emerge performance - From the Basketball Court to the Boardroom: Strategies for an Executive Athlete

From the Basketball Court to the Boardroom: Strategies for an Executive Athlete


An organisation is only as healthy as its employees, and to thrive under the harsh and unforgiving conditions of today's business world, busy executives need to think like athletes.

Olympic champions prepare for major events in a holistic manner, combining technical, tactical, physical and mental training. For executives, this approach offers important lessons that they can leverage to achieve a competitive advantage at work.

Lessons from a legend

Organisations desire sustainable success, and one of the best ways to work towards this is to positively develop employees and boost their job satisfaction.

A Jackson Organization study found that companies that make their staff feel appreciated make more than three times the returns compared with companies that do not. On the flip side, amid never-ending to-do lists, soaring expectations and insufficient resources, nothing erodes morale and engagement faster than exhausted and overworked employees.

Borrowing lessons learnt from Kobe Bryant’s legacy, here are some adapted strategies to help executives tackle the challenges of the workplace and thrive like champions.

  1. Elite athletes have coaches whom they rely on. Both Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan had Phil Jackson, one of the NBA’s coaching greats. Taking this one step further, some say it takes a village to raise a champion. So go out there and assemble a support team – people who are not afraid to be honest and share their views. However, for this support team to be effective, you have to be prepared to take in their opinions. Also, always remember that you still are responsible for your own executive decisions.
  2. One of the best ways to identify where you have room for improvement is by watching yourself at work. A major trend in high-end performance involves quantifying and analysing everything, from brainwaves to sweat rate to heart rate variability. Elite athletes frequently use video clips to break down their own performances. It's humbling, sometimes funny and highly effective. So go ahead, record and review your next trial presentation. Kobe Bryant worked closely with legendary assistant coach Tex Winter, who watched every play of every game with Bryant in order to find ways to carve out a competitive advantage.
  3. True masters never stop working on their craft. Over the years, Kobe Bryant worked on his pick-and-roll with Pau Gasol, which helped him come off screens better and pick his spots with spot-up jumpers. The very process of getting better is just as important as winning medals. Explore what future skills are trending and take the initiative to upgrade your capabilities by attending courses and workshops. With the extensive library of massive open online courses (MOOCs) offered by websites such as Coursera and EdX, there are no excuses not to be learning.
  4. The effective application of periodisation makes or breaks a champion. In other words, there is a time to strive and a time to rest. Kobe Bryant’s all-day process, including stretching, active recovery and sleep, was a great example of this. The fact is that rest is a crucial part of self-improvement, not just the striving. So if you are serious about raising your game in the workplace, remember that sometimes less is more and take a 5-minute break for every 60 minutes of intense concentration. 

Raising your performance

The rules of the working world are constantly evolving, and these days more is required to raise the bar. Athletes and corporate executives share much in common, and many strategies for success are equally applicable on the basketball court and in the boardroom.

Achieving and sustaining high performance is about finding a support team; embracing a growth mindset; and having the discipline to pause, reflect and review. Are you ready to take your performance to the next level? Let’s remember Kobe and learn what we can from him.

Header photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash