People often ask me what I did before I started my career in recruitment. Many are surprised when I tell them that for fifteen years I had the job that most youngsters dream of. I was a professional footballer. OK, I admit, the link between the two careers is not immediately obvious. Scratch beneath the surface though and you’ll see that there are actually a lot of transferable skills. And that’s what I hope to share with you.
For most, professional football is but a short – and extremely enjoyable – chapter in a much longer career. What we learn on and off the pitch lays the foundation for our future career path – it certainly has done for me!
"Keep talking about your game plan"
Before any football match kicks off there’s loads of talk about tactics and how’s best to approach the game. We research the team we’re playing, try figure out how they are going to play and decide how we need to combat that to give us the best chance of winning. This strategy and planning phase is as important in football as it is in business, preparing us all for what lies ahead. Talking to our team mates during the game is vital too. It’s how we adapt our approach and modify our tactics to set us up for success. A quiet team is usually a sign of individuals working together. Teams that talk are collaborative and cooperative. They’re winning teams.
"Play to each other’s skills"
On the pitch everyone has a role to play. Defenders defend the goal, strikers score the goals, and midfielders do a bit of both. You can argue that certain positions are more important, but the fact of the matter is no one would win a match with a team full of strikers. Everyone within a team has a unique set of complementary skills – when they join together, that’s when the real magic happens. It is only when you realise that the success of any team is due to the sum of all its ‘players’ that you can start to really leverage the skills that you all have. Look at your team mates, appreciate how their skill-set differs from yours and use them for your collective success.
"Keep your eye on the goal – even when the odds are against you"
The football pitch is no place for non-believers. Even when you’re knocked down – made a dodgy pass or missed a penalty - there’s just no time to wallow in self-pity, or indulge yourself in picking apart your performance stride by stride. You’ve got to use these hard times to push you forward. It’s easier said, than done, of course. But when the chips are down, everyone on the pitch has to pull together and up their game. Business teams are no different. Even when things are not going your way, you’ve got to regroup, remind yourselves of where you’re going and rekindle that belief that you can get there.
"Praise and encouragement boost performance"
Most work environments are performance-driven. We work towards targets and goals and there are often policies and sanctions in place to deal with non-performance. Evidence shows though that people perform better when they feel appreciated. It’s no different on the pitch. Players realise that if not everyone is pulling their weight it will impact on the teams overall success. Admonishment doesn’t work, but I have seen time and again the difference that a timely ‘great pass mate’ can make to a player’s performance.
"Team talks are invaluable – win, lose or draw"
You’d be right in thinking that the mood in the changing room after a match very much depends on the team’s performance. However, the ambiance in the room does not draw away from the fact that – whatever the score – the half-time and post-match debriefs are vitally important. They’re a time to review what worked well and which areas the coaches need to focus on before the next game. The same is true in business. If you don’t take the time to review what you’re doing – even when you’re on a winning streak – any future success you have will be more by fluke than by design. And that’s not sustainable.