Management July 02, 2018

World Cup Russia 2018 – Five coaching lessons for managers

Winning wisdom from the football field

The last whistle has blown at the final in Moscow on the 15th of July and France is now the reigning World Cup holder. Along with the rest of the world, the team’s top-class coach Didier Deschamps celebrates their triumph. He helped them play the best football of their lives. Like football, business involves competition, strategy, tactics, leadership, effective management and teamwork. So what lessons can we learn from successful football coaches? Here are our five coaching takeaways you can apply to give your team a winning edge.

Lesson I: Combine passion with performance

A sports coach is driven to excel. He knows his line-up’s capabilities and how to exploit each player’s skills successfully. To do this, he repeatedly uses a mental and physical training mix of speed, endurance and tactics to push players to peak performance and create a winning attitude. Before the game, he analyses stats and trends, and during the game he exploits opportunities to shift play, reacts to instant changes and employs new strategies — even ones never practised before the match.

Takeaway: Get to know the individuals on your team, their skills and motivators. Then give them the tools to do their best and develop a winning attitude. Be ready to seize new opportunities. Stay agile and consider using bold new strategies.

Lesson II: Bring in the right bench player at the right time
Monitoring his squad’s performance, a coach evaluates every move, gives direct feedback and determines the training needed. Excellent at talent management, he selects his line-up strategically to ensure that his players are in positions to utilise their skills effectively and outplay their opponents. He makes it clear exactly when and how to push the line forward and when to drop back and defend the side. If his strategy doesn’t work, he quickly changes positions and brings in a bench player.

Takeaway: Empower team members to shine in roles where their skills deliver results. Proactively evaluate progress and be ready to make strategic changes promptly if necessary.

Lesson III: Keep control

A good coach doesn’t lose control. His team always knows who’s in charge and what he expects of them. He has a tight grip on his purpose, planning and preparation. Without his authority and discipline, the team would crumble into a chaos of individual interests and ambitious egos. An extraordinary coach always keeps success in sight but takes responsibility for failure and accepts the penalty that comes with losing.

Takeaway: Maintain well-defined expectations and motivate your team to achieve them. Lead by example, sharing success with others, but also be willing to accept responsibility for failure.

Lesson IV: Match the message to the moment

An excellent communicator and good listener, a coach balances tough talk with encouragement. Always finding the right words for the situation, he gives constructive feedback and praises good performance. He knows the power of the “we” word: ‘We defended well today but lost ball control’, ‘We played our game. They didn’t stand a chance.’ Whether giving positive or negative feedback, his skill lies in knowing when to wait until Monday and when to seize the moment.

Takeaway: Communicate clearly but take time to listen and let others talk too. Everyone likes recognition for doing a good job – don’t hold back. Keep feedback constructive and motivational.

Lesson V: Keep an eye on the competition

Always one step ahead of the competition, a world-class coach spends hours analysing the opponent’s performance. After pinpointing their vulnerabilities, he develops a game plan to defeat them. In football, every coach knows that there’s no room for error – mistakes are mercilessly punished. Success depends on his ability to anticipate and assess what could happen next before it does. How well he does this, and how fast he subtly changes tactics, is one of the things that separates the good from the bad, and the great from the average.

Takeaway: Monitor what your competitors are up to and use this information to improve your own business. Be strategically prepared for the unexpected. Future-proof by having the right team and tactics in place.

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