Teaming for Winning – Lessons from FIFA 2014

Before I start writing, let me declare that I am neither a sports fan nor a sport analyst. So when the whole world was consumed by the ‘FIFA 2014 Fever’, I frequently got the updates by my facebook friends’ status messages. However, there is one thing that I couldn’t stop myself from doing – looking for lessons from the game and relating it to my work. Business Leaders, Managers, coaches very often draw inspiration from sports to understand and apply management lessons.

When the game started, the only word which kept hitting my ears from all sides was ‘Messi, Messi & Messi’. Being a novice that I am (in sports!), I started reading up about this gentleman who seemed to have made his way through the minds and soul of people the world over with his sheer talent, tact and triumphs. I got knocked out by the staggering statistics on his awards. This iconic figure was slated to make history this time around. What then happened is the question worth pondering! Where did Germany go right and Argentina with a ‘superhero’ go wrong?

It seems that Messi’s talent alone was not enough. In fact there were other teams with individual STAR players but they couldn’t take their teams to win the Championship. One popular sports analyst quoted ‘ Portugal had Ronaldo, Brazil had Neymar, Argentina had Messi but Germany had a team’. My explanation lies in the question itself ‘When it is a team playing against a team, how can only one individual counter a highly  synergized and cohesive team?’ While Argentine team was banking on the talent of one individual, German team worked liked a well oiled engine where each part perfectly complemented each other and moved like magic.

It is worth giving a thought then, what could be the factors which propelled Germany to greatness. Firstly, the good old mantra of ‘hard work’ seemed to pave the pay for their victory. Working hard is as relevant for the team as it is to the individual for the team to succeed. Each member of the German team was carefully handpicked and groomed over years at the young age to be the best. The second and the more important point in making a team great is its ability to use each member’s ability to its best. Each team member was prepared to play their roles perfectly. They had the best goalkeeper, outstanding defense, powerful midfield and attack second only to Argentina. Their team was most complete. The third, and often overlooked point is that of maintaining strong bench strength. When you are up to achieve a mighty task, you need to be prepared for all contingencies. Mario Gotze, who finally hit the spectacular goal, was a back up player and proved fatal for his opponents!