A Lesson from the World Cup: Keeping Employees Aligned

Now that the dust has settled from the World Cup frenzy that rocked the globe this past month, we’ve reached a perfect time to look at the lessons learned from this spectacular event. John Warrilow presents a useful comparison between the World Cup and the logistics of how many business are run in this article from Inc.com. A company has very similar dynamics to a soccer team– the best recipe for success occurs when all the participants are striving for a common goal and are equally determined and unified. By the same token, if team members are at odds and working against each other, the results may be catastrophic.

Here’s how author John Warrilow weighs in:

It was fun to watch South Africa play soccer in the opening round of the World Cup. The South Africans have never been a particularly strong soccer nation, but their team was determined and unified. The stadium was packed to the gills, with tens of thousands of people all desperate to see their team win. And as the cameras panned around the countryside and in the bars and on the streets, it seemed to me that all of South Africa shared a common goal.

It reminded me of the feeling you get when you’re in a company and everybody knows what the target is and everyone is motivated to achieve it. It also reminded me of the time I was misaligned with my general manager and how disruptive that was.

Warrilow recounts an experience he faced in which he encountered differences and eventual problems with a general manager, Chris, with whom he had worked flawlessly with in the past. As a result of some decisions made, the two ended up on entirely different pages, with a handful of employees on each of their sides. The whole conflict resulted in a loss of client relationships and what the author describes as a “fractured company.”

Goal alignment is something to strive for in any work environment, because  it’s breeding grounds for healthy and productive employee relationships. Managers who establish open communication with each other and a sense of alliance with their employees will help to inspire these employee’s performance. This subject is very pertinent to startups, because bad communication can kill you as quickly as a poor product.

As demonstrated in “When Goals are Misaligned,” different objectives can easily lead to a sticky situation within any company, particularly those of startup nature.

Chris was a superb performer when our goals were aligned, but as my goals changed and we became misaligned, the same things that had made Chris an outstanding performer—tenacity, drive and passion—made him a formidable thorn in my side.

Let the World Cup be a lesson to us all: There’s no “I” in team.

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