Sports is a common experience in many cultures. Like many around the world, my family and I tend to slow down to cheer Canada on during the Olympics, or as we recently did for the World Junior Hockey Championship. Sports has the ability to unite and affect communities. As much backlash as the NHL received during the lockout, we will undeniably get back on the wagon and cheer our teams on.
I had some success early in life when it came to team sports but nothing to write home about. I always loved the game of hockey but I was really a basketball player. It was in university that I began to play hockey and continue to play a fair amount with my family, friends and teammates at ING DIRECT. I also coach both of my sons’ hockey teams.
We have hundreds of employees who regularly participate in various sporting teams at ING DIRECT. It’s a wonderful opportunity to bring people together from across the business who share a common love, including me. There is no better investment of my time than when I truly connect with my colleagues. And it happens in various ways. But in particular, the weekly hockey game with the team documented through social media has certainly provided valuable insights and a lot of fun.
I find that these activities break down barriers and remove, for the most part, the preconceived notions of “the CEO.” With all the open communication I push for at the office, I am still met with the occasional “Mr. Aceto” or “Sir.” I have spent an entire career proving that I am just as real as the next guy/gal but in an office, even without physical walls around me, the barriers persist. But on the ice, or in a locker room, it is an entirely different story. I would say that of those courageous enough to join our team games, anything preconceived vanishes fairly quickly.
I believe what we learn in team sports has a direct impact on business performance. There is a fluidity on the ice or the court that may not always translate as well in the office. If someone tries something for the benefit of the team but finds themselves out of position a teammate quickly identifies this and helps out. They adjust. It’s beautiful to see when it happens, now imagine when it happens in the business context!
Sports provide a training ground to practice and cultivate leadership abilities – to play with integrity, teach and learn from teammates and create a culture that people want to be a part of. It is an opportunity to inspire others to a common goal, motivate others to perform beyond their limiting beliefs and fuel passion for something we believe in. To me this ought to be identical to a day at the office.
Coaching my sons’ hockey teams, much like playing team sports, has also brought a great deal of insight into my work. “A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are,” said Ara Parseghian. The same applies for business leaders. We have the responsibility of transforming those around us in life and in business by the actions we take.
I love sports, both because of its personal benefits and its amazing applicability to business performance. The lessons learned and fun we have when on the ice together have certainly made ING DIRECT a better place to work, better for our customers and has a lot to do with our success!