Retired Boxer Applies Sports Lessons to Workplace

Recognizing and appreciating individual strengths is the key to a team’s success

By Kathy Gurchiek Aug 17, 2016
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Fourteen years ago, Angel Bovee's passion to follow her Olympic dream led her to give up a full-time job as a TV news producer, sell her apartment and live in her car for six months so she could afford to train full-time as a boxer.

Despite her sacrifices, the Golden Gloves winner and three-time national champion never made it to the Olympic Games as an athlete. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) denied the inclusion of women's boxing as an event for the 2004 and 2008 Summer Games—her last chance before she approached the age limit for that event. It did not become a women's event until 2012.

Angel BoveeBut this summer, Bovee, who has worked in HR, is at the Games as a career counselor with Adecco's Athlete Career & Education (ACE) Program. It places eligible Olympians and Paralympians with jobs and educational opportunities that give them the scheduling flexibility and financial resources needed to train for competition.

"I help athletes develop a career game plan, both for when they are training and for their transition out of sport. With our sister company, Lee Hect Harrison, we help athletes with resume preparation, interviewing skills, networking, transition services and job placement assistance. I also meet with companies to share with them the value of hiring elite athletes and the transferrable skills that can make them top talent in the workplace," she said in an e-mail to SHRM Online.

While in Rio, Bovee is blogging about, and cheering on, the 129 Olympians in the program that was launched in 2014 in cooperation with the IOC's Athlete Career Program. Adecco is the U.S. Olympic Committee's official career management services sponsor.

ACE athletes include swimmers Chase Kaisz and Allison Schmitt and weightlifter Sarah Robles. Kaisz won a gold medal in the men's 400-meter individual medley. Schmitt won a gold medal in the women's 4x200-meter freestyle relay and a silver medal in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay. Robles won a bronze medal in the women's finals for lifting more than 75 kilograms. 

Bovee also will be moderating a workshop for athletes on how to transition into the workforce.

"Transitioning from an athletic career to a more traditional profession is no small feat and can be discouraging at times," she said.  

"Coming from an athletic career, I was extremely motivated to make an impact in the workplace—the same way I was dedicated to succeeding in the boxing ring. At work, I quickly learned that some people are not as passionate as I am," she said.

Encountering personalities and work styles that differ from one's own can cause a person "to shy away from teamwork," Bovee noted. However, "the key to every team's success is diversity, so it's important to recognize and appreciate individual strengths," she added.

"In understanding what my colleagues were really good at, I was able to learn from their approach to work and also to motivate them with my eagerness to succeed."

She shared a few tips on how to inspire teamwork, productivity and a collaborative work environment long after the Olympic flame has been extinguished for another four years.

"Employees are going to find a way to keep tabs on their favorite events and athletes during office hours, especially with mobile devices at their fingertips," she told SHRM Online. "But, this doesn't have to interfere with productivity. Instead, it's an opportunity for managers to really engage employees, which will actually help with long-term retention efforts."

These tips are:

  • Treat workplace projects as friendly competitions between teams. While bragging rights are a big motivator, she noted, consider a tangible reward such as a shortened workday or a company-sponsored lunch.
  • Flex hours also can be an engagement tactic. Employees, she said, "will appreciate the gesture and will know they need to get their work done accurately and efficiently to maintain flex hours as an option during [the Games] and also to secure it as an option in the future."
  • Any such strategies, though, should be aligned with office policies and guidelines, and managers must be clear with employees on how the competition and reward will be administered, she added.

"One of the best ways to inspire teamwork and collaboration at work is by clearly defining goals and ensuring each team member understands the contributions that must be made in order to be successful as individuals and as a unit. That means team members are not only aware of their own goals, but also value what their peers bring to the table" and an understanding that everyone plays a role.

"Too many managers," she said, "make the mistake of under-communicating, leaving their team unsure of how [its members] fit into the big picture and potentially [causing a] disconnect with their colleagues as a result."

A team mindset develops, she added, when employees believe they make a difference and appreciate how others contribute to an organization's overall efforts.  Even in the workplace, employees can go for the gold.

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