I was 13 years old and I was laying on the couch watching TV, as usual, and my mother looked at me and took the decision to make me join a swimming team with my brothers. When I say that she made me join is that I did not like the idea, but I have received a direct order and believe me when I say that it was on my best interest to obey.
I had a mother like no other. She just loved sports like no woman I have met. We will go on a weekly basis to the stadium during baseball, football and basketball season. Also to all games of her company’s several teams and she will still have time to go to our swim meets. She will watch all major and college sports leagues in the US. I can say today that her greatest legacy to me is the love for sports. By the way, she did not made me an elite athlete, I am very far from that. This legacy may not seem important at that time, but today after being involved in sports for more than 30 years, I realize how important it is and what an impact it had on my professional life. This set the principles that made possible to transfer my love for sport to my love for what I do on a professional level and want to share that with you:
People and Teams: Sports and business world is about the people and in both worlds you will never get people to do amazing things if you do not engage them. Passion for what you do will make you do these things. The question is how do you get to inject this passion in people? One thing that I have learned from sports motivation is that the “Why” if far more important than the “How”. Purpose move people. If you have had the opportunity of been part of a pre-game motivational speech or even a good half time “kick on the butt”, you will agree with me that is all about the why do we want this? Is the same in the business world, you will not move anyone by telling them how you handle and specific situation. You will move them by explaining why we do it and why it is so important to us.
Diversity: Sport teams is the perfect example of why personality diversity is so important in winning teams. You will have what I like to call the “stars” and the “soldiers”. The stars are the high performers that their contribution will make the difference. In sports words these are the goal scorers, the ones that in a close game they will want the ball. The soldiers are the ones who often their contribution goes silent but they are so important into maintaining the balance within the team. These are the motivators, the fun people who makes us enjoy even when we are stressed and basically the ones who will put the team first. My mother she was a soldier. Always in charge of making the day enjoyable and fun for her team, just like sports. She was her team greatest fan. I remember that her desk was her favorite place full of pictures and orchids, everybody wanted to hang around her desk. Until this time, the comments I get from here ex coworkers are full of praise and love.
Data and understanding: Even before “Moneyball”, my mom was all about numbers. Back in those days Rod Carew (one of the most famous Panamanian baseball players) was always on the run for the top hitters crown. She would follow his batting average game per game. On her job he was as proficient as you can get. Everything was in perfect order when she was on top of things. Business today is all about processes and data. Decision are no longer taken into consideration without the right data in a constantly changing dynamic environment, just like sports.
Innovation and fun: Have you seen people that generally work in innovation and how they seems to always have fun? You cannot inspire passion for something if you do not enjoy what to do. My mother has to be the most enthusiastic fan I know. She yelled and laugh so much at the stadium that is was contagious. Even quiet people around her will have a huge smile by the end of the game because of her. Also in work, she was a happy person that was always wanting to put her personal signature on everything she did. In my work I have been involve in innovation for some time and I can tell you that it was love at first sight with that specific subject and now I get to realize that my mother was the first innovator I met in my life and the one who made me love innovation and being different.
Practice, practice, practice: I remember myself trying to convince my mother to change swimming for basketball. Basketball back then was not organized and teams rarely practice daily. She told me “find a basketball team that trains every day and you may change”, so I stayed swimming. If I wanted to miss a practice, I better have a good excuse for my mother. However, if I failed or loose a competition she will always have support for me. Since then I learned the importance of hard work and dedication, but also that people to perform need to feel supported. To be good at something, you must be allowed to fail to get better at it.
Competitiveness: Passionate in what you do because you love it. In professional sports you see athletes that earn so much money that they could retire any day they want. However, they keep playing to the limit and even while being injured. When you ask why, you will almost always get “because I love what I do”. My mother made me practice every day and taught me to love what I do. Today I do not miss a day at work because… I love what I do. Without even knowing it, I learned that from competitive sports.
Creativeness and Independence: The best performing teams are the ones that do not need anyone to push or monitor them. They are leader within the team who without having the title of leader will be driving performance just like sports teams. You will never see a top professional team manager (or at least not a successful one) shouting directions all the time during the game because people knows what to do specially during high stress moment. I have been involve in execution teams and the best teams are the ones that their best version will come… exactly, under pressure.
Balance: High scoring teams are the ones that play their best at defense. Hard work needs to be encourage and every little win needs to be addressed accordingly. This balance was perfectly addressed by my mother who always reminded to work hard and will always have good words for my achievement, no matter how little they were. I work in shipping and this industry have been hit for several years due to global economics crisis. Is a hard working environment, but we celebrate our victories no matter how small they are. Help us remind constantly why we push hard always with constant care.
Without even knowing, or maybe she had a clear plan, my mother by teaching me the love for sports made me the professional I am today. A true hero and role model. I love you Silvia! Cheers!