It will be no news that the Lionesses made record-breaking history over the weekend by winning their first major tournament against Germany, at Wembley, in front of a record crowd of 87,192 fans.
As a former player, and fan of the sport (typically considered a male-dominated industry) I was elated to see the overwhelming success and support of the team in what I feel is becoming a more inclusive world. As I watched over the weekend, I thought about the importance of high-performance teams amongst challenges and overwhelming pressure, what makes them tick, and if there are any valuable learnings from the lionesses themselves. Here's what I came up with:
Power of defensive playing:
Relying on goal scorers won’t win games. Similar to how a first-class sales team can’t boost revenue if you don’t invest in other areas (such as engineering). Without investment in crucial areas you may not end up with an exemplary product and happy consumer (willing to continuously invest in your services). The lionesses demonstrated not only having talent up front with hunger and persistence to score goals but also a confident defensive side. Defending may not score goals, but working in partnership and symbiosis with midfield and upfront wins matches. Most organisations are seen as engineering or sales-led, but why not both?
Leadership - build trust with your teams:
Sarina-Wiegman built credible and unwavering trust with her team - evidently shown on the pitch. Her team didn’t doubt her leadership, and revealed after the match that she had an incredible ability to get the best out of them individually, knowing their strengths and weaknesses to leverage the best strategy to win games, and develop areas where they lacked. People leaders need to find a way to build credibility and trust with their teams, knowing that supporting their people as individuals and their development will have an overall impact on team performance and confidence in leadership to make the right decisions.
Allyship makes a difference:
Watching the match highlights, we heard from many successful female journalists and sportswomen, but also male sports professionals such as Ian Wright. Ian called for a change in women's football, asking to reschedule matches to encourage more fans to support the teams and push for more press coverage. Representation is essential, but sincere allyship is major for underrepresented groups to thrive.
A growth mindset in teams is essential:
Some games didn’t go to plan due to yellow cards and a lack of teamwork. However, failure is part of life. We’re all human and will make mistakes from time to time. How we grow from those mistakes and are courageous to live out of our comfort zone is where great things happen (generating new ideas and living new experiences). Taking feedback on board and implementing changes is hard, but it’s vital to recognise that it is how we level up.
Playing fair will always give you an advantage:
There will be times when competitors, colleagues, and people won’t play fair. There will be times they may operate unethically or display behaviours that are not respectful or perhaps feel foreign to human nature. Staying true to your morals and company values will set you apart, and perseverance conquers. The gratification of completing a task to your best ability and receiving the fruits of your labour will always triumph over finding an easy or unethical way out. Toxic behaviour can be contagious, but keeping calm and staying true to your authentic values ensures gratification and long-lived success.
Lastly, congratulations to the Lionesses - thanks for the inspiration! I look forward to a positive change in women's football and general inclusivity continuing above and beyond football, Kudos!
I hope you enjoyed watching as much as I did. That's a wrap - I’m off to get my football boots back on!
*Image taken from https://www.englandfootball.com/womens-senior-team/home