5 Brutal Lessons for HR from the World Cup

This year’s FIFA World Cup was full of expectations, surprises and heartbreaks. Many star players fell way short of expectations at critical junctures. When the opportunity arose, many less known players raised their game and rose to stardom.

The World Cup has several lessons to offer for HR leaders, on how their function operates, formulates policies and allocates budgets for people development. I will share 5 lessons.

Don’t over-invest in high-potential employees

Football is not a solo game, not even an 11-member game. The whole team has to work in cohesion to create magic on the field. By turning good players into “divas”, we put undue stress on them and make other players strive to become “divas” or feel relegated into the shadows of “divas”. The reward should ensure that everyone is rewarded for their efforts as well as results. This is essential for risk-taking, resilience and growth. We need to encourage star players to become team players. The “low-potential” employees are not necessarily worthless and the past performance of “high-potential” employees is not a guarantee for future success. History is proof that anyone with a Growth Mindset, desire to excel and determination to persevere can excel in almost any domain.

Nearly all rich and powerful people are not notably talented, educated, charming or good-looking. ~ Paul Arden

Hire the right coach for your team

The coach has a great influence on the team’s morale, cohesion and self-belief. For instance, the panicky, over-reactive coach, might be sending shivers down the spine of players, when a calmer approach might produce a better outcome. Finding the right lead with the right temperament and cultural fit for each team is essential. The leaders we nurture need to be able to create the spark in others to evolve, strive and excel, especially when their efforts are needed the most.

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. ~Albert Schweitzer

Every team member has potential. Give them a chance to flourish.

Many times, ordinary team members surprise you with what they can do. This is because almost everyone is able to produce more than we can perceive. Give opportunities for team members to experiment, fall and rise so that they can learn, grow their confidence and flourish. Over-reliance on a few, sets in motion certain behavioural trends that demotivates others to lose belief in their abilities, feel left out and contribute less than they otherwise would.

“The way to avoid mistakes is to gain experience. The way to gain experience is to make mistakes” Laurence Peter, Author of the Peter Principle

Don’t ignore the support team and substitutes

As you watch football, there is one fact that’s hard to miss. The one player who kicks the ball to the back of the net gets all the credit for the goal. He instantly celebrates like a primate and all his team players, pats him, hugs him and climbs over him. The cameras zoom on him, project his name and show his accumulated score. No credit is given to the player who passed the ball to his teammate (because that was better for the team) instead of trying to score himself. No credit is given to players who charged ahead with the ball tackling opponents. In that celebratory mood, we almost always ignore the contributions of all players towards the overall results. This includes the players and support team who are waiting on the sidelines, ready to jump in when required. It benefits the team and the organisation when we have systems to acknowledge, recognise and celebrate the contributions of every member for their contributions, no matter how small it seems in the big scheme of things.

Your goal should a cause, not a reward. ~Sindu Sreebhavan, Author of

Embrace diversity to increase creativity

Much has been said about the composition of the winning French team, which comprises of immigrants from various nations. The ability to recruit and retain talented players irrespective of their origins and getting them to play together for a common ‘goal’ is the new rule of the game. By embracing diversity, we can increase creativity. In my keynote speech on The Mousetrap Way, I mention the need to be aware of our DQ — Diversity Quotient.

Diversity is our reality. Don’t just tolerate diversity, don’t just encourage diversity, embrace diversity.

Call to Action:

  1. Reflect on what’s stopping your teams from being more cohesive, more productive and more ready for the next level.
  2. Are you investing in the right players and coaches?
  3. How are you allocating your budgets? What are you focussing on?

What are your views? What are the other lessons? Please share your views below. Remember to share this article with your network so that it reaches someone who can benefit or make a change!

Manoj Vasudevan is a Next Level Leadership Readiness expert, management consultant, and the World Champion of Public Speaking who helps executives and entrepreneurs to break through to the Next Level of their career and life. Manoj is known for his expertise in simplifying complex topics into practical strategies. He is the CEO of Thought Expressions and holds an MBA from Imperial College, London. His books include the international bestseller . He speaks at international conferences, multinational companies, universities, and around the world. As a coach, Manoj has a proven track record in personal transformation and achieving leadership breakthroughs. CEOs, Senior Executives, UN Diplomats, Celebrities & Professionals from 27 nationalities have benefited from Manoj’s coaching and public programs.

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