when we trust that this authority knows their stuff). 

Though they may be good at what they do on their own, an athlete understands that there is always room for improvement — and that they themselves may not be able to see the flaws in their own game. 

Though they may be good at what they do on their own, an athlete understands that there is always room for improvement — and that they themselves may not be able to see the flaws in their own game. Click To Tweet

Additionally, knowing that everyone on a team plays a role, the athlete plays their role of performing — and welcomes the person whose role is to notice and point out possible improvements. 

Thus, athletes welcome the presence of coaches, who in the work world, may be known as supervisors or bosses or mentors. 

While some people are not so open to being coached, an athlete will actually seek these folks out. 

2) Athletes are used to constructive criticism and don’t bristle at it.

2) Athletes are used to constructive criticism and don’t bristle at it. Click To Tweet

Nike founder Phil Knight talked reverently of his college track coach Bill Bowerman, who pushed his runners relentlessly every day in practice. 

Bowerman’s race strategy, according to Knight, was for a runner to run as fast as he could on the first lap, then on the second lap to run faster than that. On the third lap? Even faster. 

Bowerman was the classic hard-ass coach who never allowed his athletes an inch of mental or physical slippage. That toughness helped Knight when he struggled early on making Nike into the company that it has since become. 

Part of being coached is the understanding that some of that coaching — maybe the majority of it — will be your coach letting you know that you’re messing up, are producing less than your best, or that you have a lot of room for development. 

Part of being coached is the understanding that some of that coaching — maybe the majority of it — will be your coach letting you know that you’re messing up, are producing less than your best, or that you have a lot of room for… Click To Tweet

Logically speaking, these are all good things — they’re all ways of telling you that you are not quite a finished product! 

But, that’s not what everyone hears.

 If you’ve ever offered constructive criticism to someone, assuming you were qualified and positioned to give it, you’ve seen people react (push back against) to it rather than respond (accept and utilize) to it. 

Part of being an athlete is developing the Mental Toughness that inevitably comes from being subjected to constant and often unrelenting coaching. 

Part of being an athlete is developing the Mental Toughness that inevitably comes from being subjected to constant and often unrelenting coaching. Click To Tweet

Coaches and trainers yell at athletes, tell them how their “great game” wasn’t actually that great, and are always pushing for me, even when the outside world is telling the athlete how great they are. 

Someone who doesn’t have a sport background and has not been subjected to such feedback may not be so welcoming of that type of pushing. 

3) Athletes understand the work + time equation. 

3) Athletes understand the work + time equation. Click To Tweet

My start in basketball was at a level below “humble.” 

With no one to teach me and no YouTube to reference in the mid-1990s, my only option was to go to the neighborhood basketball courts and practice.

What was I practicing? I didn’t quite know. I just knew that my only chance of becoming good at hoops was to be out there every day, and to stay out there until I figured something out. 

I eventually made sense of the game and worked my way up to the professional level. 

As an athlete, you Work On Your Game because you inherently understand that you’ll improve over time and have long-term results to show for your efforts. 

So, when your last 3 months of work haven’t made a dent in the desired outcomes, the athlete doesn’t fret — they keep pushing, along with the aid of expert coaching along the way. 

This is a simple equation — effort + time = success — that many people seem to forget when mired in the depths of frustration over a lack of positive outcomes. 

With athletes, you won’t have that problem. 

4) Athletes are competitive. 

4) Athletes are competitive. Click To Tweet

After shooting several air balls down the stretch of the final (losing) game of their season in the 1997 Playoffs, then-NBA rookie Kobe Bryant went straight to the Los Angeles Lakers training facility from the team plane. 

Kobe didn’t want what had happened in that last game to happen again. And he didn’t waste any time in getting to work on his welenesses. 

Life is a competition. 

Life is a competition. Click To Tweet

We all compete for jobs, customers, attention. There are new competitors coming into the game every day, especially when the spoils of victory (money, fame, apparent fulfillment) are obvious and tempting. 

With so much competition happening, rare is the person who wins every time. 

Since most of us will suffer a defeat every now and then, the question is not one of flawlessness, but of perseverance: how soon does the defeated competitor bounce back? 

Athletes know that the possibility of losing is something we accept when we set out in pursuit of victory. And though the athlete always wants to win, they come back even stronger from their losses, smarter and more resolved than before. 

Athletes know that the possibility of losing is something we accept when we set out in pursuit of victory. And though the athlete always wants to win, they come back even stronger from their losses, smarter and more resolved than before. Click To Tweet

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What other traits do athletes have that translate well to the business world? Reply and let me know — I read all responses.  

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#568: The Communication Skills You Must Learn For Life

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