Sport Field

For most of us, sport is something that we grew up watching and playing. And, in many ways, sport is just like business. There are obvious similarities, such as the competitive landscape and long hours. But, if you dig a little deeper, there are many lessons to be learnt from your favourite game.

Here are 12 lessons from sport to spur on success at work ...

1. Embrace diverse working styles and personalities

Every athlete is different and that means every sports team is different. Sure, there will always be a few natural-born leaders. But behind every great team is a colourful mix of personalities, each crucial to success.

What’s more, every team member has a psychological role to play - top-performing teams will balance ability, competitiveness, discipline and interpersonal skills in order to be successful.

The workplace is no different. Studies show that companies with teams that are diverse in both inherent and acquired traits are more innovative and profitable. Diverse management teams can also produce a 19% increase in revenue when compared to their homogenous counterparts.

Just think about it … Too many leaders may become disruptive, too many outspoken people can stall progress and too many introverts may hinder communication efforts. So, embrace diverse personalities and remember that everyone has a role to play!

2. Focus on your strengths

In team sports, no one person can excel at everything. That’s why we assign people positions. It’s all about a bunch of people with different skill sets contributing to overall success.

In football, for instance, the goalkeeper will be a well-rounded player with superior reflexes, decision-making skills, hand-eye coordination and ball-handling ability. While, full-backs and strikers will be fast, skilled on the ball and in peak physical condition.

A company should look at their team members in the same light. It’s rare (actually impossible) for one person to be good at everything. So put play into practice by:

  • Knowing your key strengths and creating opportunities to use them

  • Deciding how much time you invest in your weaknesses versus hiring (or delegating to) others with complementary skills

  • Respecting the strengths of others. If someone is a great defender and you are a great attacker then you have a powerful combo

  • Finding out what your team members enjoy most about their roles and what motivates them. If you can, tweak their position descriptions to suit.

If you leverage your strengths, it is likely you will be happier and outperform those who don’t – people who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged at work and are 8% more productive!

3. Train, train, train

Sports teams spend a great chunk of their time training to improve. In fact, many practice a lot more than they actually play the game.

This is also important in business. The more time you spend practicing and learning new skills, the better you’ll be at your job and the more value you’ll add to the company. So, be sure to engage in ongoing professional development and encourage your colleagues to do the same.

4. Focus on what you can control

Competitive athletes know that there are things on the field that cannot be controlled - like the weather, ref calls and the skills of the other team. So, they focus their efforts on what they can control, like the amount of effort they put in on gameday.

This can also be applied to the business world. There’s no use in worrying about things that are out of our control. Instead, focus on things that fall within your control like how you spend your time, how much effort you put into tasks and your attitude towards work and co-workers.

5. Learn from failure

Michael Jordan once said, “I've missed over 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six 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.”

Great athletes never give up. They take time to learn from their setbacks and mistakes so that they can improve.

In business, it’s important to foster a culture where employees do not feel scared to make mistakes. That’s because mistakes promote learning and help people grow. Failure is also the foundation of innovation - Post-It Notes, penicillin and pacemakers were all ‘mistakes’, you know?

So, resist punishing failure. And instead, reward employees for staying accountable, taking risks and learning through doing.

6. Know that communication is the cornerstone to success

Whether it’s a sports team or an office, effective communication is vital. Players of co-workers who know how to communicate will work better together. And coaches or managers who know how to effectively interact with their team can influence performance, set goals and convey expectations.

So, make healthy communication a priority in the workplace by:

  • Building rapport with your employees or co-workers to develop a foundation of trust

  • Working on your listening skills

  • Trying to understand different people’s communication styles

  • Offering constructive feedback

  • Keeping things transparent

  • Seeking out feedback consistently

  • Providing forums for two-way conversation, such as regular team meetings and one-on-ones

7. Stop micromanaging

In a management role? Listen up…

Scrupulously observing or controlling the work done by other people can drive a wedge between you and your teammates and may even affect your health!

In sport, coaches cannot get out on the field to play. So, stop barking orders at your employees and simplify your game plan so that they can meet your expectations.

Work on setting clear goals, fostering two-way conversation, providing healthy feedback that allows people to learn and grow; and, most importantly, letting your team get on with the job!

8. Start the day grounded

The All Blacks Haka was once misunderstood to be a ritual designed to intimidate the opposition. But its purpose goes far deeper in finding the right tempo, connecting with your peers and being grounded. It is this ritual that creates razor-sharp focus and clarity for the game ahead.

How you show up to work is no different. On days where you feel grounded and connected you’re more likely to be able to focus, which brings better outcomes and a greater sense of achievement

So, set yourself a morning routine and be clear about your intentions each day.

9.Thrive under pressure

Athletes use stress as a motivator. They thrive on placing themselves under deliberate pressure to win, which helps them become peak performers.

Typically, we view work stress as a negative influence that we try and avoid. Science tells us that whether you perceive stress as positive or negative may affect the way your body responds. And those who view stress as helpful to performance are less stressed out, less anxious and more confident.

So, tune into your stress mindset and acknowledge when you feel stressed. From here, recognise that stress is telling you to take notice of something important and use this knowledge to fuel action.

When you view stress as helpful, you create the biology of courage which is essential both on and off the field.

10. Invite feedback

As a player, you actively go out and seek feedback to make you faster, better, stronger. Your coach is there to high-five a good goal and to give you inspiration when not playing well. Competitors don’t try to adjust game plans by themselves—they look to their coaches for guidance and advice.

Feedback at the office works in a similar way. Deep down, we all want it because it helps us improve and work more effectively as a team. In fact, some studies show that more than 60% of people want feedback on a daily or weekly basis (increasing to 72% for employees under 30).

So, ask for specific feedback on something you are working on and find a great coach, mentor or leader who will challenge and inspire you. If you’re the one giving the feedback, be sure to make it constructive and relevant.

11. The art of humility

Great teams continually show humility by asking themselves “how can we do this better?”.

They recognise that no matter how good they are, they still need to steadily evolve – a necessity to combat their opponents’ own improvements.

Coaches and players create a positive learning environment where not knowing all the answers is a strength that helps the team adapt and grow.

Put play into practice:

  • Admit to mistakes and take action towards the greater good

  • Set aside some time each week to reflect on ways of making things better.

  • Ask your team over Friday drinks if they had their week over, what may they do differently.

  • Not only will leading with humility to impact your business, but it will also impact you personally. You will feel better about yourself, your work and your team along with the impact on overall performance.

12. Don’t forget to pass the ball

Even if you're a great player, you can't win the game alone. You have to rely on other's strengths to get the job done. From the forward to the back line, everyone has a role to play.


  • Look at your (or your team’s) typical daily tasks and determine which jobs are best done by others

  • Help your team to break down barriers with other areas and collaborate effectively

  • Organise opportunities to involve others and collaborate on ideas and actions to encourage accountability.

  • Respecting the strengths of other teams and the roles they plan leads to effective collaboration. Organisations that promote collaborative working have been found to be five times more likely to be high-performing.

Get in touch with Trojan

We hope you've found these lessons from sport helpful. But if you’re serious about building your own winning team, contact a recruitment agency and get advice from the experts in labour hire, temp recruitment, permanent and contract staff.