What Top Talent and Top Athletes Have In Common

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May 21, 2015

At Skywater we have a saying we use in our search assignments: “We place the best athlete. “

It’s a metaphorical approach; it doesn’t mean that our candidates have to be fitness fanatics or athletes themselves to qualify for a shortlist. It means we look for the best available talent, the achievers with transferable skills who will go that one step further to meet a deadline; the candidates who demonstrate resilience when the going gets tough.

In essence we seek out those who display the same drive in the corporate arena as the top athletes do on the running track or in field events.

Here, we explain the principles underlying our approach.

They are driven: Top athletes never give up. Driven by a relentless work ethic, they understand that getting to the top comes not simply from resting on the laurels of natural talent but through sheer hard work. Success is more often than not only achieved following hours spent perfecting techniques out in the field. The same principles apply for the top performers who understand they will always benefit from honing their skills and moving forward.

They are determined to win: Elite athletes possess an insatiable desire to win, understanding that it’s when the odds are seemingly against them that they will produce their most outstanding performance. High achievers approach their career from the same vantage point. They understand that the obstacles in their path are really learning opportunities.

They always achieve their goals: Set an athlete a performance target and they will strive to achieve it. They operate on the principal of working smarter for greater productivity, not working harder. So it is with the outstanding achievers in an organization, the ones that your company is looking to attract and nurture.

They go beyond their comfort zone: To excel, athletes must constantly step out of their comfort zone. Talented candidates exhibit the same trait. Their willingness to do what’s necessary to get the job done is infectious, inspires their co-workers and ultimately benefits the company as a whole.

They understand balance is essential: Just as a balanced diet and regular sleep patterns are vital for an athlete to reach their peak performance, your top performers understand the need for a sensible work/life balance. Exhausted employees who constantly run on adrenalin and never replenish their energy supplies will eventually burn out. High achievers, like athletes, know how to prepare for the big events and plan their schedules accordingly.

They are team players: Athletes achieve their targets within a network of partnerships, with their coaches and fellow team members. The same principle applies when it comes to outstanding employees. They know that the secret to success is about the constant exchange of ideas. They respond positively to suggestions and they play to their strengths, letting others take on responsibilities if they feel they would be more effective. The true team player is the talent of today and of the future.

Image: Sura Nualpradid /