Individual star players do not guarantee a winning team, as was the case yet again during this World Cup. We saw that the teams with the strongest bond and synergy were the winners. This isn’t just true on the field; but also in our working lives. Could it be that we are putting the wrong focus when it comes to leadership?

What lessons can we learn from this years teams, coaches and the game?

This years deserved winners Germany, are a true example of a coach and team who took the long road to success. In 2008, Joachim Löw was named head coach and tirelessly worked on creating a team that knew nothing about personal egos, but instead concentrated on creating chances for each other, made evident with Brazil’s humiliating  7-1 defeat.

But lets go back to the beginning, to 2008, since then Germany has, tournament after tournament, impressed the media and football fans worldwide.  At the 2008 Euros they lost to Spain in the final, in 2010 they lost to Spain in the semis, in 2012 they reached the semis before being defeated by Italy, and finally this year all the hard work paid off. The German team was so cohesive and unified that FIFA found it impossible to pick one player out in particular so they were forced to give the Golden Ball to Messi…

Team Spirit

We’re increasingly seeing coaches opting for young, inexperienced teams that have a lot of potential. Del Bosque did this with Spain, Löw with Germany, Deschamps with France, Van Gaal with The Netherlands, etc. These coaches cultivated an unprecedented level of team spirit, of passing the ball when necessary, of not seeking personal glory but team glory.  

On the other hand, teams that lacked a good team spirit flopped. Even if on paper they looked strong thanks to the qualities of individual players, such as Spain, and Brazil. Teams that focus on individual stars create a lot of hype and excitement but they rarely meet expectations.

Is the real difference made by technical abilities or unified team psychology? And how do you get employees and colleagues, just like footballers’ on the same page?

Individual success vs Team success

Of course there is some consensus in all teams, at the end of the day they all want the same thing: the World Cup. In organisations, this can be similar to reaching that specific target or milestone. However, it is not enough for everyone to have the same goal. The key is to be less focused on individual success and more about the successes of the team.

Competition between teams, not within teams

The main lesson is: we can only reach greater heights by depending and working together, individual, unsynchronised actions, even if they are amazing, will get you nowhere. The team is more important than the individual. Only when individual successes are celebrated by the entire team without jealousy nor rancor will there be a fertile ground for success. Members will then get the space to move and score, literally or figuratively, but also to make mistakes.

Space for creativity

Focusing on results is important, but it is not the only thing that matters. Löw’s strategy was targeted more on the performance of the team rather than the results. He managed to turn a mechanical team, to a team that created countless of chances of opportunities. He gave them the space and emotional support to experiment and be creative on the pitch.

If you give your employees and teams the chance to think outside the box, to find new solutions, to be themselves in the office you will be surprised as to what they will be able to achieve.

Clarity about responsibilities

Löw made sure that all players, from Neuer to Muller, knew and understood each others responsibilities within the team. All you had to do look was look at their formation and that each player stuck to the game plan. The opposite can be said with Scolari, the Brazilian coach, his team lacked any clarity. We saw Marcelo and David Luiz leaving massive gaps, and running into each others space.  Once Germany scored the first goal against Brazil, the team broke apart and they ended up running around like headless chickens. Could the subsequent catastrophe have been prevented with better communication, more clarity more self-confidence? Who knows…

The golden replacement and self-confidence

This year’s final was won by Götze, who had just been subbed in for Klose. However, not all ‘teams’ can sub someone off when they under perform or when there are better opportunities to investigate. Nevertheless, the composition of organisational teams can be changed. if changing a team member is not an option, what you can do is work on the team’s confidence and figure out which skills need to be developed. This will boost the team’s risk taking abilities and create a more relaxed and fun working atmosphere. You must remember that this is a long term project, building a cohesive and successful team takes time and effort.

In Springest we’ve experimented with ways in which to create transparency and clarity about our roles, so as to make our teams more motivated and effective. The introduction of new management method Holacracy, a system that fosters common faith and high involvement, has been a good starting place for creating team synergies.