The Big Game


My colleague Nick recently posted on social media that he received a text from a former lacrosse teammate, and they spoke about their last game together. What he gleaned from that conversation is how much he misses going to battle on the lacrosse field every day with his team.

But then he had a revelation.

He still does go to battle with teammates each day, only in a different way—in a business setting.

Maybe you’ve played team sports—maybe you haven’t. Maybe you are a sports fan, or maybe you get together with friends once a year to watch some of the most expensive commercials ever purchased in between a football game. Regardless of your love of sports, or lack thereof, if you work with others in HR and business, you are part of a team, too.

And it’s not just athletic teams where there is a parallel. Former thespians, members of bands, leaders of debate teams and math clubs—even being a SHRM member—you’re part of a team.

Nick’s post resonated with me in many ways, and I relate to it completely. Having played team sports my entire life (even in the present day) I have found that some of the best people to work with are those who have been a part of sports teams.

Why do I say this?

It has been my experience that those who play or have played team sports (or have been a part of other types of teams with a shared goal that requires high levels of cooperation) know the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, and they know how important it is to rely on others during times of success and in times of hardship. They’re cool under pressure. They know how to take criticism, direction, and show respect to authority figures. I have seen former team athletes excel beyond measure in my classrooms. They are very in tune with time management and deadlines and can take direction quite well.

The big game is nearly upon us, and the world will soon be focused on two talented teams going head to head on the gridiron. As a unit, the teams earned this right together. As you watch the game (or any sporting event for that matter), take note of the interactions amongst the players on the field. You’ll see the entire range of emotions – happiness, frustration, heartbreak, elation. It’s easy to relate these interactions to our everyday lives in HR, and in business.

It is vital to hire the best leaders to spearhead teams in the world of business. This concept also applies to sports. As the workforce continues to change, and baby boomers are retiring in droves, we look to young people to lead teams in our organizations. The two teams playing in the Super Bowl are prime examples that placing trust in young people to lead can bring success. The Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, was born in 1995. He’s 24. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, was born in 1991. He’s 28. Both men are tasked with leading their teams to victory on a world stage. 

Consider how much business and sports success are intertwined. In football, for example, if a defensive player has an interception or fumble recovery, the trend is that the whole defensive unit runs into the end zone and poses for a picture, surrounding the player that made the play. This is group recognition at its finest—a human resources staple! Members of the unit gather around the player and celebrate his success—rewarding him for a job well done. We do this in the workplace, too, with appreciation awards and public praise for accomplishments.

The flip side of this scenario also applies. If a kicker has the opportunity to kick a field goal to win the game, and he misses the kick, his teammates are there to console him. We often see these same behaviors in business. When someone falters, others are there to encourage.

The adage “we win as a team and lose as a team” applies in healthy workplace environments. Take the pulse of your organization: does it apply there, too?

Has your team put in the proper level of preparation to ensure optimum success?

Do you have a gameplan for recruiting and onboarding highly desired candidates?

Are policies and processes designed to set a minimum expectation or do they raise the bar to create an inspired workforce?

Is your human capital management stack a state-of-the-art, purpose-built stadium or one of those ugly one-size-fits-all multi-purpose arenas that were built a generation ago and doesn’t actually meet your needs?

We need to make sure our HR teams, our people managers, and our employees all have the tools and training they need to succeed. Your team winning depends on it.



The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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