The England World Cup experience as a blueprint for startups

Like many others in the United Kingdom I have been enjoying the football World Cup particularly as England have surprised the nation and progressed deep in the competition.

What has been very noticeable is how the manager, Gareth Southgate, has worked what seems a minor miracle with the team. He has made strong bold decisions and the entire team has bought into his leadership, vision, and belief. He, so far, has exuded a class and acumen shown by very few England managers, perhaps Sir Bobby Robson is the only comparable figure in my recent memory.

Ultimately Gareth had a job to do, a team to lead, and decisions to make to be successful. The same things leaders face in startups every day, week, and month. Gareth pivoted the team, discarded members that were either a distraction or not contributing and set about creating a blueprint for success which, whether his team goes any further in the competition or not, he has done with aplomb.

So what has differentiated him from previous England managers who have struggled to find the right formulae ? Well, he clearly had a plan and was not scared to make tough decisions early, particularly with regards to team members. He was prepared to pivot his team strategy but not immediately, tactically he realised that he needed short term success to allow him to achieve his longer term goals, so he did not change the prior manager’s team and game plan too much. This gave him the space he needed to execute his vision.

Gareth has also obviously built up a strong team ethic in which his team believe in him, his methods, and the clear vision he presents. This more than anything else is something that every startup leader should take note of.

Sport and Business have always had a strong symbiosis so it’s no surprise that business can find team lessons in sport. I mentioned earlier the late Sir Bobby Robson, someone I have a great deal of respect and admiration for. Recently a letter was found outlining his tenets of football management which are equally applicable in any team or business the world over, so I will leave you with his leadership commandments:

To build a team of motivated players a good coach (leader) should:

– Be able to control himself before he can control his team

– Be passionate about the subject

– Be open-minded and a good listener

– Be a winner -> single minded about the outcome

– Be honest to gain respect

– Command discipline

– Understand individuals -> what makes them tick

– React positively to criticism to decrease the stress

– Be positive and confident himself to give confidence to others

– Be trustworthy

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