There is no proven positive correlation between athleticism and performance in the workplace. There are however, plenty of traits common amongst athletes that certainly would prove beneficial in a work setting. In particular, elite athletes may be the answer to your worries surrounding those pesky, attention-seeking, lazy, entitled chumps that are infiltrating your office.
Simon Sinek has spoken numerous times about Millennials in the workplace. He suggests that, by no fault of our own, Millennials are not well adapted to the real world and are proving to be a challenge to manage. Sinek suggests two major reasons for this difficulty. Firstly, they don’t view success and accomplishment by traditional standards. They are incented by impact, not cash. Secondly, Millennials have grown accustomed to instant gratification from the web and social media. When they post a picture on Instagram, they get immediate feedback from friends that ‘Like’ the image; when they accomplish their everyday responsibilities at work, no one pats them on the back. Simply put: it’s not enough to recognize the typical Millennial’s performance with an annual (delayed) bonus (monetary).
I believe this Millennial trait is a major source of pain for managers that have more important things to do than micromanage employees and hand out gold stars for meeting expectations. Instead, we should seek out candidates who aren’t constantly seeking approval.
So where do we find this rare breed of Millennial? On the field or the ice, in the gym or the pool. Athletes do not expect instant gratification, they know that success does not come overnight. They know that achievements only come with effort, time and consistency. You want to hire someone who will take the same shot 1000 times in order to refine their slapshot; who will run 30km in the rain because the coach said so; who will spend countless hours working on technique to add 1kg to their lifts. These people don’t expect anything, they know they have to earn it. If you ask me, that’s an attitude worth choosing a thousand times over.
Sinek also notes that a by-product of growing up in a social media world is a lack of authentic relationships, and even an authentic self. Social media has given us the ability to quite literally put a filter on our lives – to only showcase the moments of which we are proud. An overwhelming stream of smiles, ice cream cones, and spring blooms has created the illusion that it’s not okay to be less than okay. Many Millennials don’t understand that failure is part of life. Without failure and adversity we will never gain the resilience to get back up, instead – we’ll walk away. Just imagine what your employee turnover would look like if all your employees quit when something doesn’t go according to plan.
You know who’s familiar with failure? Athletes. Sure, it’s nice to win – but the athletes I know are in pursuit of their best self, not medals. They love to push their limits, push the human body and capabilities. They fail, time and time again, so that one day, they succeed.
If you find yourself interviewing a competitive athlete, I recommend you think about the blood, sweat and tears they’ve dedicated to their sport, and how they might do the same for you. There’s no secret sauce for hiring and not every athlete is right for every team. My goal with this post is to encourage you to see that some Millennial traits are much better than others. The key is to understand their lives outside the office and beyond the resume.
Have you hired a Millennial athlete? What have you learned?