Sports are known as a great unifier: Look into the stands at any game and you’ll find people from all walks of life, socioeconomic situations and professional fields cheering in unison and rooting passionately for the cause.
Playing a sport can stoke feelings of togetherness and, if you ask Paul Meissner, that’s especially true in his favorite sport, curling. Meissner, a professional accountant, entrepreneur and podcast host, says he has learned some of life’s greatest business lessons on the ice.
I interviewed Meissner on the Green Apple Podcast and learned what curling can teach us about teamwork, camaraderie and communication.
Meissner grew up skiing competitively but, as he got older, decided to move to curling, a winter sport that continues to shape his views on business and relationships. But, what exactly does curling have to do with the business world? Meissner draws the following parallels from his time on the ice:
- You need to promote teamwork to be successful. Curling is a great metaphor for an office, where each member of the four-person team brings different skills. It takes all four members working in tandem to get it right. Some players are better at throwing the stones, while others are better at leading the team or sweeping to speed up the stone. If one player isn’t pulling his or her weight, other members may need to work harder to get the job done. They might even fail.
- Everyone can excel at something. When the team is on the ice, every member is on equal footing. Most sports give an advantage to those who are tall, fast or extremely strong. With curling, parents, teenagers, children and professional athletes can learn how to compete on the same level. Meissner says one of his favorite curling experiences was when he got to play against the gold medal-winning Canadian Paralympic Team which decisively defeated his team on the ice.
- Communication is key. Meissner says curling has taught him to communicate more thoroughly with his “off the ice” business team. As the stone is sliding down the ice, the team captain must tell the other team members what to do so the stone goes to the house, a circular target marked on the ice. There is little time to explain what you mean or for the team to ask questions, so the communication must be clear and succinct.
While curling may seem like a peculiar sport to those who aren’t accustomed to playing and watching, it’s a sport that brings people together. Meissner says he often takes colleagues and clients to play. He really enjoys it because everyone is out of their comfort zone and learning to improve their skills on an equal playing field.
Just like any curling team, with enough time, practice and communication, any business team can learn to work in unison no matter their background. And perhaps the most important lesson of all, Meissner says, is learning to find common ground — and common goals — with everyone we meet.