Hiring Best Athlete for the Job Pays Off

Are you hiring the best athletes available?
There is a practice among successful pro sports teams that drafting the best athlete available is the way to develop winning teams. I believe this is also true in business and by doing a small study lately I came to the realization that there is a strong correlation to successful salespeople, sales leadership and C-suite executives.
I know that many of you will say, OK, this is just my way of saying that because I was a successful amateur and professional athlete that it then led to my success in business. In reality, I recognize that I always hired people who were high school and college athletes and never knew why until a study I did in November of this year.
At a meeting of 10 Sales VPs, we had by show of hands how many were successful athletes in high school. We were 10 for 10. Five of our members were not at the meeting, but I know them all and we were now 15 for 15. Next I asked the 10 attendees to think of the two best people they had ever hired in their careers. Again we were 20 for 20 on the competitive athlete front.
To carry my research further, I met with 10 CEOs the next day and asked the same question. Nine of 10 were competitive athletes. One CEO did not play sports in high school because his parents were educators, but after he got on his own, he became expert at the martial arts and still runs several miles every day. Then we went to the best two people they had ever hired, and we were 18 of 20. The two exceptions were performing musicians who were used to playing in front of crowds.
After seeing these amazing numbers, we then asked why this was a factor and what attributes did athletes have in common.
They were used to scoreboards and being judged every time they played.

  • They had to try out and make the team every year. If they let down, they were replaced.
  • They had to be on time for practice.
  • They were used to hard work and balancing education and sports. 100% of them had jobs that they worked either after school or in the summer.
  • They were coachable.
  • They were competitive, but team oriented.
  • They were always working on improvement.

I am sure my small sample size will allow some to question if this is merely a coincidence or if there is some merit to looking into people’s background to determine if these are factors that should be taken into account when hiring.
So my takeaway is, hire the best athlete available but don’t forget performing musicians.
Weekly Wisdom by Jerry Rollins, CEO and Chairman of Sage Executive Group