M2 Mar&Apr 2012 sporting heroes .pdf
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If there’s anyone who knows about how to turn sporting success into
business success, it’s Adecco’s Jeff Doyle. He left home at 15 to play
professional football in the UK with Coventry City and Peterborough
United. He was also a Republic of Ireland schoolboy and youth
international. He then came to Australia to play in the National Soccer
League. At 27 though, he hung up his boots and put on a tie.
here is so much that we, as
business people aspiring
to successful careers, can
learn from our sporting
heroes. Everyday, we see
inspiring individuals and
teams demonstrate great
skill, determination, passion
The incredible commitment
and dedication of these players can also be
defined as key attributes of any successful
business person. There’s a lot more that we
can learn, however, from the sporting arena
that can help us get ahead in our careers.
I’m speaking from my own experience
after making the transition from sport
to a business career. My 12 years as
a professional soccer player, initially in
England and then in Australia, has helped
me to get ahead in a tough industry.
I was by no means a sporting great,
more a mediocre player who managed
to etch a living out of it. I was able to
apply the skills I learned on the soccer
pitch to the business field. I now find
myself running a fantastic and successful
company using a lot of the lessons learnt
from my sporting career.
In my opinion, the best leaders in both
sport and business have the ability to
communicate widely, both formally and
informally. Just as importantly, they are able
to build rich, deep relationships with not
only their direct reports but the entire team
A big lesson I learnt from a very close
colleague, who was an ex-Canberra
Raiders player, was “doing” better than
you “talk” and the importance of building
rich relationships. Simple but not easy!
The person I am referring to was one
of, if not, the best general managers of
a business I have ever seen. Along with
the discipline, focus and passion he had
developed from his sporting career,
his “doing” philosophy and his
relationships with his team made him a
Sports stars; whether on a soccer pitch,
in the swimming pool or on a tennis court,
are all trained in certain skills that we, as
business people, can use to achieve great
success. First and foremost, they train!
Everyday, they practice their craft and
continually hone their skills; they do a little
more, a little better, everyday…
They are very aware of their competition and
research them thoroughly to understand
weaknesses they can exploit and know their
own strengths over the competition.
If sometimes you feel overwhelmed by
expectations at work, imagine going into
the Olympics carrying the expectations of a
Finally, they don’t give up in the face of
defeat. Every individual or team player has
lost matches, come in second, or failed
to qualify but they use this as motivation
to dust themselves off and try again.
We should know how to accept defeat
graciously, acknowledge when someone
else plays better but take lessons from
that experience and come back to try and
win next time. Failure can be your biggest
opportunity to succeed sooner.
And when we do win – celebrate! Our
sporting heroes enjoy their successes as we
should in business but often don’t take the
time to. So be proud of your achievements
and enjoy the roar of the crowd!
Tips you can take from the pitch
to the boardroom:
Successful sports people have clear
objectives – whether it is to win the match,
get a better world ranking or start in pole
position. They are continually aware of
where they are and what they need to do,
to achieve their goal.
1. It’s not about hitting the ball… it’s
about swinging the club.
They build a lot of skills on the job – the
ability to work under pressure, making
game-changing decisions under duress
and keeping their cool in the face of
4. You’ll be judged on what you
succeed at, not what you attempt.
2. You haven’t scored your best
3. Don’t go to where the ball is, go to
where the ball is going to be.
5. Do a little more, a little
JEFF DOYLE, Adecco Group CEO, Australia & New Zealand