©mustafagull | iStock.com

The worlds of sports and business often intersect both in theory and reality. What makes an athlete or business owner or CEO successful? It comes down to one shared trait — competition.

At the Top 100 Awards Ceremony and Executive Summit in San Diego in June, business consultant Gary Williams, CEO and founder of wRatings, told attendees that competition drives not only professional and Olympic athletes to achieve new heights but also motivates business owners to win at their game.

“Sports and business are alike in that the great teams or companies are places where people want to come to work,” says Williams. “They are all looking to be part of something great.”

While sports provide a clearer and more immediate answer as to who is the best based on the final score, businesses go through the same process of identifying and studying competitors to label strengths and weaknesses, and map a plan for success.

Williams also says the team concept is not reserved solely for the football or soccer field but can be used in the boardroom as well.

“The first thing I tell companies looking to rebound from poor sales or performance is to look at their staff and harness the competitive nature in them,” says Williams. “Companies need employees with varied skill sets to create a team and they need people who buy into the team concept.”

Managers must avoid assembling a team and then putting them in front of customers without the proper coaching. Explain to each employee how their role contributes to the success of the company and why it is important.

“If you don’t explain to an employee how their efforts contribute to the success of the company you won’t get buy in or an investment from that person,” says Williams. “Tell them why they are important.”

MAKING A DIFFERENCE. Culture plays a bigger role in today’s business world than in the past and people want to work at places where they feel they are cared about and aren’t just cashing a paycheck or waiting for a better job to come along.

“Employees are no longer robots that you can plug and play into various positions,” says Williams. “Business has become more transparent and the need for employee buy in is more important than ever. Employees want to feel they are making a difference.”

And like in high-level college and professional athletics, recruiting and retaining talent is another vital element to success.

“Talented individuals want to work and play for winning teams and feel they are an important part of the success of the organization,” says Williams. “If they don’t feel that way in the interview or after being on board for a while they will leave for another opportunity.”

How does a manager keep his or her team together? Williams says setting clear and well-defined expectations is the first step and by being genuine in your actions and communications.

“Today, employees want honesty but there is a difference between that and being genuine,” says Williams. “Being totally honest is putting everything out on the table but not everyone can deliver or accept that. Being genuine means not unloading everything but sharing important facts and being consistent in your words and actions.”

In addition to being consistent in your words and actions, holding coworkers accountable for their performance on a consistent basis is vital.

“Employees embrace consistency and accountability more than most managers think,” says Williams. “Doing this helps build a positive team atmosphere and allows everyone to achieve more.”

The author is a frequent contributor to PCT magazine.