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Top Sports & Top Management


by Marjon Oosterhout
Passion for Talent
View Bio Here

52 Performance Principles

Recently I was asked by a journalist of the Dutch Financial Daily to comment on the increasing number of executives who step aside with health problems and burn-out symptoms.

I basically told him that I wasn’t surprised and expect more to follow.

I made the comparison between top sportmen and top management. The similarity in my view is that for both you need a combination of passion, talent and hard work.

When I compare top sportsmen (and women) and top managers I see less similarities. The biggest difference I see is the way top sportsmen take care of their physical and mental health.

They understand they cannot deliver peak performance all year round. They carefully plan a balance between training, performance and recovery. They surround themselves with people who advise and support them on the technical aspects as well as the mental aspects, they understand the importance of “feeling good between the ears” .

So why do top managers think they can continue to deliver peak performance while working 80+ hours a week, crossing time zones, poor eating habits, no time for hobbies, a lack of physical exercise and hardly any time to take a step back and reflect?

I have observed this with some concern during the “good times”, but it concerns me even more in the current economic climate. As the demands and stress increase, the need to take good care of oneself increases equally.

This doesn’t just apply to top managers or top sportsmen. It applies to managers and sportsmen in general.

Some years ago I ran marathons, (New York amongst others). My main goal wasn’t a fast time, it was finishing in an enjoyable way. Yet in preparing I lived for that marathon. I listened to the trainer and read books about what food to eat, how to balance training efforts and rest, anything to help me run the 26 miles successfully.

To be honest, I cannot remember I ever prepared myself like this for a professional challenge.

Nor do I know of executives who do.

In many of my coaching conversations with leaders we talk about this. All these leaders agree they are more effective when they are fit and take time to relax and reflect. Recently one of them actually looked very sad when he admitted “I don’t know how to find the time”.

My belief is he will have to if he wants to lead his organization successfully through these turbulent times. This is not about preventing health problems for himself, it’s also about setting the right example to his teams.

We now have plenty of data on the cost of stress related illnesses such as burn-out. Yet I still observe too many environments where making long hours is seen as a sign of strength, where people who do balance work and life are seen as lacking ambition. This means heading for a lose- lose situation.

How well do you take care of yourself in these challenging times? Who do you turn to for support and advice?

What do you do as an HR professional to help your executives to change the way the live their lives. What do you do to drive this culture change?

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