Corporate Athlete

Jul 18, 2014 1 Min Read

One of the best classes I ever took was on public speaking. Learning, researching and analysing a topic in depth but being unable to communicate the value of the findings is simply doing yourself a disservice. Not having the energy to close a project well – because the energy level just dissipated over time – is an unfortunate outcome as well.

So given the opportunity to attend the Corporate Athlete programme three years ago was a great chance to learn how small deliberate changes in daily habits can play a major role in energy management which in turn impact the ability to focus and deliver.

Jack Groppel, PhD authored The Corporate Athlete, a book on achieving the pinnacle of corporate performance and co-authored The Corporate Athlete Advantage.

Groppel developed the Corporate Athlete® concept for his training programme, helping both business executives and athletes increase performance levels.

He combined his programme with Jim Loehr to form the Human Performance Institute, part of Wellness & Prevention Inc, a Johnson & Johnson company.

The Corporate Athlete programme was a unique and eye-opening (both metaphorically and physiologically) experience for me. I asked Groppel about the moment of revelation that prompted him and Loehr to develop a programme for corporate executives. They met in 1977, when both were heavily involved in sport science.

“Jim’s doctorate is in psychology and he was a practising sport psychologist. My doctorate is in exercise physiology and I was a professor in kinesiology and bioengineering at the University of Illinois,” explains Groppel.

They realised that although they came from very different backgrounds, they were speaking the same language about how to help someone who was already an elite performer improve his or her skills to grow and progress.
About four years later, Groppel attended an event where the former No. 1 world tennis player, Stan Smith was asked:

Now that you’re nearing the end of your playing career, what do you want to do?

His answer:

I want to take all the skills I’ve learned as an athlete and use those skills in business.

Smith’s response was riveting to Groppel. It was an “aha” moment, and the genesis of the term “Corporate Athlete”.

On energy management

“First things first, without energy, nothing happens. From a physics perspective, Newton’s First Law says that ‘a body will stay at rest (or in motion) until acted upon by an outside force’.

“From a biological perspective, energy causes life to abound, from the basics of energy one receives from a calorie of food, to the focus of one’s attention on something that’s important, to the feelings we might have surrounding a situation, and the purpose one attains when connecting to something that truly matters (e.g. one’s child),” says Groppel.

In the past, the focus was on developing people mostly in the mental dimension; learning new skills for performance excellence in an organisation. But, according to Groppel, that all changed.

The life of a business person has changed radically since the 1980s where there seemed to be a clearer delineation between work and free time.

“Today it is EASY to find you, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We are inundated daily with over 200 emails, text messages, etc. But, what has this caused? Disengagement!” exclaims Groppel.

“Business leaders are realising that they must provide ways of energising their people, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This ‘new think’ paradigm is catching on quickly and it is going to change the very face of how we work, go to school and on from there,” he adds.

Corporate Athlete 2

Sports and parallels with corporate athletes

Jack Groppel speaks:
Athletes and business people both experience high stress, and there are many lessons that the latter (Corporate Athletes) can learn from sport. From a sport science perspective, we know that every human being is multidimensional.

Each person has a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual dimension to himself/herself. With each dimension, what we have learned from sport is that all of us can:

  1. Expand our capacity in each dimension. In fact, I will boldly say that within your talent and skill set, you can be anything you dream of being. The key to that is that it is within your talent and skill set.For example, a 2m tall, 140kg person will not be a very good jockey in a horse race. He simply can’t do it! But my question to your readers is this: What can you become?
  2. Within each dimension, you must be able to recapture energy. We call this recapture of energy “recovery”. Since energy is finite in every human being, we must be able to recapture energy in each dimension.We clearly understand the physical dimension, as far as sleep and nutrition, but how well do we pay attention to emotional and mental recovery after all the stress of our jobs and our hectic lifestyles?

And, then there’s also spiritual recovery. Athletes have taught us that we must connect to something that is bigger than ourselves, to truly excel in performance and in life.

Past participants:

“It really gave us a new perspective on managing our day-to-day energy so we can consistently perform at our best.” — Samuel R. Allen, CEO, Deere & Company

“A very compelling, pragmatic, and universal model for how change occurs. The Corporate Athlete® training transformed the way that I and many of my executives look at our lives, not only at work but at home,” — Steve Reinemund, former chairman and CEO, PEPSICO

Message to Malaysians

1. Life is about purpose. Be sure to connect to what matters most and use that as your North Star in guiding your decisions.

It’s interesting to me that when you read the really great books on leadership, they involve words like courage, heart, passion and honour. These are spiritual words that connect us to something greater than ourselves.

2. Remember that you are a biological and behavioural being. As such, you must get recovery in your life.

Gone are the days when we can just go, go, go, until we drop. Every day “could” look like that. But, if it does, we will get sick, our relationships will fall apart and we will go into a downward spiral.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work hard, but it does mean that you should continually seek to refresh and rejuvenate yourself. This is the key to sustainable high performance. I wish you well on your journey!

Karen is editor of and hesitant about sharing with Jack Groppel how far she has fallen from the Corporate Athlete ideal. Apples, nuts, breaks every 90 minutes… and more to be revived! She can be contacted via email at .  Click here to read more articles like this! 

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Karen has rather bizarrely maintained a childlike side to herself – always keen to see, learn and do new things. Yet she has remained grounded on finding the best way to help people – especially those who have the skills and heart to do incredible things.

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