Are you a work athlete?

May 7, 2012 — Leave a comment

Football players are usually separated into different positions based on their skill set. If you are 300 pounds and can tip over a car by yourself, you’ll probably be a lineman. If you can throw a football over a mountain, you might be the quarterback. However, there is a very small group of players that are simply called “Athletes”. These are the players that can play many positions and can’t be called just one thing.

In “How to be a Consultant“, I list the five ways to get ahead in your career by working like a consultant:

1. Become self-sufficient by building your network

2. Every time you start a new project you must learn very fast about the client and the work

3. You must keep up with the latest technologies and best practices

4. Project lengths are short; typically 9-12 months

5. Have a skill set that is in demand

One common theme among all of these is the ability to adapt quickly to changing situations and to be able to play many roles. Who does this best? An athlete!

As with most of my ideas, I picked them up from someone smarter than me. In this case, one of my mentors (John L) uses the “athlete” analogy to describe strong performers at work. He prefers to recruit ‘athletes’ to work for him.

So what makes someone a work athlete? John describes them the same as most coaches would describe an athlete. He looks for athletes who can:

1. Run fast = someone who gets sh#t done and moves at a pace that far exceeds his/her peers

2. Jump high = someone who continually raises the bar in terms of goals, results, etc.

3. Throw far = someone who has strength, courage and determination to really put something out there… for some to get and others to catch

It makes sense, right? Who wouldn’t want a team full of athletes? Well, you have to be careful. Just as in sports, you need to be weary of the work athlete who thinks a little too highly of themselves. You know the person, they might be great at what they do, but they drag the whole team down. Unfortunately, most bosses will keep these people around because they’re afraid they can’t replace them.

In addition to finding athletes, John is also great at forming teams who don’t have these ‘cancerous’ players who bring the whole team down. This one is a little harder to quantify, but it’s all about attitude. We need to be team players because most of us are working in group environments.

The good news is that we’re able to increase our athletic abilities and skills. I’m pretty terrible at golf, but if I play enough and try hard, I’m pretty sure I can get a lot better! We can also increase our work abilities and skills in order to become an athlete. Check out my article on how to succeed at work to learn more.

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