I recently attended an event at Carey titled Women in Leadership: From the Athletic Field to the Boardroom. The discussion among four panelists was capably led by Carey faculty member Colleen Stuart. The panels included the university’s own Athletics Director and Senior Associate Athletics Director. I wanted to share four take away messages from the discussion of how participation in athletics is associated with success in career and business.
First, one panelist commented that she doesn’t like the phrase practice makes perfect. Instead, she focuses on “practice makes awesome.” One good thing about the revised phrase is the fact that one can always become “more awesome.” There is no such thing as “more perfect.” I can focus on practice to keep improving, no matter how good I am already. The phrase “practice makes perfect,” on the other hand, implies that there is some maximum level at which practice may no longer be needed. I can assure you, practice is always needed for continuous improvement.
Second, “being named captain doesn’t make someone a leader.” Another way of interpreting this is to say, more generally, “titles don’t imply skills.” Moving ahead, the university plans to make leadership development a bigger part of the student athlete experience. Have you ever felt like you were named to a position for which you didn’t have the needed skills? How did you handle it? What could the organization have done to help you be more ready? How can you use this type of framework to help you manage others better (and to make sure they have the skills they need for a job) in the future?
Third, I asked the panelists whether they had continued their athletic pursuits beyond high school or college. Not all had. But those who did commented on how important it was for them and how their staff members could tell when they did not exercise. Athletics is not necessarily just about staying physically fit. Athletics can be about socializing, mindfulness, self-care, a way to recharge, and a way to destress. I know that in my case, it is about all of the above.
Finally, a mentee of mine asked the panelists about co-ed sports. All four were women and had commented only on all women sports up to that point. One of the panelists suggested that recognizing differences in behavioral patterns for men and women around sports could give insight into differences in behavioral patterns at the office and in life in general.
So, the hour of listening to the panel and the question and answer session was well spent in getting me to think about the importance of practice throughout life, building skills to match responsibilities, understanding the importance of activities for myself in a world in which we are often asked to prioritize others, and many different ways to learn about and understand differences in behaviors among subgroups of individuals. All of these are key to my business success. I look forward to attending other Carey sponsored panels and would encourage you to do so in order to learn from panelists with a wealth of experience whom the school brings in for insightful discussions.