How to apply elite team skills from your sporting career into business

Guest post by Andy Longley, Co-founder & CEO at


Elite team sport athletes, whether it be from rugby, football, basketball, rowing or bobsleigh, develop strong team habits and practices that are equally attractive in the corporate world. Increasingly businesses worldwide are understanding the importance of teamwork (called ‘team effectiveness’ or ‘high performing teams’ in current business jargon) for achieving business & growth objectives.

Having a focus on team performance is included in the new company people strategies and increasingly leadership development programs and training bring a focus on both team leadership & team membership. So, knowing how to showcase these team effectiveness practices can go a long way in translating your sporting career for your new career ambitions.

At we work with organisations globally to help elevate their team effectiveness practices using the latest applied neuroscience. The human brain is the same whether we’re operating in the sporting or business domains, so having this understanding means we can create better conditions for team performance by utilising our knowledge of the brain to elevate team performance.

We believe there are 3 essential roles which give any team, whether it be sporting or business, the optimal platform for performing. We call these 3 roles We Team Up.


For any team which harbours ambitions of being high performing, understanding what binds the members together is the most important place to start. Having aligned against your common purpose, means all teammates are psychologically and emotionally connected to the same ‘north star’. Whether this was an Olympic, World Cup or championship focus for you and your team. In addition to this shared purpose, the team has also invested time to create a shared identity so that all members feel connected to each other and like they belong to this group of people.

Having a shared history through storytelling, knowing what sets this team apart from the others, and intentionally rallying against a common obstacle is normal practice for elite sports team, but much less so for business teams. So, think about how you have created the We in your teams previously, and then practice articulating this so when called upon you can highlight these advanced skills to make your team effectiveness habits stand you out from the crowd.


In order for a team to be set up to perform, having strong team habits in place that reduce uncertainty & enhance decision making quality is a must. Elite sports teams often excel in having inspirational individual & collective goals, whilst understanding that motivating at both the individual & team level is necessary for unlocking the drivers of human potential. Being ultra-clear on the specific roles for each team member, so that each person can focus and execute with confidence is a core driver of team cohesion. As is conducting scenario planning so that as a team, you’re prepared for all eventualities which reduces the cognitive load in the critical moments.

Business teams need to use these same practices to drive high performance as they sit at heart of operating as a team. So, think about these team habits that have served you so well in your sporting career, and understand that bringing these into your new work teams can have the same performance impact it did for your sporting teams. Plan for this to be an arrow in your quiver which you capitalise on to launch your new career.


For any team to perform, they need to be progressing & improving as this is an essential factor for us to be engaged and motivated as humans. Progress fuels motivation. Sporting teams almost inherently understand that we need to be stretched so that we’re developing and striving, but that it also must be achievable and tangible at the same time. Athletes demand ongoing feedback on their performance in order to grow and offer this naturally to teammates in return. Finally, as summoning the motivation to do the extra training needed when we’d rather stay in bed during winter is part & parcel of being a team athlete, so too is it for business teams.

So, think about how you can leverage these skills in self-motivation, peer motivation, setting stretching objectives to drive progress, & using feedback for learning and improvement in your different team environments so that you will be a natural team leader and team member who role-models these things for your new colleagues.

As elite team athletes who have dedicated your lives to honing your craft in teamwork and team leadership, you already bring a very sought-after skill set which businesses are chasing in growing numbers. So, think about ways you can showcase these skills when planning your next career stage, because at we’ve been working with business teams for decades and we can unequivocally say that the skills and practices you bring to the table are not in fact common place, but can be taught in order to elevate team performance no matter the industry, sector or geography of the team.

At we are bringing our model of high performing teams to the team sporting world over the next few months to support team sport coaches, so if you’re interested in watching this happen, follow us on LinkedIn or via our website, and who knows, perhaps in the future we could work together with business teams as team coaches to help bring the lessons from elite team sports to the business world with real impact!


If you want to speak to Andy about, or would like to join the private Facebook community’s setting up for team sport athletes and coaches, reach out to him on his LinkedIn


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Twitter: @longley_andy