How Footy prepared me for the Corporate World

After 30 years in the sporting industry, one which has been an amazing journey for not just myself but also my family, I have made the big move to the Corporate World!

For a guy who spent the majority of my life in sporting gear out on the footy field, as far from a boardroom as one can imagine, it’s certainly not an exaggeration to say that joining the ranks of ‘men in suits’ was a huge and unexpected change in direction, one I could not have imagined even just a few short years ago.

And you may be wondering why I made such a drastic turn in my career? A question I asked myself many a time when I started to take my first, very wobbly steps, on this new corporate path. Yet as a believer in timing, opportunity and courage I found as circumstances changed and adversity arose, this new opportunity presented itself at exactly the perfect time. And I felt compelled to try my hand at it and see what the next phase of life had in store.

Change can be extremely stressful, filled with uncertainty – uncertainty of your capability, of the ability to learn something entirely new, of having a crack and failing. Yet as I nervously set out on this corporate journey it wasn’t long before I realised something about myself that helped instil the belief that I COULD do this. And I could do this successfully.

I realised that while a footy field and a boardroom could not be more different, the fundamental principles for success were the same. My years in football as a player, coach and development mentor have given me a great foundation to succeed in my exciting new role with Upstream Solutions. Football had essentially prepared me for a job in the corporate world.

Years ago, the great Leigh Matthews employed me to coach after I retired. I’ll always remember that he expressed to me that I should never forget that we are in the industry of selling hope and that was one of the reasons he wanted me on his coaching team. To this day, I incorporate that mantra in everything I do, along with many other valuable lessons I learned along the way.

Here’s a few things that football taught me that can be applied in Corporate world:

Be a Believer
Even the smallest amount of belief in someone can help them reach great heights and instil confidence. But of course, to add any real value that impacts change the belief in their ability must be genuine. In the same way, believing in what your organisation stands for, the solutions or services they provide and the value you can add, makes all the difference. Your confidence instils confidence in your customers.

It’s all about Rapport (there’s no second chance for a great first impression)
Imagine trying to offer feedback to someone who doesn’t trust or respect you – take it from me, it’s virtually impossible. Building relationships where trust is at the centre is crucial. And how exactly do you achieve that? Authenticity, integrity and sincerity – all key traits to creating a foundation of partnership. 

Listen & Learn
As an ‘expert in the field’ it’s easy to mistakenly assume you already know the issues and dish out advice on autopilot. But all too often it may be totally off track or irrelevant. Instead, don’t be afraid to take a step back to understand the exact situation. Ask the right questions, avoid interrupting, don’t jump to conclusions and reiterate to confirm you’ve correctly understood. Only then can you really get in and provide a solution that truly meets their needs.

Set Goals
Setting goals is the first step to turning hopes into reality. Without goals there’s no measure of accomplishments. Developing a plan, keeping score and being accountable are key pillars in creating success.

Looking back now with all my life lessons and challenges, despite my insecurities, I can appreciate my success not only as a player but also helping to build Brisbane Bears/Lions and The Giants in the northern states where AFL isn’t the number one code. I’ve realised that I’ve been in sales all my life, selling the importance of trust, relationships, team, commitment, resilience, support, faith, wellbeing and belonging – which underlie the essences of who I am.

I’m excited about applying these skills in my new sales role at Upstream to now instead help companies optimise business processes and provide real value. Upstream have given me a fantastic opportunity to grow into my role and utilise these skills that are paramount in sport and in business – especially when you believe so much in what you are selling!

Craig Lambert