Massimo Calvelli, CEO of ATP Tour Staying Focused During Change

How do you stay focused on your new journey, take control of your future and be the business leader you strive to become?

For episode 076 of my podcast, ‘The World Class Leaders Show,’ I invited Massimo Calvelli, CEO of ATP Tour ( Association of Tennis Professionals) and former professional tennis player.

Massimo Calvelli began serving as ATP CEO in January 2020. The highly experienced Italian has been instrumental in driving a new strategic plan for the ATP that delivers some of the most radical reforms since the organization’s inception. Prior to ATP, Calvelli was employed by Nike, where he oversaw all aspects of global tennis sports marketing and led negotiations with many of the sport’s global icons.

Massimo’s Transition From Tennis to the Business World

As Massimo Calvelli’s time as a professional tennis player came to an end, he realized there weren’t many options available for a career in the sport. He has discussed that “when [you] focus on one sport, I’m not sure there is a lot of room to think about what is going to happen ten years after, once [you] stop playing or once [you] stop competing.” His transition from tennis to the business world was completely unplanned and unscripted.

Having gone through such an unpredictable journey himself, Calvelli understands and emphasizes the importance of remaining flexible when considering career opportunities:

“I wanted to have more options, but I really didn’t know what those options could have been.”

After leaving professional tennis, he worked for two major companies—Nike and Wilson—and learned how to think strategically about management and leadership in the corporate world.

His experience has allowed him to draw upon business principles in his role at ATP Tour, as he looks to ensure managed change through his North Star strategy in order to drive results. Although there may be challenges when managing diverse stakeholders during times of disruption, Massimo uses his wealth of experience and knowledge, so they stay focused on the bigger picture.

Important Aspect of Being an Effective CEO

Being an effective CEO is a tough job, no matter the circumstances, and Massimo Calvelli, CEO of the ATP Tour, highlighted two key aspects of successful management.

The first is that clear communication is essential – keep everyone on the same page and understand their needs and demands.

The second is having a North Star strategy that you stick to, regardless of what changes arise—this helps provide continuity and mobilize teams in a coherent way.

Calvelli stressed the importance of flexibility in these changing times— if you need to make changes to keep up with dynamic environments, then do it! Even if it may not be something you are used to or something that you were expecting, adapting as needed will help you find success.

Whether it’s in business or in sports, remaining flexible while keeping your goal in sight is one of the most important lessons we can learn from Calvelli’s experience as CEO.

Challenges as a CEO of an Organization

As CEO of the ATP, Massimo Calvelli has overseen major reforms and new initiatives. However, staying focused on a North Star strategy amidst disruption is not without its challenges.

According to Calvelli, extremely important is the role of cultural change. He says that people often arrive at a company with a fixed view, a clear direction—but he stresses that changing people’s mindsets and changing their culture is far from easy.

Calvelli emphasizes the need for flexibility when it comes to career paths. He encourages people to remain open to unexpected opportunities and acknowledges the difficulty of making adjustments and learning new things but suggests that it can be worth it in the long run

Finally, managing diverse stakeholders is one of Calvelli’s main priorities:

“You have to be comfortable managing with different stakeholders’ interests—and being able to balance those out.”

Formula of Changing Mindset in a Fast-Changing Environment

To stay focused during change, CEO of the ATP Tour, Massimo Calvelli, recommends having an element of consistency and knowing your priorities, so you can stay on track.

Calvelli maps out all the different elements he needs to work on and ensures that they have a clear correlation to his ‘North Star’. This helps make the cultural change needed. He also accepts that, while staying focused is important, it’s also okay to fail sometimes.

Massimo advises us to be open-minded and flexible when it comes to career paths—you can learn a lot by going down different routes and embracing the fact that you won’t always get everything right.

By keeping focused on your goals and remaining open-minded to new opportunities, you can set yourself up for success in a fast-changing environment.

Similarities of Athletes and Business Leaders’ Life

You know what’s really amazing to see? When you look closely at top athletes and top business leaders, there are a lot of similarities between them.

  • The Process of Overcoming Fear and Stress

Both types of professionals have to consistently face challenges and constantly strive to perform their best. There is an element of longevity to their career and an element of consistency to their performance. You end up thinking they’re not human; they’re different. But when you get closer to them, you realize that they go through the same process of fear, tension, and stress, and they overcome it.

  • The Need for Flexibility

Then there’s the need for flexibility. Top athletes have to be mentally flexible so they can perform well in different situations across different surfaces or venues. Similarly, business leaders must be open-minded to stay ahead in ever-changing industries.

For example, Massimo Calvelli has a unique background—after professional tennis, he worked for Nike and Wilson before joining the ATP as CEO in January 2020! He emphasizes how important it is for people today to remain flexible with their career paths.

Mindset Element

Staying focused amid the chaos of change can be difficult, but Massimo Calvelli has found a way to make it work.

In order to stay focused and productive, Calvelli recommends “Doing fewer things as prioritizing… That’s an area where I can do better.”

At the company level, he believes in putting all your energy into a few objectives that have been identified as priorities going forward: “Instead of having a lot of projects on the table at one time that could potentially take away from each other… we talked about focusing on fewer things.”

This advice applies both to personal and professional life—it’s important to be 100% committed to whatever venture you’ve chosen, without any room for transition.

To close the interview, I asked Massimo to share with us her responses to my top guest questions.

Q: Is there anything that has been maybe a major learning across all your career?

You’re never quite ready. It’s been consistent in my entire career. Every single job that I had, or every big moment in my life, I wasn’t ready. This leads me to you have to bet on yourself. You just have to bet on yourself and go in confident and do your best. Going back a little bit to the tennis match approach, if you don’t bet on yourself, who else is going to do it?

Q: Is there anything in your career that you might have done differently?

I would do fewer things. A lot of stuff that you do that you worry about you spend so much energy, it’s like a big deal today. Then you look back three months later, like what happened with that didn’t go anywhere, and there is a lot of debt, there is a lot of waste, and everything distracts, and everything takes energy away. If I had the chance to go back and go through the same journey one more time, I would do fewer things.

Q: What is your personal approach to learning?

Learn through experiences, and I try to do stuff that puts me in a space where ultimately, I’m fully committed, I’m fully present. There is no space for distraction and I’m fully immersed in doing something. Then, reading a lot, is the best way of learning new things or sort of like absorbing perspectives and new ideas. 

For more information regarding Massimo Calvelli and his work, you can visit the company website  You may also wish to reach out on Linkedin at


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