Monday, June 30, 2014

Managerial Lessons from the World Cup

A big portion of the world’s population if following the world’s most important and international event: the 2014 FIFA Brazil World Cup. For those of us who follow soccer (of football as it is known in Europe and elsewhere besides North America), this amazing world sports event has just finished its first round of elimination games. After two years of qualifying round, the best 32 teams met, with the top 16 going on to the second round. And it is an interesting time to reflect on some important issues not only about sports but also on management itself. Some issues would have to deal with the previous preparations that have to be carried out to infrastructure, roads, security and many other issues that need to be ready for the arrival of millions of visitors and tourists into the host country, so that their experience is the best one possible. Other issues would have to do with what it means to be the host country of such an important global event. However, I also believe that there are important lessons in various management topics that would be appropriate to point out.

For fans - and not so fond fans - of international soccer, a World Cup has a number of important features. First brings together the best players from the best teams in the world; secondly, this is an event both very important and highly relevant to the host country; thirdly no other sporting event brings together so many viewers worldwide. According to a statement from FIFA, the 2014 Brazil World Cup has already broken box office records in worldwide television and on mobile devices because for the first time in history, people are watching the games on their phones or tablets. Even in the US, it was estimated by ESPN that 24.7 million viewers watched the US-Portugal game, plus other 5 million estimated viewers watched it online (

While we are starting the second round and probably still missing the most important part of this world cup, in the knockout round we have seen some very interesting aspects that relate very well to some managerial areas:

1. Better teams have arrived. Most incoming teams are - usually - those who are better prepared and have better players; however, this time we have seen teams that have worked hard and dedicated beyond what they have done in other World Cups. Thus we see, for example, that the Costa Rican Team was the first that gathered to prepare, study techniques, train as a team and be ready for what was been his best performance in history, during the first elimination round.

2. We all need inspiration. No matter who is the host, the favorite, or the better prepared team, inspiration always helps. It was very exciting to see in their inaugural game, how the Brazilian team was motivated and inspired by all the fans who were in the stadium singing their National Anthem, a Capella, once the music stopped. The excitement and energy level were so high at that time in the inaugural game that it was reflected in the face of both the fans and the players themselves and this is something to appreciate. You can feel that inspiration by watching the following video:  

3. We must always develop new talent. While this is something we always know we do not on it all the time. Talent must be developed continuously; and this involves not only the technical areas, on effort, preparation, strength and resistance, but also the mental preparation for such an important competition. Additionally we all must always be on the lookout for new talent. For this World Cup we are seeing new faces, such as: Sayouba, from the Ivory Coast team; Pulido from Mexico; James from Colombia and Neymar, from the Brazilian team. Of course we always have the experienced players and new players. We also see that there are figures that stand out for the preparation they have had, for the great effort they have made or the skills they have to do things better than others. And I do not want to get into a discussion of which player is better or has the best qualities, but would simply like to mention that both Neymar and James are playing in their first World Cup, being considered already as among the best players in the world. So how do you get two 22 year old new talented and new members of your world cup teams?  Always be on the lookout for new and better talent to help your team reach their goals.

4. We must prepare for the unexpected. In our daily life, people and businesses have emergencies or urgent situations. In a professional, business or sports team, things happen that do not allow you to grow, expand, train or plan. During the first round of this world cup we saw the unexpected and some, where not ready to see it. For example, we saw how Costa Rica, to which I referred earlier, finished first in the group where the other three teams always been considered among the best teams in the world; secondly we saw that Spain, the reigning champion, did not go past the first round; and there were games where the number of goals against the favorites went beyond what is acceptable. These are situations that happen to us daily, with our teams or how we handle some situations. However, what we have to do is always to focus on what's important and be prepared to handle the urgent and unexpected.

5. We need new leaders. Every day we need our leaders tell us the way to go. Of course we come to the image of Nelson Mandela who was tough, and had the knowledge and courage to manage and change the destiny of a nation. For some companies its leader is not its president/CEO; when working with teams, there is always one leader that stands out and who might not been appointed as such. The important thing is to allow the new leader to emerge and develop. What caught my attention was reading headline news that appeared during the classification of Mexico that said things like "…Guillermo Ochoa is the goalkeeper that Mexico does not need." For us who watched the first games of the Mexican tem viewed a different reality. So these past few days I read an article that mentioned that "Guillermo Ochoa is Mexico’s new Hero." We know things change; and new heroes and leaders emerge, grow, evolve and are maximized at the times most needed. This is why we should not be surprised to continue to see the emergence of new leaders and new heroes who will carry their teams into new places and new heights.

Still missing the most important part of this World Cup and the definition of the new champion, we might expect that the more prepared team and with the best talent, will have new heroes and leaders, who will collectively strive and work with the rest of their team members to become the new world champion. The important thing is always to learn the lessons that we experience, understand that we have to adapt and be flexible to achieve these targets, and that in one way or another, we should be striving every day more to create and sustain better teams that will propel us to have a better company.

Luis Vicente Garcia is a business Consultant, a FocalPoint Business Coach, a Best-selling Author and an International Speaker. He helps businesses and business owners reach higher levels of performance. You can follow Luis at @lvgarciag and contact him at  

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