Think Like a CEO
A NEW MINDSET FOR PRO ATHLETES
Part one of a five-part series that looks behind the headlines, offering a new perspective on the drivers of long-term financial success for professional athletes. Featuring the ideas and insights of veteran players and industry thought leaders.
Almost ten years ago, ESPN aired its groundbreaking 30 for 30 Series, opening with this pair of startling statistics:
Since that time, dozens of media reports have presented similar statistics, suggesting a widespread problem in professional sports that continues to impact athletes in alarming numbers. These reports often focus on the more sensational aspects of the problem: extravagant spending; fraudulent investments; and embezzlement by friends, family, and advisors. In addition to these potential threats, players have to navigate a myriad of other demands including taxes; contracts; merchandising and endorsement opportunities; investment opportunities; and team obligations – all competing for mental energy, time, attention and/or financial support.
Part of the challenge for athletes is a lack of, or gap in their education on the fundamentals of money. That gap becomes more significant due to the complexity of a professional athlete’s financial interests – which more closely resemble a mid-sized, privately held company than a typical household. Additionally, a professional athlete is the CEO of the brand that shares his/her name. To ensure long-term financial success, today’s sports star needs to adopt the mindset of a CEO.
The CEO Mindset: A Framework for Success
The CEO is the most powerful and sought-after title in business. Like the world of pro sports, very few of the people who aspire to the role ever make it – even fewer rise to the ranks of the elite performers. The job is as rewarding as it is challenging. Unfortunately, very little has been written on what makes a CEO successful.
At MGO, we’ve been fortunate to work closely with some of the most successful executives and entrepreneurs in the world. As a result, we’ve come to know the traits and practices that successful leaders have in common – and applied them to the situations most commonly faced by professional athletes or “Athlete/CEOs.”
The CEO mindset is built around a framework with four pillars:
I. Vision & Strategy
Athletes understand the power of visualization – the importance of envisioning an outcome in order to make it a reality. In their role as Athlete/CEO, they are asked to extend the horizon of their vision. To ideate their life goals and aspirations – today and into the future. To build a roadmap that will get them there.
II. Team Building & Alignment
Athletes understand that the single most important requirement for winning is the team: quality talent, clarity of mission, alignment, and execution. The team must understand the critical balance between individual talent and working together as a single holistic, high-functioning unit. The foundation of all high-functioning teams is trust.
III. CEO Focus
Athlete/CEOs face overwhelming demands for their time and must be careful to avoid other people’s urgent, but often unimportant, demands for their attention. Top-performing CEOs understand how to focus on the important things that only they can do. Whether it’s leading critical meetings, inspiring team action, or telling the story behind your vision – the Athlete/CEO must be vigilant with how they invest their time.
IV. Larger Purpose
Exceptional CEOs understand the power of purpose. Something that goes beyond just profits and financial rewards. Athlete/CEOs occupy a unique place in the world. They wield visibility and influence that most of us can only imagine. It gives them the ability to inspire others and make an impact on the world in a way few can. Lock-in to that larger purpose and make sure it’s top of mind in driving your key decisions.
John Wooden said, “The main ingredient to stardom is the rest of the team.” At MGO, we team with athletes and entertainers to achieve long-term financial success and help them think like a CEO. We are your experienced ally, financial coach, and trusted advisor.
We use a proven framework that starts with developing your vision and strategy, supported by a team that can get you there. In Part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss the keys to building a high-performing team, including:
- Common mistakes made by professional athletes when building a team
- What Athlete/CEOs can learn from the Corporate Model of team building
- How to ensure the entire team is aligned and moving in the same direction
Part 2: Building Your Team
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