I grew up playing soccer. My sisters played soccer. My dad coached soccer. I have watched a LOT of soccer. The game that the 5 year old plays looks a little different than what the National Team plays. As I watched the game today, I found myself yelling the same things my dad used to yell from the sidelines. Obviously, those things are always easier from the sidelines compared to when you are on the field. Irregardless, I think there are several lessons that can be learned from soccer and reapplied to where you work and running a business.
1. Follow through. You might take a shot and the goal keeper knocks it back out. If you turn your back right after you shoot, you miss the rebound of the ball coming back. Take a few minutes to watch how the goals have been scored throughout this World Cup. You will see that many of them were scored from coming off of another person. I think this is true with business. Of course we love the perfect sales pitch or the perfect open shot. But, let’s face it, most of the time it just doesn’t happen that way.
2. Trust your teammates. When you have the ball and two or three defenders are coming out you, it doesn’t make sense for you to keep the ball. The ball can travel faster than what you can. So, you pass it. You know your teammates have made a very similar journey to get where you are. So, you trust them to take the ball from there. The same thing is true in business. If you hire someone else for editing, or marketing, then you trust them. When you hand over a job, you know you have done what you can and now it is time to see what someone else can do.
3. Don’t give up. If you watched the US men’s team in the World Cup you know that we fought hard in the end of the Ghana game to score very late in the game to win the match. We had every reason to give up, our best striker (Jozy Altidore) was out early in the game, our 2nd best striker playing through with a broken nose, several players with severe leg cramps… but none of them gave up. Because they didn’t give up, USA got out of the match on a goal scored by an unlikely substitute. The same thing is true in business. You have to plow throw adversity, down seasons, rejections, mistakes, and other difficulties.
4. Expect the unexpected. If you watched the USA vs. Portugal game you know how cruel and fast the game can turn on you. With less than a minute left in the game Portugal intercepted a pass, Ronaldo made a brilliant pass to a teammate, who played a perfectly placed header into the back of the net. The same thing is true in business. Markets evolve; demands change; gear changes; things break; and people are unpredictable. You have to have the mental toughness and belief in your business to be able to embrace and endure the unpredictability of it all.
5. Communicate with your teammates. USA has played brilliant football on the whole. However, there have been several times where communication was a major problem on the field. Great teams have great communication. Great communication among teammates can go a long way in overcoming significant obstacles. The same is true in business. Having excellent communication with teammates (verbal and non-verbal) requires lots of time working together, planning ahead of time, and developing expected roles and responsibilities.