Learn from sports: How to manage crisis at work

There are more similarities between your office and the competitive sporting arena than you realise.

The 28th SEA Games 2015 are due to begin soon, and the recipe for success for many medal-adorned competitive athletes sounds very much like key success factors in the professional work environment. Talent, passion, acute focus and hard work are essential for both. In light of the upcoming SEA Games 2015, here’s what we can learn from the world of sports in terms of working through challenging situations at work.

The Crisis: You have been unwillingly dragged into office politics.
What a sailor might tell you: “Take the helm and steer yourself out of choppy waters.”
The lesson here:
Learn to think on your feet and make good snap decisions before you get thrown overboard. There might be a strong undercurrent underneath the surface even when the water seems calm, so it’s advisable to move with care.

The Crisis: You’re having a hard time fitting in as a rookie.
What a gymnast might tell you: “Keep that smile on your face, no matter what happens”
The lesson here:
You may have had a rough start, but work on making the final landing with dignity and elegance. Good old-fashioned hard work and consistency without complacency gets us the professional triumphs we aim for. Remember: each perfect handstand is the product of hours of practice. A bad tumble could end our time in the spotlight. In competition, our minds can never wander for a split second. Even so, mistakes can happen so have the mental focus and grace to press on.

The Crisis: You have failed to meet your sales target for the third consecutive month and your boss is breathing down your neck.
What a fencer might tell you: “Continue to fight the good fight, even in the face of failure.”
The lesson here:
The ability to bounce back from setbacks is one of the key determinants as to whether a fencer will be on topone day. Fencing is after all, chess with a weapon. The game trains us to have control over our mind and emotions in order to triumph. In fact, goal-setting is a popular technique even for top fencers, because there is always room for improvement.

The Crisis: Team-mate pulls a disappearing act and you are left to shoulder their workload on top of yours.
What a synchronised swimmer might tell you: “Learn to move as one, breathe as one.”
The lesson here:
Everyone needs to execute their moves at the right time in order to impress the judges, even if it means smiling together when we can hardly catch our breaths. In this ultimate teamwork competition, everyone needs to put in their equal measure of effort.We may be individuals outside the pool, but once we‘re in the water, we move and breathe as one entity in flawless coordination. Our egos are left behind in the locker room as we perform our best for the team. It is up to each individual to know the routines inside out but when one teammate lags behind, we try our best to get them up to speed.

The Crisis: You just got fired.
What a judoka might tell you: “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”
The lesson here:
We may sometimes feel cornered and helpless in matches, but what matters is concealing our weaknesses on the mat and playing to our strengths to gain an edge over opponents. Even with a broken finger, we bounce back on the mat and critically analyse how we can prevent further injury and do better. Our bones may break, but our spirit must never falter.

Many of the professional sportsmen and sportswomen who made it as far as competing in the SEA Games 2015 have probably lived by the same or similar lessons as above to motivate them during tough times. These lessons are valuable insights and show us what we can learn from sports and how we can directly apply them in our professional lives.

Photo via SINGSOC

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