Wimbledon in the workplace: the superstars’ tips for success

The eyes of the world were once again on SW19 this weekend as the 129th Wimbledon Championships drew to a close. Lifting the silverware for a respective third and sixth time were Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams, providing incredible inspiration and firm testament to the power of hard work and dedication. But what lessons can business leaders and the modern HR function take from the tennis court? 

With the dust now settling on centre court, we take a look at the champions’ own secrets to success to see how businesses can serve an ace and break their competitors with a winning HR strategy.

  1. Engagement is everything!

“All I want is to have fun in what I’m doing every day.” Serena Williams

There’s no denying that being an international, multi-championship winning tennis player is not your average day job, but Serena’s statement does capture the key to employee engagement: satisfaction and fulfilment. With recent research suggesting that in the UK alone, nearly half of SME employees feel only ‘moderately engaged,’ creating new ways to motivate staff is clearly an ongoing challenge for business and HR leaders around the world.

So how can organizations improve employee engagement? Hiring the right person for the job may seem obvious, but its importance should not – and cannot – be underestimated. Guiding employees with authentic leadership that inspires and creates a shared vision is also key.

The application of modern-day measures – such as workforce analytics – is another very real solution. Analytics offer a deeper level of insight that enable HR professionals to assess and steer engagement initiatives. The result? Swifter and more effective action to re-energize disillusioned workforces, increase productivity and strengthen loyalty.

  1. Good leaders play to the strengths of their team

“I never try to make decisions on my own because even though it’s an individual sport, it’s a team effort in the end that really counts.” Novak Djokovic

Djokovic, like most elite players, has a large team of specialists supporting his mental, physical and emotional preparation – and for him, as for business leaders, it’s important to value others’ collective expertise.

Building a team that’s passionate about a common goal, but which has a diversity of skills and experience is a key element of good leadership. Being hands-on is important, but so is valuing the strength, guidance and input of your team. A variety of perspectives will ultimately provide a much more comprehensive view of (and solution to) business issues and complexities. Hire people whose opinions differ from your own, but be sure to encourage a common set of company and cultural values, as well as a shared clarity of purpose in order to build an engaged workforce.

  1. Learn from the past

“It’s all about, for me, how you recover…a champion isn’t about how much they win, but how they recover from their downs, whether it’s an injury or whether it’s a loss.” Serena Williams

Throughout her career on the court, Serena has experienced both failure and success. In the business world, navigating company highs and lows is also common and believe it or not, can actually be a good thing. After all, how can you appreciate the highs if you have no experience of the lows? How can you learn from your mistakes? Businesses’ ability to reflect on, and evaluate what has and hasn’t been effective in the past can ensure future plans are put in place with added awareness of strengths and potential pitfalls.

As business leaders, listening to employees’ feedback around past projects can also help to improve engagement and drive better project management. Simply listening to your stakeholders – be it through surveys or focus groups – can be extremely powerful, provided the feedback doesn’t fall on deaf ears.

For leaders, relinquishing a command and control culture in favor of one that prioritizes employee involvement can be a tricky transition – but one that’s critical to future success.

  1. Offer rewards

“My success on court has bought us a great life and we are all very appreciative and glad that we get to enjoy it in health and peace.” Novak Djokovic

Though the financial rewards enjoyed by sporting superstars like Djokovic far surpass the benefits packages that most HR departments are able to offer, facilitating and maintaining a culture in which individual and team talent is recognized is imperative.

Opportunities for training, development and career progression, as well as regular incentives will all ensure employee satisfaction remains high. Ultimately though, it’s often the little things that make the biggest difference. Recognizing, appreciating, thanking and including your workforce will build a strong and happy company culture that will see direct results on your business’ bottom line.




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