Seven corporate lessons from the world of sports
Abhishek Jugran, Chief Commercial Officer at HCCB has played active sports for most of his life. A cricketer of substance, he captained his team in Harris Shield tournaments and played against several cricketers who went on to represent India and Mumbai. Even today, when the pulls and pressures of a CXO level job keep him occupied, he finds time to play a game of badminton.
He knows that sports has had a big role in shaping his corporate career and his overall approach to life. Here he outlines seven lessons that he has learnt, by playing sports:
1) Learn from failures: For every successful endeavour, there are couple that would have failed. In an intense set-up like the corporate world, failures can dent confidence. I have always learnt from athletes and sports practitioners, about how to take failure in one’s stride. I am reminded of Michael Jordan’s famous quote “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
2) Have a burning desire to be in the thick of things: This is a basic ingredient of success, both in sports and business. Half the battle is won if we have people in the team who are itching to go out and perform. A players’ love for the game is felt not so much when he/she is playing but when they are not getting an opportunity to play. I remember reading an interview of Sachin Tendulkar, when an injury had kept him out of action for a long time. He had said, “I plead every day, every minute to God that He just let me play.”
3) Prepare well to perform and handle pressure: We often err to attribute a sportsperson’s extraordinary achievement to their talent. But what we tend to miss out on, is the hours of practice behind that success. I have seen a video of Usain Bolt, on how he prepared for the Olympics. Several times in this video he is seen vomiting, at the end of his workouts. Such was the rigour. We in the corporate world would do well to take a leaf out of an athlete’s book.
4) Visualise success: Staying with the tale of Usain Bolt, I can’t help recalling one of his interviews conducted a day prior to one of the big tournaments. To a question on his chances of winning, Bolt famously said, “In my mind I have already won the race.” This is how the winners think and visualise. On another occasion, Desmond Haynes, one of the best opening batsmen of the 80s, from the West Indies, had shared his tricks of performing at the highest stage, “I visualised that I would hit the fast bowlers in front of the wicket through the cover region. And, it happened exactly I had imagined.” I feel this is the attitude that we must inculcate to stay positive and confident of success at our workplace.
5) Have alternate plans: We have often seen in business that some of our plans do not survive the first contact with market realities. This is where we need to learn from sportspersons. The situations they face in tournaments are invariably different from what they plan and prepare for. But what helps them, is their ability to quickly shift gears and adjust to new situations. There is always a plan B or plan C.
6) Take responsibility and back your team: Sports teaches us how great leaders take responsibility especially for the failures, in team sports. Great teams are built on the edifice of courage and faith. Workplace is no different!
7) Help others succeed: Sports in all its romance is often described as a war between men. But there are stories that go much beyond personal rivalry and glory. One of the stories that I remember is of Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics. Having missed his first two qualifying jumps, Jesse Owens was one jump away from disqualification. Luz Long, one of his fiercest competitors, went to Owens and suggested that he jump from behind the take-off board since the qualifying distance was easily achievable.
Owens did so, qualified, and eventually beat Long into second place in the final. Jesse Owens then said: “You can melt down all the medals and cups I've won and they wouldn't be a plating on the 24 carat friendship I felt for Long at that moment".
Similarly in business, there are times when we just need to focus on helping others, rising above the selfish interests and winning at all costs.