The sportitarians

Sujatha Deshmukh

Sujatha Deshmukh  


How leaders find that sports brings out deep learnings for life on and off the field

Senior leaders and professionals from across industries, talk about how the skills and experiences they’ve picked up from sports, contribute to their leadership style and effectiveness at the workplace. It’s personal growth at its best, and it never ceases.

Managing and motivating oneself to improve continuously

Parinita Patankar,

Associate Director, Accenture Consulting

An IT professional and mum to a 16-year-old, Parinita picked up kickboxing five years ago. Religiously putting aside six hours a week, on an average, most of which happens over weekends, she is disciplined about her exercise regimen in the face of a commuter lifestyle dictated by extensive professional travel.

“I realised quickly that it makes me unwind after several hours of work and that I feel fresh and open-minded after only an hour or two of intensive training,” she says. The sport has taught her to deal with argumentative situations at the workplace: “Kickboxing helps me keep myself focused and find that perfect balance between offence and defence,” she says.

She manages to accommodate the strenuous demands of kick-boxing in the face of an equally demanding role at work. “For an individual sport like kickboxing, you have to be very self-motivated and driven to be productive in what you are doing,” she says. And that’s where, she believes, assuming accountability for personal and professional effectiveness is critical. “Getting it right the first time doesn’t matter. Instead, learning from mistakes and improving every time has true significance,” she concludes.

Reflecting and being open to learn from shortcomings

Rakesh Singh, CEO and Executive Director, Modison Metals Limited

“Football has taught me more about leadership than anything else has,” says Rakesh, as he talks about how playing and staying as a team is what wins the game. He likens the experience to steering an organisation, which can be a pot-pourri of different generations, mindsets, values and beliefs, which in spite of its differences, is expected to deliver as a whole.

“I tell the team to be creative, take chances and showcase their skill without excessive fear of failure and that helps push up performance.” Equally important, is the ability to humbly accept a loss, and to help each team member learn from their experience. “When you are winning, it’s a great feeling. But setbacks are inevitable. And, it’s a tremendous learning experience, as you reflect on why your team lost, and how you may have been a contributing factor to their loss. It teaches you to look at your weaknesses and humbly say ‘this is where I’m going to improve’ for myself and for my team.”

In football and the boardroom, you are only as good as the decisions you take within the time-frame that has been set. “It’s always a game of managing your resources in the race against time,” he says, as he passionately sums up why he relates so intimately to the game. A CEO by profession and a footballer for life, Rakesh makes sure he never misses his time with the boys on the field over a game every Sunday, come what may. That’s his ‘me’ time, he says.

Pushing the limits to reinvent and grow

Dr Jayanto Mukherji, Dentist

It’s not often you run into doctors who double up as athletes, given their long hours at work that demand intense concentration, and the mental and physical fatigue that accompany the profession.

He cycles a couple of times a week, plays squash about four times after work, and is a weekend distance runner. Jayanto believes his long-time indulgence in sports, — solo and competitive — has helped him in more ways than one. “It helps build a sense of fair play, increased acuity, both mental and physical, and raises energy levels, which greatly help me in keeping fatigue at bay. My line of work is largely sedentary and that would have been disastrous after the 40s, had I not kept myself physically active.”

He ran his first 21k when he turned 50. Jay believes this inner urge to push himself continually only helps better his clinical skills in his quest to continually upgrade his repertoire.

The exposure to multiple sporting activities, he believes, has also contributed to developing his ability to understand, interact and get comfortable with a whole range of people — an experience that helps him meaningfully engage with his patients as he treats them.

Staying the course without crumbling under pressure…

Sujata Deshmukh, CEO, OD Alternatives

“Nothing has prepared me more for senior leadership than badminton,” says Sujata. A weekend badminton player, she believes the sport helps her jumpstart her week by sharpening her wits that are always being tested in complex client situations at the workplace.

A management consultant, she believes the game’s high speed calls for quick movements and even faster thinking. “You have to predict the shuttle’s angle of return based on the point of contact with the racket and the velocity of the hit. You need to plan your shot based on your opponent’s position and your own. And you have to do all this while avoiding the other player as you both navigate your way around a very small space and in a fraction of minutes.” All this calls for staying focussed and that can only come with preparation, she says. “A lack of preparation, both physically and mentally, can adversely impact your game.”

Management situations bring their own rules of engagement, sometimes defined, sometimes not. “The unwritten rules can be the trickiest, with rules sometimes changing based on where the engagement occurs,” she says, adding that “the situational awareness and mental agility needed to pull all this off builds important skills for management and those high-pressure, think-on-your-feet moments. No skill is more important than timing. Precision timing — striking the shuttle cock at just the right moment — is key to success. Precision timing is also important for leadership,” she summarises.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 12:52:14 PM |

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