A Sporting Life

A Sporting Life

The Olympics are right around the corner. The NBA Finals finished last month and the NFL preseason schedule will begin in a few weeks. And of course the boys of summer are starting to hone in on their pennant runs in anticipation of the Fall Classic. Does anyone else out there keep track of the calendar based on what sports are in their regular season, preseason, postseason? Maybe that’s just me. But in ways both good and bad, I’ve taken more notice of the parallels between sports and business lately.

Sports has found its way into the work place for as long as both have existed. From commonplace lingo (That meeting was par for the course) to popular metaphors (Our department is like a football team; everyone has a specific role to play), sports is an integral part of our day to day existence. Business leaders and consulting types like me have made the deeper dive and examined how sports performance provides a great template for optimal work place performance. Think about it; a team sport requires a group of individuals with different backgrounds and skills to mesh their talents in order to accomplish a common goal, often requiring long hours and personal sacrifice in order to achieve success. From a management perspective, athletes have an immediate recognition of success or failure and coaches can give immediate and relevant feedback. 

That’s some of the good ways.

You’d have to be sleeping under a rock not to have noticed the wide variety of scandal that’s pervaded sports recently. From illegal benefits to the horror we learned about Penn State, sports has too often emulated the worst parts of business. Power and greed have eclipsed decency and common sense in too many cases, a reminder that even the “purity” of sports is not past the reach of corruption. And that’s clearly a negative.

It’s often been said that society can be judged by the sports they play and the ways in which they entertain themselves. I wonder which side of the ledger we’re on right now?