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What England’s terrible World Cup campaign can teach us about business


written by Ollie Roddy

sales-i 29081 2014-06-27 1440960
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I’d waited for four years for the World’s greatest tournament to be held in the land of sun, samba and sexy football. I never thought England would win it. I didn’t think we’d even get to the semi-finals, but I did think we’d at least play well and not finish bottom of the group. Oh well. At least there’s a slight silver lining: we can all learn some key lessons from the failings of Roy’s boys in Brazil.

Just because you invent something, doesn’t mean you’ll always be the best at it

You’ll never see the Germans win the World Cup and say: “We would like to thank England for inventing this wunderbar game, we owe it all to you, old chaps. God save the Queen!”

If you invent something good, people will always steal it and improve on it. Microsoft’s Zune didn’t take off. Why? Because Apple’s iPod did it better. Don’t ever think that people will be nice and give you credit for inventing something. They won’t. They’ll just improve on what you did and keep on improving until everyone’s forgotten you.

England won the World Cup in 1966, and we’ve hardly come close since. That’s because we haven’t handled the changing game as well as everyone else.

I suppose what I’m saying is: never get too comfortable. Just because your way of doing something works now doesn’t mean it will in a month. If you manufacture products, constantly ask how your products can be faster, stronger and better suited to the marketplace. Don’t just try and work out how the world is now; think about tomorrow. Look at what your competitors are doing and, rather than copying them, do it better than them!

You should always be open to the idea that you’re wrong. Don’t let your pride and ego get in the way of a good idea. Maybe, just maybe, the intern has a better idea than you.

Don’t expect the future to come to you. Be impatient and find it yourself. The worlds of football and business are kaleidoscopic, ever changing, and you should be too.

Change doesn’t come immediately

Currently, the English team is going through a period of change. Players like Gerrard and Lampard are coming to the end of their England careers, whilst others are just starting. This transitional period means that we fans have to be somewhat patient.

Employing new people doesn’t necessarily mean that you should see change straight away. Everyone, from graduates to senior execs, will need time to learn, adjust and adapt.

Just as England need to improve their junior coaching and scouting systems, you need to ensure that you’re investing time and thought into a training scheme that points people in the right direction, but isn’t so strict that it churns out clones. Let people be creative and expressive, no matter their role.

And don’t blame the management if things don’t go right immediately. You’re much better sticking with people and giving them time than you are chopping and changing things every few months. If you want stable growth, you need stable staff.

A talented team alone doesn’t win a thing

The England team is talented. I’m not going to say it’s the best in the world because it’s far from it, but the team is absolutely undeniably better than Costa Rica and Uruguay in terms of the talent on show. So why didn’t we beat these two teams? Simple. We didn’t use the talents at our disposal correctly, and they didn’t work together as a team.

Managers: just because you’ve got some really talented team members doesn’t mean that you’re using them correctly. Think about how you can combine certain talents through your department to get the best out of people. Think about weaknesses and back them up with the strengths of others. You’re only as good as your weakest link.

Faith is greater than fear

In the past, England have had some fantastic squads with great managers and we’ve always, hands down, had the best supporters in the world. However, through the weight of expectation created by the idiotic British press, every England team has had one thing in common: they’ve all played with fear.

We’ve had World Class players that have played in the best leagues in the world every week, yet go on to underperform when faced with a big game or a moment of pressure in an England shirt.

Free your team from fear!

Have faith in what you’re doing and have faith in your people. Make sure they’re as confident in themselves as you are in them. Remind them of their key strengths if they’re underperforming to give them a boost of confidence and, if they make a mistake, make sure they know that that’s ok. In fact, it’s better than ok, it’s good. A day without a mistake is a day wasted!

Finally, while I think it’s important to listen to and learn from your critics, it’s more important to listen to your instincts. Steve Jobs never listened to his critics and customers, because he knew better than them. If Henry Ford had asked people what they wanted, they’d have said faster horses. Make sure that you build a team expert enough that you can nod politely while listening to the critics, and then just ignore them and carry on anyway, safely nestled in the knowledge that you’re right and they’re wrong.

Do you agree or disagree? I want to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. And please feel free to share this article!

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I’m a marketing professional who loves all things creative. If I'm not at work, I'm probably watching football, listening to music, enjoying a cold beer, or a combination of the three.

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