People think about training your mindset or focus on your mental outlook because it might help you perform competitively for sport only. In fact, it’s for anyone who wants high performance. V:in sports, however, we can watch that performance in real time. We see it on the field and on the court. We can see the effort. We can see flexibility. We see the team’s ability to communicate effectively and work together. We see their ability to execute and their desire to win.
But sports can teach people in all organizations how to mentally train, prepare and improve. I spent 22 years in professional sports, first as a professional baseball player and professional baseball manager, and later as a mental health consultant to Major League Baseball players and National Football League players. I have developed mental conditioning programs for the San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners and the University of Notre Dame.
The corporate world is a lot more like the sports world than you might imagine. They both have a defined objective and require workers and players to accept their roles, prepare and fulfill the stated objective. At ReliaQuest, my cybersecurity company, where serious incidents often need to be addressed, we take the connection between sports and business performance seriously (we even sponsor a sports bowl in our local Tampa Bay area). And there are many ideas that organizations can take from the world of sports to improve the performance and well-being of their employees.
Create your own dashboard
In sports, it is obvious who wins and loses. stats don’t lie and neither does the scoreboard. In business, sometimes we need to be more intentional about defining what clear targets look like. But, once you get that, you can really narrow down and focus on the mindset you need to develop to hit those targets. It then becomes easier to drive accountability, as does acting with a sense of urgency. This is how we “score”. Protecting the ball or company assets is vital. Helping our teammates and protecting the customers we serve is a huge win and a great incentive for future progress.
In my team we use moments of thought score, be present and focus on the task at hand. We do this at the start of all team matches. This is an opportunity for leadership or anyone to set the stage by introducing a mindset principle, telling a personal story and then asking questions to see how it resonates with others. It’s time for our teammates to be open and vulnerable if they want to, fostering the psychological safety and connection that all great teams have. For us, it has created a more active company environment that is more conducive to its people.
Develop a mental preparation regimen
How do you deal with failure? That’s the nature of the job, right? Rejection abounds. Everything that goes into a product, from building it to selling it, is a process that can be overwhelming. Having the ability to literally focus on one step at a time is vital. Mental preparedness and readiness can help people feel ready for anything and everything.
In baseball, a game throws an average of 280 pitches, but its outcome is determined by only 8-12 of them. The players must treat every pitch with the same importance as the staff must treat every incident with the same readiness. In our own operations center environment, for example, we encourage employees to develop a mental preparation routine that helps them lock in and treat every ticket that comes in like it’s the ultimate. Specifically, I help them identify the three steps in this process: taking control of yourself, developing a healthy plan, and committing to follow through.
Build resilience through your support network
Many times when watching sports, all we see are the athletes on the field. We don’t see the strength and conditioning coach, the assistant coach who worked with the player before the game, the nutritionist who helped put together the meal plan, or the athletic trainer who helped prepare the teammates to play that day. We don’t see complete the team.
Flexibility is built from a comprehensive sports and business support network. This support empowers our people to respond and react to achieve desired business outcomes. All organizations should invest in similar networks that give employees the tools they need to thrive and perform, such as mentoring opportunities, generous benefits, and access to mental health support. A strong mindset that fosters a strong culture is a winning combination.
Perform like a pro
M:Working in sports and business has made me realize that success can be achieved in both with the right growth mindset. It can help individuals and teams overcome obstacles; it can help develop new skills and take on new challenges. It also enables you to run towards new opportunities and new ways of doing things for maximum efficiency.
Derryn McMains is the Director of Intellectual Performance at ReliaQuest.