Translating Sports Philosophies to Business: A Lesson for Us All

Just recently I was asked to comment for an article that was published on, Famous Sports Wisdom to Use at Work. This was no far stretch for me as I have collected various quotes delivered by coaches and players alike through the years.  With the start of MLB a day away, I shamelessly feel the need to share my outtakes that didn’t get published in the piece.  There is much we can take from sports coaches, players and executives to use in understanding your business environment.  Enjoy.

  • Coach K (Duke): “Effective teamwork begins and ends with communication.”

Believe it or not, Coach K is wrong.  Effective teamwork in business, as in sports, begins when each player is positively reinforced for helping a teammate be successful.

  • Mike Tyson: “It’s nothing personal, but I’m going to kill this guy.”

In the final analysis, in business and in sports everything is personal.  If you don’t think so, do something to upset your star performer and watch what happens.

  • Yogi Berra: “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

Organizations create the future by the behavior they positively reinforce today.  It used to be that only hard work and accomplishments were rewarded but today we tend to reinforce everything that moves.  Therefore the future ain’t what it used to be as Yogi correctly asserted.

  • Lance Armstrong: “A boo is a lot louder than a cheer. If you have 10 people cheering and one person booing, all you hear is the booing.”

The average person has been punished more for doing something wrong than praised for doing it correctly.

  • Bill Veeck (former baseball executive): “It isn't the high price of stars that is expensive, it's the high price of mediocrity.”

When pay is based on performance the organization wants you to make a lot.  Salaries are a high price to pay when doing just enough to get by will keep you on the payroll.

  • Michael Jordan: “Republicans buy sneakers too.”

Stay out of politics.  It is bad for business.

  • John Wooden: “If you let your emotions take over, you will be outplayed.”

Negative emotions almost always lead to poor decision-making.

  • John Wooden: “It takes 10 hands to make a basket.”

As the former Governor of Georgia once said, “If you see a turtle on the fence post, you know he didn’t get there by himself.” In business, as in any team sport, very little is accomplished by an individual acting alone.

  • John Wooden (you can tell I think very highly of Coach Wooden): “Think small; work hard; get good.”

Those who accomplish the most got good by working hard on the details.

Play Ball! (Go Braves)

Posted by Aubrey Daniels, Ph.D.

Aubrey is a thought leader and expert on management, leadership, safety and workplace issues. For the past 40 years, he has been dedicated to helping people and organizations apply the laws of human behavior to optimize performance.