What NRL greats like JT can teach us about professional development

(Image source: Fox Sports)



As a Brisbane-based mum of three sports-mad tweens, the anticipation of Johnathan Thurston’s 300th game has created some serious excitement in our household this morning.

While my children dream of being up on the podiums hearing the crowd roar, dressed head to toe in an unlimited supply of sponsorship clothing and counting piles of money – the power of dreams, goals and role models takes centre stage.

All this hype has me thinking about the incredible lessons we learn from our time on the sports field and how invaluable this knowledge is later in life.

There is nothing more inspirational that watching an athlete at their peak!

Why peak performance matters

As specialists in talent, Peopleconnexion are constantly asking the questions around how do we help build capability, how do we build capacity, does this ensure greater confidence? Studies have shown that the skills required to be successful at work, in additional to technical competencies, are our ‘soft skills?. There is an extensive volume of research into the predictors of success, including Google’s recent Project Aristotle highlighting the importance of interpersonal skills and characteristics.

The reality for most people participating in sport is that they will not be counting large piles of money or receiving an endless supply of free branded trainers (but if anyone from Nike is reading this ? my kids? feet sizes are 10, 9.5 and 9).

So what are the lessons we learn on sports fields and sports arenas that will result in us becoming more successful contributors in the work environment?


Lesson One: Hard work is a necessity

We’ve all heard the narrative of the successful sports star: Discipline. Hard work. Feedback. Fine-tuning. Hours spent improving fitness, skills and endurance.

 No matter the weather or the conditions, sports people needs to practice, practice and practice some more. It is no longer enough to pitch and play if they want to be successful. Hard work is a necessity.

Understanding hard work is an important lesson in life.

We can spot the hard workers around us, they are the ones who always seem to have the capacity to do more. If we trained for work like an athlete trains for the field or the pool, imagine how much stronger you would be. If we dedicated the same effort to our careers we would be unstoppable.

In this hurly burly world of change that we operate in, we can never stop learning, practicing and adapting.


Lesson Two: Life is not fair

This is a great lesson when learnt early on.

The truth is, life generally is not fair. If we assume that this is the context we are operating in, we are more likely to show greater resilience and hang in there when we are dealt a tough break.

In sport, this can be in the form of a biased coach, a lack of resources to get the finest equipment money can buy, a sizzling hot day, a tough pool selection or the roughest break of them all ? injury or ill health before an important event.

Our kids need to learn that they need to get on with things and that it all boils down to consistent performance and being proud of their achievements. They need to learn to take the knock and be resilient and not use bad breaks as the commentary of future performance. In tough times, they need to have a growth mindset and look at what the positives are that they can take away. They need to go back to the basics, and look to the next time.

In the workplace we see how some people make excuses for their performance, blaming cliques, bad bosses and bad markets.

In order to be successful you need to focus on what you can control and stop looking for fairness ? it doesn’t exist. Pull up your socks, take courage, one step after the other and make your own luck happen.


Lesson Three: The importance of self-awareness and feedback

Our elite sports starts have an acute sense of self-awareness.

They understand what their strengths are, how to further develop them and capitalize on their success. Top athletes also know what their weaknesses are and how to avoid being blindsided by them.

They seek feedback from others, they watch video reruns and ask experts to help them improve.

What went well? What went badly? What do you need to improve in? What must you continue doing? Our young athletes, with a supportive coaching team, learn how to analyse the results of their efforts and then most importantly apply those modifications.

Feedback is a critical skill at work. Being able to give and accept feedback is a promising start, but committing to making modifications and trying things differently is how you master a skill.

If feedback is not given, go and seek it out.

The greater our self-awareness and exposure, the greater possibility we have of understanding our strengths and how to maximise opportunities.

By taking a hard look at ourselves, we can identify areas in need of improvement. Most importantly, by really understanding our strengths we are able to differentiate ourselves in the workplace.


Lesson Four: Have fun

Image: (AP: Gregory Bull)

Like most parents, my rule for my kids is that they need to love what they do. Sometimes they would prefer a comfy bed than a 5am start on Sunday morning, but once they are out there in the action they are absolutely loving it.

Because, to me, and generally anyone else that participates in sport, that’s what it’s all about!

How much fun are you having at work? If the idea of working in your element, completing that challenging project or winning a new client doesn’t excite you and motivate you to get through your ?off? days, what will?

What has been your biggest lesson you have learnt from sport?

If you are looking to unleash talent in your organisation in 2018 and build your team’s competency in the work environment, please get in touch with me via jean@peopleconnexion.com to learn more about our Learning & Development solutions and upcoming workshops. 


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