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Management lessons from the soccer field March 16, 2008

Posted by Matsu in Business, Management, Soccer.

I recently took my teen aged son to a baseball practice at an indoor arena. At the same location and time there was a soccer game taking place. As I watched the soccer game I was reminded of many of the characteristics of a good team, both in athletics and in business.

The soccer players each had specific roles or positions they played. While they had clearly defined roles, they also worked fluidly and occassionally helped each other out and covered other player’s positions when needed. At one point the goalie moved way out of the goal and another player automatically move in front of the goal. THAT’S the way a department should work! I didn’t hear anyone say, “that’s not my job” or “who do you think you are doing my job” and they all worked together to accomplish a common purpose.

They also talked all of the time. They were constantly calling out to teammates and communicating either warnings (or opposing team members’ presence) or opportunities to pass or score. They anticipated things and then talked to their teammates to make sure everyone knew the situation and had a heads up on what could happen. It was easy to apply that kind of communication to a healthy work environment.

There was an expectation that each person would pull their weight and perform their very best. And, when the ball was passed from person to person there was a trust between players. Skills were needed at both the individual level and they had to rely on each other and work together to score.

We’ve all heard that a well run organization takes teamwork, but watching a skilled and high performing soccer team really drove home to me the importance of each person doing their part and understanding their role but being flexible enough to fluidly help out in other roles as needed and then go back to their primary role when they were done. To do that there must be a high level of trust and respect between team members.

The final thing I noticed, which is very true of a workplace team, is that players were changed out from time to time. Right now, I’ve got two team members that I need to hire and so it’s important that I find the people with the right skills and ability to be a true team player in order to have a well run department.



1. Moose - March 17, 2008

Ah the fun of management. Good luck in your quest!

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