5 poker skills that can make a better team leader

A course in how to play poker is not something you are going to find in a mainstream university business management programme.

That’s a shame because many of the skills required to be a successful poker player translate very well into the business world. As will be demonstrated in this post, being an effective team leader in a business setting is a lot like winning at the poker table.

This is not to imply that business is a poker game. It’s not. However, human nature is what it is whether you are playing live poker at an online casino, leading a team of 25 staff members, or negotiating with your colleagues over a group project you have planned for the future.

Below are five poker skills that can make any business executive a better team leader. If you are an experienced poker player yourself, you should recognise the parallels here.

1. Reading Other People

Regardless of whether you lead a team or an entire company, leading effectively requires personal interaction. And effective interaction requires being able to read people. It is the same skill poker players use to try to figure out what everyone else at the table is doing.

Human beings are, by nature, reticent about openly sharing thoughts and feelings they think might come back to bite them. Yet knowing what is going on in the hearts and minds of those you lead makes leading them a lot easier. So if you can learn to read people the same way poker players read the competition, you’ll be in a better position.

2. Risk Management

Managing your risk is a big part of both business and poker. Reality stipulates that you win some and lose others, regardless of the game being played. So in poker, players have to manage their risks throughout the game. They have to decide when to bet and when to call. They have to decide when to fold and when they keep playing.

Team leaders are in the same position. Not every gamble taken as a team leader is going to pay off. So effective leaders have to learn to manage their risks accordingly. They also have to be willing to lose some in order to win others. For example, it might be necessary to give team members something they want in order to ultimately improve productivity later on.

3. Strategic Planning

Some versions of poker – like Texas hold ’em, for example – require planning ahead. Players cannot just sit back and play in the moment if they expect to take the entire pot. The same is true for business leaders. A tremendous amount of planning goes into successful business regardless of the sector.

Both team leaders and business owners need to learn to think strategically so as to best position themselves and their teams for success. Like the Texas hold ’em player with poor strategic planning skills, the business leader who cannot think strategically will find success fleeting.

4. Patient Perseverance

Poker in its many forms is a game intended to produce only one winner. Simply put, there are no participation trophies to be won. Every player walks away with whatever amount he or she earned at the table. As such, poker players have to patiently persevere even when things do not appear to be going their way.

In business, you don’t always get the results you want in the time frame you want them. More often than not, success is somewhat delayed. It takes a lot longer to achieve business goals than was originally anticipated. So like poker players, business and team leaders need to patiently persevere. They need to stick with their plans and strategies and see them through to conclusion.

5. Dealing with Pressure

Last but not least is the skill of being able to deal with pressure. If there is anything professional poker players know, it is the fact that pressure is the biggest impediment to victory. If you cannot stand the pressure, you are likely to fold more quickly than you really should.

Modern business can be an equally high-pressure environment for a lot of people. The question is, will you stand firm or fold? The team leader capable of withstanding pressure can see things through even when there seems to be no way out. By contrast, the team leader who folds too quickly under pressure will find it difficult to get anything done.

Poker and business actually have a lot in common. When you step back and analyse the two together, you discover that many of the same skills that make a poker player tops in his or her profession also make for excellent business and team leaders.