Give yourself a sporting chance
Lessons in leadership and wellbeing
Sport can change people's lives. It reveals and develops character, and we’ve seen that high profile people in sport like Marcus Rashford can give a voice to the voiceless. Sport matters in business too because it can teach us so much about how we behave, how we lead and how we develop as people.
It's why we invited four outstanding sportsmen and women to our recent Power Up Festival. Sir Andrew Strauss, David Nash, Alex Partridge, Wagestream and Cath Bishop are all winners in that word's conventional sense. Between them, they've represented their countries, won Olympic medals and brought home the Ashes. What they had to say on the day was fascinating and revealed much about how the behaviours traits of sportspeople can offer a roadmap for us all as we think about how wellbeing can drive performance.
One of the themes from their sessions touched on culture. Their view? If you want to build a winning culture, you must focus on celebrating other people’s success within the wider team. Teach people how to do it, assess them on how they respond to it and make it a prerequisite for them to be part of your team. If you do that, your people end up happier, and individuals begin to focus less on their performance. In wellbeing terms, this focus on others in your community makes a huge difference when it comes to positive mental health.
In their session, Cath and Alex examined the concept of winning. In the period after her Olympic success. Cath became fascinated in building a new definition of what winning is. In her book, ‘The Long Win’, she celebrates process, not outcome. In other words, it’s not the winning of the medal that matters as much as what you learn getting there. Grit, determination, and resilience are all traits needed to win an Olympic medal, but you also need them for life. And finally, Cath and Alex talked about how you use the lessons learned to build meaning and purpose in your life way after you’ve left the podium. We know from all of the work we do at Let’s Reset how important having a goal is to our overall wellbeing.
In their session on leadership, David Nash discussed how he, in his sporting career, actively sought psychologically safe environments. Teams who felt able to discuss everything together, even if that meant difficult conversations along the way. Groups that feel psychologically safe win more, enjoy more, and learn more.
It was clear from their sessions that all four of our sporting guests actively sought opportunities to coach other people because they knew that, in doing so, they could help others and themselves. The more you support and teach others, the more you learn. And again, there's an obvious link here to our sense of self. We've learned more than ever in the last twelve months that it's not who you know but who you help. If you can build a life based on the quality of the support you offer other people, you focus on one of the key emotional drivers of wellbeing.
Finally and perhaps most interestingly, one of the key themes to emerge in a sporting context was super strengths. The notion that to be the very best version of yourself, you need to keep improving the things you're best at and not worry so much about the things that are your weaker suit. And that got me thinking. Picture the scene. You're in an appraisal at work. Your boss explains what he thinks you're not good at and goes through a set of ideas to help you improve them. He pegs your salary and bonus to doing just that. I reckon that's predictable management by numbers and leaves you feeling pretty demoralised. Picture the same scene, though, in which your boss tells you at the start of the meeting how brilliant you are at communicating and presenting. She then says that she'd like you to focus on getting even better at these because that's the way you can best enjoy your job and help the team succeed. It would be a game-changer for you and the way you performed, I suspect.
So, here were some lessons from our festival and the world of sport we could all use. Lessons to help us, our teams and our businesses put wellbeing at the heart of everything we do. It's why Let's Reset exists and why we believe that if you prioritise your people over your profit, you will ultimately 'win long' in Cath Bishop's words.