Five Ways that Effective Teams dominate

The German Team’s success at the World Cup is not only a triumph of football, but of teamwork. Executive teams can certainly apply some of the thinking that makes a team sustain success, even under unlikely circumstances, such as a partisan audience.

1. Capacity – “squad depth” a rich bench, and a team you can rely on to deliver. One of the criticisms of the German team early on in the competition was that they seemed to lack a natural striker. In retrospect, this was a strength: the entire “front five” were striking, as seen  in the number of individuals on the scoreboard for the team. There was Klose, now a legend in World Cup terms, but even he was used sparingly. These were not “stars”, in a constellation only, but rather became a community of talent.

2. Calm Confidence -  Manuel Neuer was a prime example of this, never appearing rushed or disillusioned by time pressures. Schweinsteiger, too, seemed to be willing to persevere, no matter who did what. It seems the squad never doubted that they could overcome,  even in the 113th minute. According to Dr. Patrick Cohn (Peak Performance Sports), athletes could lose this confidence by, amongst other issues:
  • concern with the opposition (intimidation)rather than “being present”
  • over-analysis
  • fear of failure
  • perfectionism or
  • an inability to convert practice into competition

We could, of course, add a lack of desire or hunger, in the case of a “dead rubber” match and physical conditioning plays a huge role, too.

3. Delivery: executing upon strategy and tactics is never a given, but rather requires “pulling the trigger” at the appropriate moment. Deliberate Rehearsal is key to this, of course. Having coached a bit myself, albeit at a junior level, team combinations and rehearsal of “set pieces” often mark the difference between victorious and “also-ran” teams. Having a good idea of the strengths of various players, along with understood gestures, makes communication clear and success more likely. But execution must be precise, without hesitation, and with excellence.

4. Belonging -  the cultural diversity of the German squad allowed for a feeling of “representation” for many “back home” to aspire to and feel included in. The other benefit of diverse family heritage and history is the different thinking that this often delivers, in terms of humility and openness to others. Inclusion and belonging should not be underestimated, since these form part of what is called “social identity” and thus engagement. The way that Germany is generally welcoming of foreigners is worth noting. A recent report on channel DW (free  to air) carried interviews with locals, whose respect for immigrants who are adapting to jobs outside their expertise (musician to electrician due to the recession) was palpable. As a contrast, we in South Africa appear to be doing everything we can to make immigration and foreign input as tedious as possible. And multiple alleged “xenophobia” incidents do little to allay international fears.

5. Adaptability – one of the cornerstones of team effectiveness is context sensitivity, being able to shift tactics and roles when needed, without sacrificing the over-arching strategy. In the World Cup final match, Sammy Khedira injured his calf muscle minutes before kick-off. Kramer was given his first cap, but this meant Kroos had to take over a defensive midfield role,  as opposed to his earlier attacking style. With the defensive Argentinian formation they were confronted with, the opportunities to “run free” were fewer, and each opportunity presented needed to therefore be seized. Whilst the day was not without errors, the overall impression created was of a well-oiled machine, fuelled by determined team members.

The spirit in which the game was played also deserves a mention. There were few yellow cards, and a “tunnel” created by the German team, for their opposition, demonstrated competitiveness without aggression.

The challenge remains for business leaders to apply these principles sustainably within their own teams.

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