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Better employees: Athletes or Musicians?

July 22, 2011


I came across a recent New York Times weekly column called Corner Office, which interviews high-level business executives about management style, leadership, and success.  In a recent interview on July 3, 2011, Kathy Button Bell, vice president and chief marketing officer of Emerson, was interviewed and shared her insights about endurance as an athlete and as a corporate employee.

Bell: I think everybody benefits from having played sports.  It makes you a good sharer, for one thing, in lots of ways.  And it makes you more empathetic in general.  I love to see sports in a résumé.  A woman who works for me right now was a Harvard swimmer, and I can tell that every time I talk to her about something.  She’s an endurance athlete.  She’s tough in a pinch.  She will get it done.  And I respect that enormously…

Q. Do you think people can get those qualities just as much from being in an orchestra, or in a dance troupe? 

Bell:There’s something about how hard sports are physically that’s helpful.

While I appreciate her thoughts on the similarities between athletes and effective employees, I wish she would address more directly the question on musicians and dancers, and see what her stand is on how musicians/artists compare to athletes.  In addition, I would have liked to see a more eloquent response to address the question, such as “I don’t know because I have never formally learned a musical instrument”, instead of implying that there’s something about the physical nature of sports that makes it more beneficial.  Nevertheless, in the end, I think almost all of the qualities she mentions (i.e., sharing, empathetic, endurance, getting things done, etc.) as helpful traits in athletes apply directly to musicians.

Eagerly awaiting a sequel interview addressing musicians..

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 25, 2011 12:31 pm

    I agree! Musicians have many things in common with athletes. We make great employees because we see things through and can work on deadline. In addition, we are good problem solvers because we are accustomed to approaching things from various angles and taking others’ opinions into account (chamber music).

    The common ground between elite sports, for example, and playing concerts is one reason I watch tennis tournaments. I’ve found myself inspired to blog about the similarities from time to time, too!

    Thanks for your great post.


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