Last night's World Cup final between Germany and Argentina was the much-anticipated showdown between the world's top two teams--but in the midst of the excitement and fervor, it also offered some valuable lessons for business leaders. Here are the four most important ideas you can take from the intensity and energy of the game:
A strong team has a coach and a captain.
It was striking to observe the German team's huddle during the short break before the overtime kickoff. Joachim Löw, the manager and head coach of the German team, spoke first for a few minutes, then team captain Philipp Lahm did the same. Gathered together in a tight circle, the team listened with equally rapt attention to both men.
Think about this: Sports teams usually have both a coach and a team captain. All too often, companies are rigidly separated into "management" and "workers"--a structure which almost inevitably fosters a defensive, "us versus them" attitude on both sides of the divide. But a team captain provides a valuable bridge between these two camps, someone who can relate to the experiences of both groups--and help to create connections and build trust between them. Think about it--could your business use a team captain?
There's room on the field for players of all sizes.
Another remarkable visual of the German team came at the very beginning of the game as each country's national anthem was sung. With the players lined up shoulder to shoulder, it was impossible not to notice the height difference between defender and captain Philipp Lahm and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer--a whopping 9 inches that was all the more conspicuous because the two were standing right next to each other. But when they're on the field, both players make equally effective use of their height to fulfill their individual roles on the team: Neuer's height allows him to cover more of the net and gives him a longer reach for making saves, while Lahm's shorter stature lets him move and react with greater speed and agility.
This is an important reminder not only that diversity of skills and experience brings strength to a team. It also underscores that our reflexive "bigger is better" attitude isn't necessarily always wise. You may be thinking about expanding your small company, for instance, but don't lose sight of what your present company can do--more personalized interaction with customers or quicker response times--that may get lost in the bustle of a bigger business. Likewise, you may find yourself gravitating toward the extroverted, charming manager, but don't forget about the quiet leader in the corner--excellence comes in multiple forms.
Don't waste opportunities by breaking basic rules.
Argentina had several brilliant scoring chances in the first half (including one shot by Gonzalo Higuaín that actually got the ball into the net). But, frustratingly for fans, they went nowhere because players were offside. What a waste of effort and opportunity. Don't let the same thing happen to your company--at all times, make sure you're paying attention to and complying with basic rules and regulations so that opportunities that come your way can be seized rather than squandered.
The clock is always ticking.
Soccer is a continuous game. The clock doesn't stop when players get hurt, when a referee calls a foul, or when fans cause a commotion on the field. It's all just part of the game. Business works in exactly the same way. Time is always moving forward, and you're always doing business--even when, like players waiting for an injured teammate to get back on his feet, you're not. And whether it helps or hinders your company's activities, everything counts. So if things aren't going right for your company, don't wait for the clock to stop. Instead, figure out how you can make the most of the minutes you've got.
What did you learn from the World Cup this year?