What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From the World Cup
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"Football is the ballet of the masses."
If we are to believe Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, then we can say that the 2014 World Cup, just days away, will have something for everyone.
In fact, entrepreneurs can stand to learn from the upcoming quadrennial tournament. Here are two players and one coach that offer valuable entrepreneurial lessons.
The Juventus midfielder is poised to lead the Chilean team, assuming he’s fully fit, against Spain, The Netherlands and Australia in what many have described as “The Group of Death.”
Football tactician Michael Cox has said that Vidal has “grown into the best all-rounder in Italy, and perhaps the world.” It’s a high accolade, and it may come as a surprise to the casual fan.
What makes Vidal so indispensable is his ability to cover every outfield position. While he plays as a central midfielder, he can also be found scoring goals (he bagged 11 in the 13/14 Serie A Campaign) and making tackles (averaged 4.1 per game, 3rd in the league). In a glowing (and well written) piece on Vidal, Grantland’s Ryan O’Hanlon best summarizes Arturo’s varied skill set.
“Players like Vidal, in any sport, often get stuck with the “jack-of-all-trades, master of none” label. Yeah, but what is he great at? Except, with Vidal, it’s more master of all, and who is this Jack guy?”
Similarly, as an entrepreneur, you should be able to cover every position and fill in where and when needed. When I began at Waze, I did everything from ordering food, ghostwriting blog posts and cold calling record labels. If something needed to be done, I would raise my hand. Far from being the over-eager new guy, I wanted to contribute in any way possible.
In addition, I figured that by trying as many things as I could, I would find my niche.
Arturo Vidal’s Juventus teammate Andrea Pirlo recently celebrated his 35th birthday. The midfield maestro will play in his third World Cup and looks to help Italy build on their Euro 2012 2nd place finish.
Andrea Pirlo’s longevity can be attributed to the adjustment he’s made. At his age, he no longer has the stamina to track up and down the pitch. While younger midfielders (like Vidal or Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo) gallop wildly around the pitch, Pirlo seems to never break out in anything beyond a jog. Yet he continues to be one of the best midfielders in the world because of his vision, tactical positioning and ability to place the ball anywhere on the field.
Andrea Pirlo remains relevant and important to both Juventus and the Italian team due to his willingness to adapt to his new situation: run less, pass more.
At a certain point, you, like Pirlo will have to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances in your business. Maybe you’re growing in scale or perhaps you’ve taken on a leadership role within the organization. If you want to continue your growth and help the business, you will have to adjust.
Jurgen Klinsmann, the US National Team coach, caused an uproar when he decided to leave off Landon Donovan from the final 23 man list.
Donovan, for over a decade had been the face of US Soccer. He won the FIFA Best Young Player Award in the 2002 World Cup and, a few weeks ago, became the MLS all-time leading scorer.
As Sam Borden of the New York Times points out, there were a variety of reasons as to why Jurgen left the iconic Donovan at home.
“Klinsmann felt Donovan’s play had slipped and was put off by what he saw as Donovan’s inconsistent motivation. The sabbatical was part of it, and Klinsmann’s feelings were crystallized when Donovan told ESPN during training camp that at his age, “I can’t train 12 straight days in a row and have 12 great days in a row.”
Building a great team doesn’t always mean building with great players, or employees. If that person doesn’t fit the mold or doesn’t have the “DNA” of what you’re trying to build, then no set of great individual skills or talent will make the fit between team and player or company and employee work.
Ultimately as a leader in your business, it will be up to you to make the right choice of who you bring on board. Make sure it’s for the right reasons.
Finally, after four years of waiting, the World Cup is upon us. Whether it’s covering a different part of the business like Vidal, or adapting to a new role like Pirlo, the World Cup and soccer at large can give entrepreneurs new ideas and insights.
After all, both soccer players and entrepreneurs have goals to hit.