In a recent AESC/BlueSteps Executive Search Network group discussion, a group member asked “What does it take to be a high performer, i.e. "the corporate athlete", without experiencing burnout, anxiety and depression?” Response comments came from a variety of group members including HR professionals and international executives.

According to Jennifer Colombo, a Performance Driven Senior HR Director, the overall summary of the Corporate Athlete is that “you have to be strong across dimensions: the body (physically), heart (emotionally focused), mind (mental focus), and spirit.”

One particularly excellent comment came from Matti Pekkanen, CEO and International Business Leader. In this comment, he referred to his personal experience as an international executive working seven days a week. Eventually, Pekkanen realized that he needed to draw the line, so he came up with the following nine rules that helped him with his career management as an international corporate athlete (read the full comment in the Executive Search Network group).

1. When you are on vacation, don't read your emails.
2. During a vacation, don't answer work related phone calls.
3. During the weekends you may need to attend a pre-scheduled conference call, and check your email once or twice, but otherwise rely on SMS's only. A simple escalation call may take a few minutes, but it will ruin your whole day.
4. "If a senior manager needs to be working seven days a week on a continuous basis, he shouldn't be a manager at all". The art of management includes the skill of delegating responsibility to other people and to plan your personal schedule wisely.
5. Do some physical exercises regularly, preferably something that you really like. Not going to the gym, if that feels like torture, but going for a swim, playing squash with your good friend or something that the whole family can participate in, just in case you have a family.
6. Spend your free time during weekends and holidays with people who are genuinely your friends, and not just business acquaintances that you need to play golf with.
7. A health check every now and then is a good idea. Lots of health problems can be resolved easily, provided they get noticed early enough.
8. If your new boss makes you hate every Monday morning you have to go to the office, it's time to change to another job.
9. In the end life is a big joke. Don't take it too seriously.

In addition to these helpful comments, some group members also recommended the following books.

  • The Corporate Athlete Advantage: Science of Deepening Engagement by Jim Loehr and Jack Groppel
  • Don't Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson


Have you worked as a corporate athlete? Tell us about your experience.


This article was written by Julia Salem, Digital Marketing Manager at the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).

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