Pro Athlete Career Lessons #1 - Leadership Strategy

Fatimah Gilliam Founder, and CEO The Azara Group

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This is the first article in a three-part series providing career advice to professional athletes - encouraging success both on and off the field. However, these tips are also helpful for people working in Corporate America. The advice in this series promotes strong leadership skills, collaborative teamwork, strategic career planning, and career and financial longevity. Click here to read our second article on career planning and here to read our third article on financial planning.

With the start of football recently kicking off, basketball season just around the corner, and the wrap-up of baseball season, now is the perfect time for professional athletes to take stock of their leadership skills and evaluate their impact on their careers and the success of their teams. While the focus for many professional athletes is on improving game stats and skills, "training" should not just exercise the body, but the mind as well.

Check out these tips to improve your leadership capabilities and the cohesion of your team. These tips are helpful for professional athletes, but are also useful for those working in Corporate America.

1. Adopt a Positive Attitude
This tip seems obvious, and while it is not always appropriate to seem carefree and optimistic, it is widely regarded that positive thought can significantly alter outcomes. Made a bad play? Shake it off! Dwelling on the negative will draw focus away from the present and can lead to a vicious cycle of negative behavior.

2. Lead by Example
Hustle, show up early, and respect your body. Whether you are an experienced player or a rookie, it is always important to treat yourself with respect and take yourself seriously. If you do, others will notice, and you will positively impact the culture of your organization.

3. Set Yourself Apart On & Off the Field
It is important to make yourself stand out in order to advance your sports career, but equally as important to set yourself apart to ensure that your career shift after sports is smooth. Be cognizant of your brand and image. It could result in sponsorship deals and opportunities for lasting career success.

4. Don't Be an Off-the-Field Distraction
Your life off the field is just as impactful as your life on the field. If your behavior is distracting management, coaches, and your teammates from your game-time contributions, you need to reevaluate your priorities. The way you conduct yourself in your personal life could hold you back or worse, bring you down.

5. Now Is the Time to Leverage External Relationships
At this point in your career, you have access to countless professionals who can aide your professional development. Set up meetings or have casual conversations. Ask questions about their careers, how what they do could impact your own, and what skills they needed to be successful. Learn what career paths could be a good fit, what you may need to learn to transition into a new field, and who you should know or need to meet.

Once you are off the roster, it will be more difficult to get in contact with some of these people - many of whom can help you during and after your athletic career. But when the whistle stops blowing for you, some people will stop taking your calls. Take advantage of your brand value and organizational affiliation before it is too late.

6. Develop Positive Relationships
You might think that your job is to play well and win, but it is also important to develop positive relations with coaching staff, managers, owners, and teammates. Each of these people could directly impact your career, and it will serve you well to invest time into each of these relationships. The reality is, when managers are deciding who to cut loose and it is a close call between two people, they always lean towards the player they like, leads by example, and they know personally.

7. Be an Effective Communicator
Strong communication skills will help you while you are on the field, but will also impact all of your relationships - including those you can leverage for advice and career mobility.

8. Learn Conflict Resolution Skills
It is important to know when to put up a fight, and when to cut your losses and walk away. Not every dispute is easily resolved, but by developing your conflict resolution skills, you can come up with solutions that might be beneficial to both parties in the end.

9. Have a Vision
In order to be a strong leader, you need to keep the future in mind. Recognizing the consequences of your actions - both positive and negative - is critical when making informed decisions. Your teammates will respect and trust you if they see that you are strategic about the future of your career and the success of the organization.

Final Thoughts
Keeping these leadership tips in mind will help you gain control of your career and positively impact your team. Developing strong leadership skills will not only benefit your game, but will create immense opportunities for you following your athletic career.

To become a more effective leader, consider working with an advisor, like The Azara Group, to help coach you through your strategic career planning to actively drive your long-term success.

For career planning advice, check out the second article in this series. For financial planning advice, check out the third article in this series.

The Azara Group (TAG) is a consulting firm that promotes the development of leaders in an increasingly competitive and diverse marketplace - providing strategy consulting services and leadership training services to advance professional and life success. TAG leverages expertise in career strategy, diversity, negotiation skills, and business acumen to provide strategic advice and consulting services to help people and organizations get what they want, achieve their goals, and advance their business and career objectives. TAG also helps companies better attract, retain, and promote diverse talent, and develop robust diversity platforms and strategies to create a more inclusive workplace.

The Azara Group welcomes your direct comments and feedback. We do not post comments to our site at this time, but we value hearing from our readers. We invite you to share your thoughts with us. You can contact us directly at [email protected].

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