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Lessons for business leaders to take from World Cup 2018

We’ve seen it all before. We’re a likeable bunch of tryers who will put in a shift, but then watch depressed as the organised and efficient Germans prove too much for us.

A World Cup prophecy? No. That’s an analysis of European productivity rates.

The World Cup holders may have suffered a shocking 1-0 loss to Mexico on Sunday, but the characteristics of Germany’s first 11 – a well-organised unit who know their individual roles inside and out, and work hard to achieve their team’s goals – are also reflected in the country’s working economy.

But what are the other lessons that business leaders can take from the greatest tournament in sport? Are skills transferable from the beautiful game into the office?

Team Structure

Few bookmakers are tipping England to be the team to lift the World Cup trophy. According to some sports data analysts, England has less chance of winning the tournament than Peru.

However, that hasn’t deterred some fans who – for the first time in decades – are cautiously optimistic about the national team’s prospects.

In terms of ability, most would argue that past England teams have been superior “on paper”, but previous managers have failed to find the right formation to suit the team’s strengths.

Where earlier squads have failed, this year’s team has a clear plan in place. Rather than a set of square pegs for round holes, Gareth Southgate, our current manager, is going for a three-four-three formation that suits the players’ abilities perfectly.

Similarly, businesses can get the best results out of their staff by establishing the right team structure. This means creating specialised roles within clearly defined departments that are geared towards completing a specific set of tasks. It’s important that each staff member understands the requirements of the job, and is given the training and support they need to perform to the best of their abilities.

Recruitment

As the 32 managers taking part in this year’s tournament know, people decisions are often the most difficult.

When choosing their 23-man squads, the national managers were tasked with recruiting the right characters into the team without upsetting the apple cart.

Unlike England’s balanced squad, Argentina suffers from a weak defence, while boasting several of the world’s finest attacking players, from established stars like Lionel Messi to up-and-coming talents like Paulo Dybala. I’d go as far as to say that the lack of balance and cohesion jeopardises Argentina’s chances of winning.

Their top-heavy squad is a lesson to any business that fails to consider its recruitment process carefully. Organisations must employ the right balance of junior and senior staff in each department, and each function is serviced by the right number of people.

Motivation

History shows that many of the stars billed to shine at the start of the World Cup often fail to make an impact. Perhaps it’s a result of the pressure involved in the tournament, but often it’s the unexpected players and teams that capture the imagination.

Business managers can similarly reap the dividends if they are able to provide staff with the motivation and encouragement they need to perform at their peak. Ultimately, this comes down to confidence. Managers should remove barriers to staff development, and in time their self-confidence in their role will grow too.

It’s an age-old sporting cliche that youngsters play without fear. With the third youngest squad in the tournament, there is plenty of confidence in the England squad, and reason to believe that the Three Lions may yet ensure football’s coming home this summer.

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