As a former international handball player of almost 16 years, I’ve had invaluable experience of the role of teamwork in overall success. Of course, there is always a talent quotient involved, but that talent, and the application of it, reaches far beyond the handball court.
It is the expression of the effort and skills of an extensive team, an expression of the leadership within the group, and of how the group reacts to setbacks. Even the best, and most well supported and resourced handball teams don’t win every game.
High level sport – especially team sport – is just like a small business. My current role is as a Regional Channel Manager for Middle East and Turkey in Rockwell Automation, a very large, global business, but even big businesses are formed of smaller teams that intersect – and each of these also echoes the way in which a high-level sports team operates.
Perhaps the most important benefit I feel to having played handball at the highest level is how I approach pressure and how I view a challenge. My personal reaction to pressure is rooted in my experience of performing to my highest level in competition when people are relying on me.
Meanwhile my approach to overcoming a challenge is also influenced by sport – my deep understanding that to overcome a challenge and perform to my own potential I will need the support of the team and all the resources available.
This year has given me the perfect opportunity to explore my potential. It has also opened me up to new experiences and shown me a clear direction for my career. In June I was offered the chance to take on a stretch role at Rockwell Automation.
That role, which ran alongside my current responsibility, was to be interim country director for Rockwell Automation in Turkey. It was a role that I knew would test me greatly – but because of the way the Rockwell Automation supports its staff to grow, I knew that I would have a great team around me, and, importantly, that I had someone in my existing team who was ready to take extra responsibility to support me in my ‘day job’.
The challenge I faced in the new role was that I was taking over from a team that had enjoyed success under the same manager for more than eight years. Anyone coming into such a position faces a challenge to energise the team, help it look forward, and bring in new methods of working that can open the way for further success. I’m delighted to say that together we achieved this – and I drew experience and parallels from my time as a handball player throughout.
We see in sport that when a successful manager is replaced, the team often takes time to adapt, and performance can suffer – but it's not always the case. The best managers I played for really listened to the team, they took time to convey and move towards their methods, and they instilled the confidence and faith in the rest of the team and its support system to grow together.
It was emotional, I must admit, to leave the team recently when the post was permanently filled, but I was glad to do so having enjoyed success, and I will continue to be in close contact and support with the whole team from my existing position. I go back to my ‘day job’ having learned three valuable new things:
- I am now better at my job from my expanded experience – I have new understanding of leadership, and better all-around understanding and empathy for my colleagues and the challenges they face.
- My own future is clearer – I will continue to work hard with the aim of my continued growth within the company having proven myself to myself and my colleagues. I know I will be supported in this, and I’m even more excited and driven about my own career as a result.
- I know that when I move on, I have a very capable leader-in-waiting for my team, and I will continue to support his development and that of every member of my team, that they can continue to reach their own potential within Rockwell Automation.
While not everyone has the fortune to have played sport at the highest level, many of us follow sports closely, and the experience within a sports team is very similar to that within a business. It’s about constant evolution of methods, tactics and approaches, and it’s about bringing the best out of yourself by working well with a team that pulls together, making the most of the support systems and resources available to it.
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