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IMI Conference

October 9, 2014 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm


Alistair Tosh IMITo celebrate a new partnership between Sport for Business and the Irish Management Institute we invited Alistair Tosh, Director of Executive Education at the IMI to contribute his thoughts on talent and what we might learn from the appearance of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane at the Irish Management Institute Annual Conference on October 9th.

Find out more about the conference here and get a 10% discount on the cost of the day as a member of Sport for Business by quoting IMISport.

One of my Summer reads this year was a book written by former professional footballer, Rasmus Ankerson, who, after his career was cut short by injury, set up a football academy. He became so interested in talent development that he set out to learn as much as he could about elite performance and how it is developed within such academies.

To do so, he visited what he called talent ‘Gold Mines’ around the world:

  • Bekoji – a village in Ethiopia where the world’s best middle distance runners are raised
  • South Korea – which produces 35% of the world’s best female golfers
  • Kingston, Jamaica – where a single athletics club produces the world’s best sprinters
  • Russia – produces 25% of the woman’s Top 40 in tennis
  • Iten – a village in Kenya which consistently produces the world’s best long-distance runners
  • Brazil – where a disproportionate number of the world’s top footballers originate

From this excellent book, I have gleaned 5 lessons that should resonate with business and talent specialists the world over.

Usain Bolt PumaThere’s talent that ‘shouts’ and talent that ‘whispers’ – in his book, Ankerson discusses the examples of Asafa Powell and Usain Bolt.

Bolt was a talent that shouted. He was setting records as a youth and was destined for greatness. Powell, however, was an underperformer. He went to a school without a proper athletics programme and had a poor technique. Yet he was able to run times that should have been beyond him.

The coach from the MVP athletics club in Jamaica spotted this hidden talent and brought him into his team. A short while later he was the world-record holder. Recruiters have a lot to learn from this – don’t just recruit from the obvious colleges or sources but seek those who have over-performed in a tougher environment.

It’s not about performance, it’s about the story behind performancequite a number of the athletes coming out of the Gold Mines that Ankerson visited had little other opportunities to escape more challenging lives.

Many of them showed an incredible appetite to train for their sport and put in the hard work that was required. Do you value those who come to you the hard way, or whose dedication despite a challenging environment sets them apart?

New England Patriots v Baltimore RavensPut passion above skillsone of my favourite examples of this in sport comes from the NFL.

Tom Brady, one of the most decorated NFL quarterbacks of all time, famously underperformed during the 2000 NFL combine and was the 199th draft pick.

Since then he has broken all sorts of records and his coaches put it down to desire and heart. In a business we talk about screening for skills and hiring for attitude. The Tom Brady example underlines this.

We require constant, immediate feedback – athletes get immediate feedback on their performance via their results on the track, the pitch or the court.

However, they also get immediate feedback from their coaches. Performances are debriefed immediately and areas for improvement are defined and a plan for future success is set.

When was the last time you analysed the performance of your talent? At an annual review? The lesson from sport is that once a year is not good enough.

O'Neill and Keane 2014We all need “Godfathers”one thing the Gold Mines had in common was an individual who truly cared about the performance of his or her athletes.

From Brother Colm O’Connell in Iten, Kenya to Stephen Francis in Kingston, Jamaica these people set the culture for greatness. Does your organisation have a series of mentors like this who care about the development of your talent?

Here at the Irish Management Institute (IMI) we strive to relay these lessons to our clients and participants on a daily basis. On 9th October in Sandyford we hope to hear from our own Godfathers from the national football team – Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane.

I wonder what lessons we will draw from them?

Once again you can find out more about the IMI National Management Conference, sponsored by Eircom Business Solutions here and get a 10% discount on the cost of the day as a member of Sport for Business by quoting IMISport.

SfBSport for Business works with over 100 member organisations to raise the level of engagement and delivery between sport, business and society.  

To find out more about how we can help your organisation harness the collaborative power of sport and business, contact us today for a bespoke tailored membership proposal.

Among those you will be joining are EircomAccenture, Leinster Rugby, the GAA, Ulster Bank, Aer Lingus, PwC and University College Dublin.

It could be the best decision you will make today.

Image Credit: Inpho.ie


October 9, 2014
8:00 am - 5:00 pm


Sport for Business


Irish Management Institute
County Dublin, Ireland
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