How insights from sport are still relevant in business


~ Jonathan Males

I’ve worked with successful Olympic and Paralympic athletes and coaches since 1992. In that time, I’ve learned how the mind-set required to thrive in sport carries across to success in business; in particular the benefits of focus, resilience, and collaboration. Yet insights from sport can appear irrelevant, unless we understand the critical differences between both.

The most important differences between business and sport are the level of uncertainty and the rate of change.

Sport takes place in a well-defined context. The dimensions of a swimming pool or an athletics track don’t vary from country to country.  Rules are relatively stable, and changes only occur with advance notice from the sport’s governing body. Achievement is assessed against a clear programme of competition on an annual, or 4 yearly Olympic cycle. Other competitors are well known and it’s rare for a serious contender to suddenly appear ‘out of the blue.’ Athletes and coaches are typically well engaged and highly motivated, willing to commit to many years of hard work.

Contrast this with the incredibly uncertain business context. Knowing what the world will look like in 6 months is tough, let alone four years into the future. For those of us facing Brexit, the uncertainty is even more stark. Rules change fast, either with new legislation or by competitors who challenge conventions to disrupt the market. Customers are fickle, and will quickly switch to a new service or product that offers a better, smoother, or faster experience. Too many employees are disengaged, unwilling to commit long term because companies long ago abandoned the idea of a ‘job for life.’ Impatient shareholders demand short term returns.

Compared to high-performance sport, business is much more volatile, unpredictable, and chaotic.

This requires that business leaders are personally resilient, focused and collaborative – all capabilities that can be enhanced by performance psychology principles and practices that we’ve honed in high performance sport.

However today’s leaders need additional capabilities;

  • to take multiple perspectives into account,
  • to think and act systemically,
  • to influence people well beyond the immediate chain of command,
  • to create agile organisations that can learn and adapt fast,
  • to foster a culture of mutual respect and trust,
  • to provide a meaningful purpose to work.

We can help you to develop these capabilities, by coaching you and your teams, and through a new and exciting integrated approach of one hour, leader–led team conversations. Together, these consolidate learning, sustain behaviour change and develop team and organisational culture – equipping you to lead and perform more confidently in an increasingly uncertain world.

Contact us:

Office: +44 (0)20 8216 3775
Jonathan: +44 (0)7711 068874
William: +44 (0)7962 243644



124 Victoria Road, London N22 7XQ, United Kingdom

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