Last week’s blog, Professional Sports vs. Olympic Sports, examined a variety of topics surrounding sports and generated some great comments. I’d like to take it a step further this week. Let’s examine some of the same questions as before but from a slightly different angle…how does society embrace or reject the values of sports in BUSINESS?
Last week I compared professional sports with Olympic sports and commented, “In today’s world, with free-agents and the reality of ‘sports as a business’ there can be something lacking in terms of player and fan loyalty…the Olympics seem to have a sense of innocence or purity that doesn’t exist in professional sports…we could all use a little of those qualities [pride, dedication, sacrifice, work-ethic and honor] in our everyday life, regardless of the profession in which we work.”
While most people are painfully aware of the need to work in order to pay the bills it seems as if many businesses have forgotten about the high cost associated with compromising a company’s integrity and reputation. We all know that we should be thankful to have a job during tough economic times. However, many business leaders and administrators seem to have forgotten that not everyone is willing to sell their soul in exchange for their paycheck. In fact, some people are even willing to get paid less money if it means they can be happier in their work environment!
Maybe Bryan Heasley is correct in noting, “…players play with more pride and joy when they are playing for their countries…players know that the Olympics are only a couple weeks and you can be eliminated with one loss.” Over time, people tend to slack off, not work as hard or simply change their focus from achieving new goals to maintaining the status quo.
As Matt Altemose posted, “Although professional athletes grow up wanting to play in the big leagues…once they reach that level…they tend not to play for the team or are just all about themselves.” Even Tiger Woods’ recent actions seem to indicate a greater concern for individual wants/needs then a commitment to the ideals and standards which brought him into the limelight in the first place.
It is not much different in the field of business. There is an old saying that you have to “pay your dues” and “work up the ladder” until you have earned the right to receive certain benefits. Many professions have periods of apprenticeship or training where the newly hired must do more than a fair share of the “grunt work” before earning the privilege to delegate undesirable tasks to others.
But does this make such behaviors right? Isn’t it our professional obligation to teach the “young ones the ropes?” Don’t we WANT people within our own organizations to be successful and contribute to the overall well-being of the company? Why are some people so absorbed with their own careers that they can’t see the big picture, the idea that the entire TEAM wins when individuals are able to achieve? Isn’t Matt’s other statement also true in that, “professional sports players understand that it [winning] requires…the me-first attitude…take a backseat?”
What do you think? In what ways do we apply the lessons of sports to the real world? Is it possible to use professional sports in America as a vehicle to inspire others towards attaining excellence in ways other than competition, prestige and profits? How can we take some of the focus away from a company’s bottom line and put the emphasis on recognizing the value of an individual’s contribution to the total organization? Again, maybe I’m wrong and nothing needs to change. However, it seems to me that if a company expects the employees to “do the right thing” and “work in the organization’s best interests” then it is inevitable that employees must be given a reasonable amount of responsibility and freedom. As Grace Hooper Murray is credited for saying, “leadership is a two-way street, loyalty up, and loyalty down. Respect for one’s superiors; care for one’s crew.” I think it is morally wrong to demand loyalty from your employees if the organization itself is not providing employees with respect…what do you think?