Those who want to get ahead in the business world may incorrectly think that the way to do this is to develop a deep understanding of business principles and the ability to express them well. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Based on personal experiences and observations of the corporate business environment, I’ve found that if you want to relate to those high level executives who control your destiny, the primary skill needed is an encyclopedic knowledge of….sports facts.
That’s right. You may THINK that high level executives spend their time in conversations that might go something like this:
“Well, J.B., I understand production levels in your division are on an upward trend, exacerbated by the implementation of your latest strategy of workflow reengineering and just-in-time empowerment.”
“That’s correct. We’re in the process of combining motivational management techniques with total quality self-contained work groups in order to increase return on equity and enhance the perceived market value of our stock.”
In reality, the only time this sort of talk takes place is during formal meetings and then only if the boss is present. In informal meetings, or whenever the boss leaves the room, and especially during coffee breaks and lunchtime, the primary topic will invariably turn to sports. To illustrate, here is a typical example of what executives REALLY talk about among themselves:
“Say, J.B., did you hear about that trade the Yankees made yesterday?”
“I sure did. I can’t believe they traded Smith for that bozo Reubens from San Diego. He wasn’t any good when he was there or at Los Angeles. He only batted .225 with nine homers and twelve RBIs.”
“You’re right about that, plus he wasn’t any good when he went to Notre Dame. He only batted .260 there. The only reason he went pro in his junior year was because they were going to drop him from the team and his father was well connected.”
“Not only that, he made high school All American at Temple only because his mother had an in with the selection board and he happened to luck out that year with 20 home runs.”
“Is that right? I’ll have to pass that on to K.B. in Finance. By the way, how is production this month?”
“Beats me. I think my assistant told me the figures but I never can remember those things.”
If you are not well versed in such minute details of every well-known athlete’s life, you will likely be labeled as uninformed and relegated to spending the rest of your career in low-level management positions that carry no hope of stock options.
The reason for this obsession on the part of executives with what’s happening in the sports world would make an excellent topic for a doctoral thesis. One possible explanation is that it has something to do with wanting to be able to demonstrate expertise in at least one subject.
You see, in today’s world of rapidly changing technology and all the technobabble that goes along with it, high level managers have no chance of carrying on an intelligent conversation with even their lowliest subordinates about the very technologies they hired them to develop. To avoid this, they keep informal conversations centered around something they can relate to and which, coincidentally, doesn’t require a degree in rocket science to understand.
In fact, these executive’s knowledge of their own company and business pales in comparison to the exhaustive knowledge thy have of various professional and collegiate sports. Gender makes little difference. Both sexes are equal when spouting sports statistics at the executive level.
If they kept up with their profession and the competition as much as they keep up with batting averages and pass completion percentages, America would still retain its economic leadership in all areas, although we’d probably still seldom win the World Cup.
If you don’t possess a vast knowledge of sports trivia, there is something that is almost as good: ability at golf. This is the one sport that most executives actually play as much as they talk about, a situation made possible by the fact that no physical conditioning is required, just skill. And you don’t even need that if you’re a good liar.
The one American business cliché that has an actual basis in fact is that many business deals are consummated on the golf course. The ideal, of course, is when you’re able to talk knowledgeably about any sport AND have a handicap of four.
That will practically guarantee you a future spot on the Board of Directors.