Forbes Magazine proclaimed this week that you should fill your company with athletes.
Writes David Williams,
“At our company, we work to fill our roster with “athletes.” I don’t mean this necessarily in the physical sense, although it turns out that quite a few of our members are literal athletes – we have a national-class triathlete, I have a personal interest in competitive and recreational bodybuilding, and there are multiple marathoners, bikers, soccer, and basketball players, CrossFit enthusiasts, etc. on staff. …. But when I advise people to seek and hire athletes, what I am really referring to is the athlete traits (akin to leadership traits) that make any individual an exceptional hire.”
Williams then goes on to list the traits that athletes have that make them great to work with. They have drive, determination, a sense of balance, and also, of course, an ability to work in teams.
I like the message and Williams’s piece made me smile. But I’ve got some ambivalence about the message I thought I’d share here. While.I agree that athletes bring a whole set of skills to the workplace and that we ought to value them, I have two worries.
First, these skills, such as balancing individual achievement with team work, can come from other areas of life as well.
Lots of the lessons my athletic son has learned through team sports, my daughter has learned from school band and through singing in choirs, and my other son has learned through musical theatre. Team work matters. Showing up matters. Doing your best matters. Helping others matters.
Second, I worry a lot about who gets seen as athletic. If athletic is code for “looking fit” you run the risk of missing people.
But it’s a step in the right direction to recognize that skills we acquire through sports training carry over. Often in university it’s my fellow campus athletes I’ve bonded with in meetings over the need to get away from the table, get up and stretch and even get out for a run.
I like the balance that comes from recognizing the importance of things we do outside work rather than thinking that those of us with time to run, bike, swim, row, lift etc clearly aren’t taking with seriously enough.