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November 4, 2013

What Soccer Taught Me about Business. ~ Sheldon Scipio

In Soccer as in business you need a Team.

In my almost 20 years involved with soccer as a Coach/Trainer/Physical Therapist, I have been able to take my lessons learnt there into the business world and use them to help me form and manage my organizations.

1. It is about Team.

In football as in business, a team is needed. We get as far as the team we assemble, and we cannot win the title and defend it alone. In soccer, the team is built of specialists that play various roles, within the system. The more efficient they are at their roles, the more efficiently the team becomes. Each member must understand their role, that their role is important, and try to master their craft. When all roles and functions come together with the right formula, success is what follows.

As leader, you must also be effective in your role, and lead by example while either as coach or player, help others achieve their goals, leading to team goals being achieved, thereby achieving your own goals.

2. The philosophy must be shared clearly.

Good soccer teams have a philosophy of how they want to play, of what would work for them on and off the field. This is reflective of the culture of an organization. In business the culture of the organization, the philosophy must be shared, and all must believe or buy in to it. If the whole organization has bought into the way of doing things, you need to set fewer rules. The organization flows, because all can see the big picture, how they fit, understand why they do what they do, and why it is being done in a certain way. If your staff believes in the philosophy, they need less outside motivation, and new employees need less induction time, since the older employees will sell the company and its philosophy for you, making the company’s legacy alive in their minds of all.

3. Get to know your employees.

Getting to know your players personally is key, each personality is different, and the pool makes the team unique, creative and flexible. Each person brings something special to the table, and getting to know them allows you to place them where they function best. It also allows you to see how they feel on certain days, so you can manage their motivation and emotions. This allows you to gain their trust and get more insight into what affects your team on a day to day basis, into how to reward them, what drives them, what are their intrinsic goals. Allowing you to be a more efficient leader.

4. To produce a high quality product you need high quality raw material and workmanship.

Being realistic to excel in business it is necessary to have a quality product. Same as a sport team. This brings the question what comprises a quality product? In a soccer team you need quality coaches, Players and support staff. Minus any of these and you will have problems somewhere along the line, in business you need quality products, workmanship and management.

The team is as strong as its weakest link. As good as the players are, the coach has to great with his training methods and tactics, and he depends on excellent management to make good decisions on spending on players, bonuses, contracts etc. It is important to note that quality is not cheap. In business the same is applied, we needed to find a manufacturer that was willing to push the envelope on design every day, and improve the product continuously and employees that try to better themselves daily.

5. It is a process.

It will not mature and bring success overnight. A soccer team needs time to buy in to the coach’s plan and organization’s culture. The playing system and structure needs to be practiced daily, Individual, unit and team strategies and techniques need to be worked on daily to become more efficient. There need to be bonding between all members and units. When this starts to work, then contingencies need to be added (corner kicks, defending free-kicks, etc).

This takes time; the great teams such as Barcelona Football Club try to circumvent this by using their Academy to build players who will grow up believing in the organization’s philosophy, etc. These players still take time to mature and blend in.

Your organization will also take time to get it right, and become efficient, then become excellent at what you do.

Everyone needs to have the patience and see the process through; metrics help you keep track of your progress in both fields.

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Assistant Ed: Judith Andersson / Ed: Bryonie Wise

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Sheldon Scipio