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Football !

We are deep into what we rugby fans would call irritating viewing. There is only so much I can take of seeing grown men fall howling to the ground and calling for a stretcher to take them to the emergency hairdresser after fairly losing possession to a better player. Business like football though is a team sport and the team dynamics are what separate the best performers from the also ran’s (I nearly said the French but hey at the time of writing England seem to be having some issues of their own). So there are lessons to be learned from the beautiful game or any other team sport for that matter? Well yes lots of course but let’s consider just a few:-

Players matter but…. the team matters more. Of course your team needs great players but can you imagine a team of 11 George Bests… chaos! Teams need balance and getting that balance right is the Managers job. Sales teams need ‘hunters’ who can go and seek out new deals, who revel in rejection and see it as a challenge, who prospect hungrily and always believe the next call will deliver the golden order. Sales teams also need ‘farmers’ who build relationships, value customers and go the extra mile to make sure the customer is satisfied. Project teams need the ‘doer’ who will push forward but also the quality minded ‘anchor’ who will balance the ‘lets just do it’ attitude with practical value engineering. Everyone should know their part and play it to the full with individual success less important than that of the team. The number of times we’ve seen bonus schemes that reward individuals for doing the wrong thing (like cutting the maximum amount of profile regardless of not being able to weld or fabricate that volume!) would probably surprise you, imagine a football team that only cared about passing….. Team goals and individual goals need to be aligned.

Captains are not good team players, sounds counter intuitive but good leaders do not bend their will to that of the team, rather the affairs are the other way around! Sometimes doing the right thing is painful and difficult and leaders need to be able to make their players want to train. Committee’s don’t win matches and when things are tough players gain strength and heart from good leaders.

Managers don’t concentrate on goals….. you may have seen the pre match interview when the Sky Sports (or whoever) reporter asks the Manager if his team is going to win. Often a good Managers response will be that he doesn’t care if they win and you think ‘hang on he’s paid to win games’. The Manager will go on to explain that he cares how the team plays not about the result and there is definitely a lesson here. Results are just that…. the result of doing the right things. Shouting at the sales team to win sales is not only frustrating it’s also pointless, good processes with good people produce results. Whoever wins the world cup you can be sure the Managers contribution was more than sitting in the dressing room and shouting ‘all you need to do is SCORE GOALS… or you’re fired’

Tolerate failure….. or it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy Good teams did not get to be winners by never losing a game. People learn best by experimenting and allowing them some latitude encourages good things to happen. I’m not suggesting you tolerate the wrong behaviour for a minute but trying and failing is not a crime….. not trying, which is what happens to your team if you are failure intolerant, that’s a crime!

Never give in….. if it’s right persist! Doing the right things consistently will produce results. This also sounds like common sense but there is an imperative to achieve results in business, more so when times are as hard as they are now and lack of immediate results often makes Managers switch tactics. They end up confusing activity with progress. Keep doing things that improve results and stop doing things that don’t…. simple but it requires some clear thinking and some courage.

Teams and leadership are what business is all about and maybe if like me you are not that interested in the sport of football (ore even if you are) you’ll agree that the team is a fascinating subject.

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© Chris Ball Junly 2010

News title: -    Football !
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MBA Associates Limited

MBA Associates Ltd is a specialist consultancy that partners clients to Recruit, Retain and Develop Top Performing Teams. Using sophisticated and proven methods that are different to the usual recruitment agency MBA has an enviable track record of Job Matching with currently over 76% of candidates recruited are retained after one year (statistics from Harvard Business review show 14% success rate is average on CV alone!)

Chris Ball is a Director of MBA and a member of the Institute of Business Consulting www.ibconsulting.org.uk

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