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By Shane Bond
The transition into a new work life after a career in professional sport is scary. If that transition involves a step into a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) course then its worse.
Without a doubt the move back into the tertiary world for me has been an extremely testing one. Yet the thought that being a sportsman and particular a “dumb fast bowler” was going to leave me out of my depth, hasn’t quite eventuated...yet!
Now as I enter the final third of my degree through Massey University, I have the chance to reflect on the recently undertaken international study tour and the previous papers. It’s been tiring is my first thought. Long hours, plenty of reading, a lot of which could be described like an Indian wicket – dry!
But the thought that sport wouldn’t prepare me for the course has turned out to be more a reincarnation of the self-doubt that you experience when first selected in a team. Through a lot of hard work and a bit of success, your confidence rises where you feel like you belong and find your place in the environment.
In fact I felt even more at home on our recent sojourn with twenty of my classmates to the United States. Ours was one of three study tours encompassing San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, with a plane ride to the east coast to take in Washington, Philadelphia, and New York. My goal for the tour was to better understand the strategies and operations of a variety of businesses in such a big market. This was achieved together with an enhanced understanding of my colleagues in a social capacity.
Being well travelled, use to roommates and lengthy bus rides, this was like a blast from the past. The days were long and the assignments testing with the combination of tiredness and pressure, bringing out the best and thankfully not too much of the worst in people.
The trip taught me new things and reconfirmed others that can easily be applied back to a sports environment. Firstly the reconfirmed, if you fail to prepare properly, you will more than likely fail, and that the sharing of information, even when you feel like your competing, can only enhance your own performance.
In a sports environment, there is a clear context for this. When a new player is selected and enters the team environment, there are often two trains of thought. Firstly the senior player should offer advice and support, and secondly, the junior should seek advice to help their transition. Often this is done poorly, with a senior player perhaps perceiving that by offering information, it may be seen as ‘telling’ or being big headed. The junior perceives asking as a sign of weakness or not being ready for this level.
Both perceptions are incorrect. In fact a balance between the two can only assist the new player transition, but also create a culture where open discussion and lead to honest evaluation and improvement. The ability to park ones ego to the side, although difficult, is necessary if team performance is to improve.
Secondly what I learned. I learned a lot about not letting my own assumptions, presumptions, impressions, and biases, get in the way of understanding what is actually going on. Go into things with your eyes and mind open.
In any sport or business, what is happening in somebody’s personal life can spill over into there professional performance. This maybe an issue that is historic or ongoing. Either way, communicating and building a rapport with someone, regardless of first impressions, can in fact change your perception and make you come to the realisation that your original assumptions were incorrect.
We don’t always get on with everyone in a team. There are certain personalities or traits that can really irritate or annoy you. However respect in a team environment is crucial and better understanding your teammates can help this. Taking the time to talk to those people who you would ordinarily avoid can build a working relationship that benefits everyone.
There were numerous occasions on the tour where what was thought to be the path best travelled was in fact a dud. The ability to trial and error, fail, and be prepared to hear some honest feedback, while a dent to the ego, helps you in the long run. These are certainly lessons I learnt playing sport, a number of them retrospectively.
Looking forward, I get hope to get the chance to apply the learning, perhaps back in an environment I am familiar with. I think just like my playing career, the experiences lived and memories gained from my tour, will be something to reflect upon with a great deal of satisfaction.