On Your A-Game: 3 Smart Career Qualities from the Field to the Office

Take a page from sports pros on how to win at the office

(Image: Thinkstock)

Athletes are disciplined and goal-oriented. They understand that when they step on the field or court, there are no gray areas: You either win or lose. Losing may frustrate or anger them, but it also gives them a chance to refocus. Here are a few traits athletes embody that may help you dynamically approach your career goals differently and perform at the top of your game.

They remain on their A-game. Athletes are selected for teams because of their abilities and star qualities on the field, however, no matter how well they may have performed in the past, all that matters is the present.

To maintain high performance levels, athletes are consistently training to keep their skills sharp. In business, a professional may be hired because they have all the right credentials, but as the title of the popular business book by Marshall Goldsmith with Mark Reiter states, what got you here, won’t get you there. Professionals have to stay current with what’s happening in their industries by connecting regularly with colleagues and associates, reading and studying industry trends, and upgrading skills through training sessions, certifications, and/or advanced education.

They make decisions quickly. When a game is in play, nobody scores by just holding the ball. Decisions to pass, throw, shoot, or tackle are made decisively and swiftly. Movement is what keeps the game going—and leads to a win or a loss.

But even when a mistake is made on the field or on the court, the goal is to recover and restrategize quickly. You can’t advance professional goals if you are indecisive about what you want to achieve and what you are willing to do to get there. Audra Bohannon, principal at Global Novations, a leadership and talent consulting firm, says the biggest obstacle in advancing professional goals is ambivalence. Even at major corporations, an increasing number of leaders are encouraging their employees to not be afraid of failure, but to fail fast and recover quickly so that they can move onto the next opportunity. Being fearful, hesitant or indecisive are positions of stagnation, where nothing is accomplished, learned or discovered. Making a decision to move allows you complete a goal or fail, learn and, redirect your efforts.

They meet challenges despite the odds. Athletes show up for every game—despite playing conditions, crowd receptions, or where they rank—with the intention of playing their best and winning. It’s why an underdog win is so exciting and inspiring to watch. It reminds us that it’s possible to beat the odds and prove naysayers wrong when you train properly, learn from your mistakes, stay focused on your goal, believe in your ability, and trust your efforts. As a business professional you should never allow work conditions and/or industry changes to define your ability for success. You always have more control than you think. You may just need a mentor or a coach to give you honest advice and help you create a new strategy for moving forward.

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