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What soccer can teach us about Collaboration

One of the greatest spectacles in sports kicked off this last weekend. Rivaled only by the World Cup and the Olympics, the European Championships is one of the most entertaining and exciting international sporting events ever to take place.  After spending the majority of the opening weekend glued to the television my fellow collaborators, I realized that there is a lot we can learn from watching this sport.

Collaboration is an important element in any team sport. When it works, collaboration can bring some great results. However, it’s not something that just materializes. Whether in the office or on the pitch, achieving this level of collaboration takes time and effort. For those struggling to motivate their teams this month, suggest a little homework: tell them to watch a few Euro 2012 soccer games, you’ll be happy you did. Below are several important lessons that soccer can teach us about successful collaboration.

Communication is key

Ok, so maybe not all that revolutionary. But if you spend even a few minutes watching a game you’ll quickly realize how important it is to have open, fluid, team communication. Whether it’s a situation where a striker doesn’t see a defender, or notifying a fellow team mate of help, if you fail to communicate you’re simply shooting yourself in the foot. Communication is just as important when playing professional sports as it is when trying to accomplish project goals and tasks. If your team is too siloed, you’ll be making it harder on yourself. Teams that fail to communicate will inherently have a tougher time executing. It’s extremely important that when collaborating, team leaders help institute a culture of open communication. The more open the environment, the more at home team members will feel which will increase the quality and quantity of team communication.

Teams need more than one player

If there’s one take away from the Germany – Portugal game last Saturday, it’s that a team needs more than one key player. Don’t get me wrong, Cristiano Ronaldo is a great player but for every Michael Jordan you needed to have a Scotty Pippen or Dennis Rodman to have a real chance at winning the whole enchilada.

Cristiano Ronaldo

The same rule can be applied to your collaboration initiative. Even in a situation where you have a core of diehard evangelists, it’s not going to be successful until you get mass adoption. If you only have one key player, the opposing team can simply double and triple team him leaving you in a tough spot. So, when creating your collaboration team, it’s important to build around a core player, adding complimentary pieces, and support, instead of relying on them to solely carry your team to victory.

A little luck never hurts

The Roman politician Seneca once said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Sometimes we make all the right moves, assemble the best possible team, execute a great game plan but we still fail.  Other times things just seem to “click”. Well whether it’s an errant challenge leading to a goal, or a well-timed run, it never hurts to have a little luck. However, you have to be ready to strike when that moment presents itself. So it’s important to do the research, build the best team you can, and draft out a solid game plan – that way when that chance presents itself you and your team are ready to strike.

So, take it from me, it’s worth it to try and take in a couple of games over the next few weeks. Who knows you might just learn something.

Image Source: http://www.fifa.com
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