Euro 2016 – why teams win, not individuals
During the next four weeks or so there will be the usual mix of cheering and tears as Euro 2016 gets into full swing. Our offices, like most offices around the football playing world, are starting to buzz with discussions of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each squad, concerns over fitness, individual thoughts on tactics and so on.
Everyone is watching the teams play out their carefully structured plans and tactics. Of course, there is a focus on the individual stars and half an eye on the unknown newcomers, but we are really watching the teams play. Teams are needed to succeed and, no matter how good the individual player is, the collective work of the whole squad is needed to win.
I am sure you are expecting me to continue this article with an analogy about how football teams can demonstrate good practice in business.
You are right, I am, because there is a lot for any business to learn from the way sport is coached and the effort they put into team building. Alex Ferguson once said:
"The work of a team should always embrace a great player but the great player must always work."
If you take a look back over his career, you will quickly see that one of the reasons he stayed at the top, and indeed guided so many great teams to championship and cup win after win, is not because he had a magic formula. He inspired, motivated and encouraged, but above all else, he created teams. He created an environment where the great players thrived and around that he built an ethos where the team came first, and the superstar players were part of that.
Whether on the football pitch or in the workplace, the people playing in the game need not only to be involved in their individual roles but that role, and their efforts towards it, need to be part of the greater whole. The methods and playing style of the individual should, as a minimum, meet the needs of the team so that they can excel as an individual.
It is partly because he understood this that Ferguson was so successful. He was not afraid to take the hard decision, and he has let go of some really talented players who he felt could not meet the team’s needs.
It’s no wonder that a lot of sports coaches are also business coaches. They know the value of collaboration and the importance of recognising everyone in the overall plan. To quote Ferguson again:
“There is nothing better than hearing well done…”
A good team is built on recognition of the need for the team to succeed, not the success of the individual. Unless everyone performs, the team is unlikely to succeed.
One final quote from Sir Alex that really sums this up. On losing an important game he simply said:
“The credit to them, the better team won, and there's nothing we can do about that now.”
Not the better player won, not the better tactics, the better team won.