Boxing and Employee Experience: What We Can Learn from Vasyli Lomachenko

Written by
Ryan McGrory
August 4, 2022

Sports can teach us a lot about life and business. Take the story of Vasyli Lomachenko, the Ukrainian boxer. Lomachenko is an incredible athlete (and former lightweight champion) who has taken an unorthodox approach to his development, career and even his boxing style (for example, he’s a right-handed southpaw - go figure).

As a youth, he intentionally paused his boxing training to take up Russian dancing and gymnastics in order to develop his overall athletic ability. And later, despite having a phenomenal record as an amatuer boxer (396 wins, 1 loss), he resisted the temptation of becoming a young prizefighter (securing millions of dollars) to instead further develop his craft and achieve his dream of winning an Olympic medal.

After winning Olympic gold at Beijing 2008, he again resisted the temptation of benefitting financially and becoming a pro to instead make history by winning another gold medal at the following Olympics - pretty much unheard of in boxing.

But what really sets Lomachenko apart in his field is his approach to mental preparation. After turning professional and signing a lucrative contract, he did not spend but rather ‘invested’ his income wisely; and, put together a development team that included a full-time psychologist who would be responsible for his mental approach, analysis, development, and improvement.

This approach involved mental training methods that helped Lomachenko improve his reaction times, ability to read and memorize patterns, and mental endurance.

One specific area of focus was improving Lomachenko's decision-making speed during fights. Studying hours of video footage, the psychologist identified the opportunity to improve Lomachenko's ability to read patterns in his opponents and apply the correct combination at the right time.

To address this, the psychologist designed mental training methods that included solving math problems that relied on pattern recognition, reading movement, and memorizing formulas. By measuring Lomachenko's decision-making speed at the start and end of his physical training, they were able to improve his mental endurance, decision-making speed and effectiveness, even when tired.

This approach gave Lomachenko a massive advantage over his opponents and earned him the nickname "The Matrix" as he would seemingly have the ability to see things in slow motion and react with incredible speed. So, what can we learn from Lomachenko's approach to training? One lesson is the importance of being open to unorthodox approaches. Another lesson is the importance of data and analysis.  But, we also remind ourselves that a sound approach to listening, extracting insights and taking action is critical - for competition in sports, yes, but also for creating a positive employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX).

So, what can take from Lomachenko's approach to mental training and apply it to our own organisations? Here’s a three punch combination to consider … the three As:

1.Attitude - Set Up to Listen in the Right Way

Lomachenko's team was set up to listen to him in the right way. They had a solid listening approach that allowed them to uncover insights and act on them to improve. In business, having an employee voice is only truly useful if there is a culture of listening. Leaders need to create a culture where employees feel comfortable sharing their feedback and ideas. This requires an open-door policy, regular check-ins, and a willingness to act on feedback.

2. Analysis - Extracting Insights and Recommending Solutions

Lomachenko's psychologist was responsible for analyzing his mental approach, gathering data, uncovering insights, and designing solutions. In business, leaders need to have the right people or process for making sense of employee feedback. This involves analyzing data, identifying trends, and recommending solutions. Having a dedicated EX team can help organizations extract insights from employee feedback and take action to improve the employee experience.

3. Approach - Take Action, Sometimes in Unorthodox Ways

Lomachenko's team took an unorthodox approach to mental training. They gave him math problems that relied on pattern recognition, reading movement, and memorizing formulas. This approach helped Lomachenko improve his decision-making ability and mental endurance, giving him an advantage over his opponents. In business, organizations need to take action to improve the employee experience. This may involve taking unorthodox approaches to training, communication, or work practices. Leaders need to be willing to try new things and take risks to improve the EX.

I like this example and that Vasyli Lomachenko teaches us that mental training is just as important as physical training … even in what you’d imagine was the physical setting there could be … fighting.

In business, mental training is essential for creating a positive EX and CX. Leaders need to create a culture of listening, have the right people or process for analysing employee feedback, and be willing to take action, sometimes in unorthodox ways. By doing so, organizations can improve the employee experience, gain an advantage over competitors, and win.