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How Can the Lessons From Football Kick Start Your Business?

By Jon Sawyer on 03/12/2015 - 0 Comments

What lessons can we learn about management strategy from observing the beautiful game?

Some may think nothing! However, there is plenty to learn as those teams that are successful focus not just on a few stars but on producing a winning team. In the premier league the stakes are very high and the premium for getting things right means success and the manager keeping his job.

The parallels to running a business are clear. Without a winning team this may contribute to business failure. On the flip side, with a winning team, business success is more easily achieved. So why do some football teams consistently outperform their rivals? Is it purely down to money and what can business owners learn?

One of the most significant success stories in the first half of this season has been the rise and further rise of Leicester City. From the opening game where they beat Sunderland 4:2, without any stars the team has climbed to the top of the Premier League [On the 3rd December - second to Man City only on goal difference]

After this first opening win the manager, Claudio Ranieri said of this team “Today, we played like a team – that’s what I want because, when you play like a team, there are not one or two, but 100% of the team supporting the others”. Managers such as Arsene Wenger also realise the power of building a team. When he bought Mesut Özil he said this acquisition was important in building teamwork and in order to help the star players perform even better.

Other sides such as Crystal Palace are outperforming others in terms of the average cost of each first team player compared to results they are achieving.

The same could have been said in the past about other winning teams such as Wimbledon, Watford and Hull. In these sides it is not the power of a few egos that drive great teamwork, but a shared goal of getting the right result. Great managers are able to control and manage star egos.

Alex Ferguson certainly can lay claim to this as in his book he states one of the reasons for selling David Beckham was that he was getting too powerful and his focus therefore was taken off the game. The lessons in business are apparent in having to manage difficult staff where they take their ‘eye off the ball’. We have all seen situations where a few ‘bad apples’ may start to infect the rest of the team with poor morale and performance.

What can you do in the face of managing these ‘opinion leaders’ in the work setting? One of the best ways of doing this is to get them to contribute and be involved in the design of their work activity and have clear performance criteria for measuring outputs. These are often called KPI’s and by measuring these, they become a key barometer of individual business performance. Just by listening to staff issues and concerns this may have a very powerful effect on motivation.

They may feel they are being heard for the first time.

It may also be apparent how some of your staff may be ‘unsung heroes’ as they may be the glue that helps the team perform. These workers are the gems that you need to recognise. This is more than apparent in football.

Managers such as José Mourinho stated that he thought Claude Makélélé was undroppable. As evidence, Frank Lampard scored only 7 goals in 53 games before he arrived, and after scored more than 18 goals on average per season. Whilst only scoring 2 goals in 144 games, Makélélé was the glue that helped the team perform. During his time with Chelsea they won 100 games and drew 28.

So what are the lessons that we can take from Premier Football. One key ingredient is that they know what a high performing team player looks like. This fact is also endorsed by Jim Collins ‘Good to Great’ where he stated that in ‘high performing companies’ the focus is on finding staff that share the vision and culture that will enable the business to be taken forward.

The value of having high performing teams is evident after watching the television series of how the SAS recruit. The SAS clearly know what to look for in a recruit. They are not looking for star performers. Instead they want people that can fit their requirements and are capable of working in teams.

The absence of good team work was evident with the recent England rugby world cup squad but more than evident in the way the winning All Black team were able to win the world cup.

The ethos of the All Black team is in building good individual skills and linking these to teamwork. After every game they all still sweep the dressing room which helps to build a shared culture of performance through teamwork.

The golden key to business performance may be right in front of you. All it may need is to release the power of your team. Start today and identify what a great team player would look like in your company and compare against those currently in the job. What do you need to do to help and guide them to be team players and is the culture of the company compatible with building a high performing team. Ignore these lessons at your peril as with scaling a business in size this may simply increase the staff issues you are facing. So it may make good sense to tackle these issues today.

I am sure the successful Premier League managers will be doing just that in deciding who to approach in the next January transfer window.

Speak to your local Icon Advisor to see how to set your Team up for the year ahead as well.

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