I started writing this blog post a couple of days before the Sweden game. I wanted to write something at that point because I had an overwhelming sense of confidence that England would win. I don’t know why, because I felt underwhelmed by the entire prospect of this tournament before a ball had even been kicked.
One month ago, despite being a football fan and someone who loves pretty much every sport, I didn’t know who half of the England team played for at club level… and I reckon that I wasn’t in the minority either.
Anyway…. Fast forward to today… the 9th of July…. Almost 2 days after we beat (incredibly comfortably) Sweden in the Quarter Finals of the 2018 World Cup. Even the most cynical sports fan is starting to BELIEVE that it’s a possibility. I think we’re all thinking that England are going to make the final of a World Cup for the first time in 52 years… we’re dreaming that it might, just might… be “coming home”...
I think we have one heck of a chance… not just a 25% chance as per the laws of probability, but a REAL, BONA FIDE chance based on two super critical factors… Leadership and TeamShip…
As the MD of a business operating in a sector that can be compared to the world of sport in many ways, I perhaps over-think and over analyse some of this stuff occasionally…here are my thoughts for those of you who are interested.
What a guy Gareth Southgate is. I am a huge fan. As a player he made the absolute most of his talent. He also overcame the immense disappointment of missing a penalty at a major tournament. He gets “it”. He’s bringing it home to us, as Business Leaders, in the following ways:
He’s smart… yes his dress sense is immaculate (he unbuttons the bottom button on his waistcoat now ;-)) but he’s also savvy smart too. He has a personal brand and knows the brand of football that he wants his England to play. He gets how important it is to have an identity. People know where they stand with Southgate, we all know what we’re getting. And we like it don’t we?
He’s articulate. He gets his messages across. He passes the KISS test (keep it simple stupid). Why use big words when simple ones will do? Why use one hundred words when five will suffice?
He’s liked… but more importantly he’s also respected. There is a key difference between the two, especially in Leadership and Management.
He has an excellent relationship with the players, it appears to be one of mutual respect. In this regard, credit has to be given to the succession plan put in place by the higher powers at the FA. Southgate has been developing a relationship with these players for a number of years through various stages of “representative” football with England. They get him, he gets them… mutual respect and trust … tick!
He’s brave. Really brave. He dropped Rooney and Hart… you can bet your life that Capello, Hodgson, McClaren and Sven would have picked both of these “big name” players. Southgate trusted his philosophy and bravely selected younger guys in their places. In addition, he’s also been brave with his formation and team selection. Bravery and fearlessness are key to success in every walk of life…his vision has been to give the players greater freedom and to simplify their roles. They all seem to know what is expected of them…and this is clearly driving their confidence and belief. These things combined are a potent force. As business leaders we must always ask ourselves the question – "how can I help my team to be the best version of themselves"… knowing what you expect from them is a fairly important fundamental.
He’s having fun, he’s enjoying his job and that means he’s operating at his very best. When we’re fearful, under pressure and anxious about “what might happen if”… we operate in state of “not wanting to lose” as opposed to “wanting to win”… one is crippling/debilitating - the other is uplifting and energising. His team see the way he behaves and it frees them up to express themselves too.
He handles his confidence players brilliantly. In any walk of life, the old mantra of “treat people how you like to be treated yourself” is old fashioned… everyone is different, with their own unique needs and wants. My observation is that Southgate is managing his troops perfectly. Every single person he substitutes gets a hug from him. He has their back. My prediction is that Raheem Sterling will have an awesome game against Croatia… he’s going to score the winner… and Southgate will have had a huge impact on that outcome.
He’s created that magic ingredient called “Teamship”… each individual is accountable to the team, they are fighting for one another, the sum of the team is greater than the individual parts. In business, if we can achieve this, we’ll achieve great things… it is one of the most important ingredients of “employee engagement”. Southgate has mastered it, but it has taken time. Years in fact, and it started in 2013 when he took over the role of U-21 Manager.
He has integrity. I have a phrase… “integrity rocks”… it trumps everything. His players see and feel it, we the public also sense it. In short, Southgate is a top bloke, you’d want him in your corner every step of the way. He has strong values and principles and he sticks to them. The press love him (now) and I don’t see that changing in a hurry.
Finally… he smiles. Smiling, the importance of a simple smile, cannot be underestimated… if/when we go to penalties in the latter stages I hope that he and the players can keep smiling… smiling confuses the brain…“this cant be a pressurised situation because I’m happy…” As business Leaders, we could do a lot worse than remembering that our people look to us as an energy source, to understand how they themsleves should be behaving/acting… happy places tend to be more successful – right? So if we have a penatly kick to win the World Cup on Sunday night, whoever that responsibility falls to... I hope that they enjoy the fact that they have an opportunity to achieve something enormous, embrace the pressure and be thankful for having that once in a lifetime chance to make history. What's the worst that can happen... miss and become a successful England Manager in 22 years time :-)
I’d love to hear your thoughts on any success factors you think I have missed or that you agree/disagree with… oh, and I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t plug the fact that we’re currently hiring ourselves at the moment... so if you fancy finding out more about Macildowie please be sure to get in touch… if nothing else, we can have a good conversation about the footy.
"It's coming home"