HR 20 June 2018

Seven micro business lessons from Gareth Southgate’s World Cup strategy

Basking in the unfamiliar glow of a late England goal and the first opening tournament win since 2006, the world’s hardest job is looking surprisingly easy today.

Business leaders have long turned to sporting managers for inspiration, so what can be learned from Gareth Southgate’s early World Cup win? Chris Barnard, senior accountancy manager at Crunch, offers up seven lessons for decision makers.

  1. Take the pressure off to energise the team

By playing down expectations in the months leading up to the World Cup, Southgate managed to alleviate pressure on a national team which is so often weighed down by unrealistically high hopes.

As such, the players wouldve considered a 1-1 draw a worthwhile achievement, let alone the win they ultimately earned. Creating an environment where every member of the team can achieve is just as powerful in business, not to mention a useful way of helping with employee retention.

  1. Celebrate performance over results

Interviewed immediately after the game, the England manager praised his team’s resilience and positive performance: Even if we had drawn I would have been proud of us. Celebrating performance over specific results is just as valuable when talking about sales, innovation or new client wins.

Incentivising and rewarding a team’s brilliance and effort rather than reserving celebrations for obvious wins is both motivating and fair, as it removes the element of luck which can see some staff rewarded more than others when a big win goes their way.

  1. Learn from your predecessor’s mistakes

Southgate has abandoned the rigid 4-4-2 which he played, and arguably suffered under, as part of England’s recent history. Instead he embraced a fluidity that suited his inexperienced young team.

Understanding the talent at your disposable and playing to your people’s strengths is a powerful advantage which makes the most of the agile decision-making that’s possible in a small business.

  1. don’t just play favourites

Unlike many previous England managers, Southgate has resisted the temptation to prioritise famous names, leaving Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere out of the squad and freezing Wayne Rooney out even earlier. He’s not been afraid of playing lesser known players with few caps like Kieran Trippier, who fit well with the shape and skills of the rest of the team.

Likewise, in a small business setting, favouring particular individuals can lose the trust of the rest of the team, not to mention create a potential division.



Mansfield Town CEO Carolyn Radford reveals importance of keeping football egos in check

Carolyn Radford was nowhere near ready for the ferocity of football when she took over at Mansfield Town, but leant quickly and now shares her unique observations.


  1. Keep your nerve

Southgate’s calm faith in his team has shone for weeks and continued to do so on the touchline against Tunisia despite some nail-bitingly frustrating moments.