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Not beating the competition? Your attitude to training could be keeping you out of the game


When it comes to training staff, many businesses approach the process in a way similar to older, amateur sportsmen, when in fact they should emulate the sports training of their youth. Allow me to explain why there is a key difference there.

My physiotherapist told me several weeks ago ‘This is an old man’s injury’ after tearing my calf muscle after a game of basketball. After questioning my training (and having to get over the fact that I am old), we discovered that my once-a-week game, accompanied with no training and hardly any warm-up, was downright dangerous to my health.

Practice makes perfect

This is a situation I would never have contemplated as a teenager, with judo and tennis coaches ensuring that I practiced with their ‘no train, no game’ credo in mind. I would practice four or five times a week for a competitive game, irrespective of the competition.

My children attend swimming training five times a week, with their coach refining their technique and preparing them specifically for different strokes and lengths of competition. They focus on PB’s (personal bests) and break up their races into achievable tasks and goals (stroke rates and breathing). Is this like your business training?

Sadly, when it comes to business training, most leaders and managers (like myself) have not become smarter with age.

In an economy with slow growth, rising unemployment and a relatively poor business outlook, training does not seem to be high on the agenda. That, unfortunately, is a very short-sighted view.

Training (either formal or informal) and coaching provides employees with the opportunity to try new concepts and ideas, rehearse procedures and behaviours, and cultivate the skills necessary for business. Targeted training ensures employees maintain their skills in areas of expertise not often used, rounding their skills and abilities and limiting mistakes due to under use.

With Australian culture so obsessed with sporting success, we have certainly learnt little from it to help with business success.

In sport, when you faced with a more difficult league and increased competition, do you increase or reduce the number of training sessions the players / team go through?

My mens basketball team plays weekly and trains annually. Our win / loss ratio is average and the number of injuries the team sustains is high. There is not one member of the team that likes losing, and we all know what we need to do, but it doesn’t get done. Our egos and our memories are playing tricks on us – we remember how it used to be.

Get in the game

The evidence is clear (poor win / loss ratio and high injuries) and the answers are obvious. If we were either a junior team or an elite professional team the answer would be equally obvious – make changes, practice more, warm up before play and learn specific set plays that the competition is unprepared for and is suited to our skills.

In business, we face tough competition, pressure on prices and ask our staff to do more with less ‘players’. In this environment, what approach do you take to business training – the old, amateur or the elite professional?

The answer you provide may have a much longer effect on your business than you may think. My amateur basketball career was put on hold for five weeks while I recovered (I don’t think my team missed my skills). Will your business have the same opportunity?

Perhaps it is time for your business to hit the training track if you want to stay in the game and beat the competition.

Michael Peiniger is a business leader and former military officer who uses training to develop leaders, build skills, change behaviours and affect the bottom line. Find out more, here.