GER – BRA 7:1 – and what it means for Success in Business

As everyone else on this planet for the last weeks, I have been watching the world-cup. Lucky for me, I spent the last couple of weeks in Germany, hence I was able to watch the semi-final during a reasonable time (i.e. 10 pm rather than 4 am). After having seen the host country not only defeated, but crushed, I then started to think about what lesson can be learnt from this game for business success. The answer: teamwork wins, not heroism.

I have seen it too many times: there are always players (in business as in sports), who think they are just very good (sometimes justified so), and thus believe they have a free pass at doing things.  This often goes at the expense of other members of the team, who then feel unappreciated, and as a result may not perform at the top of their respective game. They feel unfairly treated, as the hero may be able to get away with behaviour that would not be tolerated with other players. Result: disharmony in the team, and disengagement of the rest of the team.

Another problem with heroes is, that sometimes the rest of the team relies and depends on them. This is all good, for as long as the hero is around and plays his / her designated role. If the hero goes missing (in the case of Brazil: due to injury or yellow card), the rest of the team is lost. There are no back-ups, no alternatives, no substitutes that can just take over the ball and run with it. In such cases the strategy is built around a person (the hero), not around a working business model irrespective of the individual. And thus the whole business falls and rises with the individual.

In again other cases people try to be hero. They have seen successful heroes, and how they have been applauded (promoted). They believe, that rather than asking for help, they should try alone to fix a problem or find a solution. They want to be a hero, because they (falsely) believe that this would be in the best interest of the team (or the company). Instead of asking for help, or passing the ball, they just try to do it themselves, even if they may not be the best for the specific job, or may not have the relevant qualifications or training to do so. In the end, the team looses.

It is the role of the business leader or the coach to ensure that the team functions as a team, comprising out of a set of qualified and skilled players in individual roles, who work according to a system, rather than having a hero surrounded by helpers, who don’t know what to do in the event the hero is lost.

Brazil v Germany: Semi Final - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

In this case, Brazil had Neymar and Thiago Silva, but Germany had a team. And Germany won – deservedly.

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