Sing When You’re Winning … Is Communication Helping us in the World Cup?

I’m not a football fan – I don’t have a team I regularly support, I vaguely follow the premier league to keep up with where my brother and friend’s teams are – and have been to a couple of games in the past.  I do, however, like a good match in most sports and there’s something about a big event that makes you want to be a part of it.

Was I expecting to have the television on at all over the three days of my Sound Your Voice retreat this weekend? No, obviously not, it was a sound healing and self-awareness retreat where the mid-to-late afternoon slots were given to processing and contemplation of the morning’s work.  Then again – who expected this England team to get to the quarter finals?! So it’s just as well kick-off was at 3pm – it meant when we got back from the sea-sounding session at the beach at 3:30 … we hadn’t missed much (we heard the first goal on the radio) …and the schedule was open for ‘free time’.

When thinking about how to ‘justify’ watching the match on retreat (to who I don’t know!) I realised that actually football encompasses a lot of what I teach: the power of voice and communication are key.

Have you seen the BTSport interview with Lampard, Ferdinand and Gerrard where they talk about why as ‘the golden generation’ of footballers, our world cup forays were unsuccessful?  It’s really interesting – they talk about how because their club competition was so strong, they didn’t really speak with each other, they sat at different tables, separated by club, and even when the management team made them all sit on one, long table, there was a Chelsea end, Man-U end, Liverpool section in the middle, etc.  The collective feeling of being one, of being there together, of the NEED for communication off the pitch to enhance communication on the pitch … was completely missing.  Add to that, that some players were playing slightly out of position and the management didn’t seem to have a way of knowing how to motivate them either collectively, or individually, and you have a reflection of what I see happening in some companies I go in to.

Compare that with Southgate’s team – a team that the media were questioning, berating him for his choice of so many young players and a 24yr old captain.  However, from all reports it would seem that communication is the KEY in Gareth Southgate’s management style, he knows what’s going on for each of the players personally and professionally, he ensures they’re all sitting together, communicating together as a team, in their team – and the players are all playing in the positions they know, and are best in – so each player can trust the others to be doing their job properly.  I’m sure that these skills are even stronger for those who have found themselves on the bench – because they need to be ready to step-up at a moment’s notice, they can’t afford to be feeling like they’re superfluous, or not quite good enough – they are still a part of the team. Much like the support staff – a show can’t go on without the stage management, tech and wardrobe team, without front of house and box office and when they’re all happy and working together the show is always better – the England team can’t play without their support team and everyone playing their part.  

If your team at work were communicated with clearly, if the expectations you have for them were set out so that there was no equivocation, if everyone in the company was aware of the message, values, vision and mission, working towards the same goal, if you had the confidence to put people in the positions they are best in, and deliver the right training, give them enough practice, the opportunity to go out there and do their best, and ‘pitch time’ to develop the skills they need in order to progress, and make sure they all knew where they stood in relation to the rest of the team; if they felt able to express where they were not comfortable, had concerns, were lacking confidence, or when things were out of kilter personally – how would that help your company perform better?

It’s not just the team either, you need the fans.  

If you saw the Russia vs Croatia match, the management were instructing the crowd to cheer as the team were flagging – and when the roar of the crowd hit the pitch you could visibly see the energy it gave them.  Football fans chant and sing for a reason – because it lifts the spirits (and collective derision can also bring people down). It’s the same reason people sing in church – because the power of sound is direct – you feel it in your body.  Singing, chanting, shouting “Come on!!” from the pit of your stomach, physiologically affects you, raises you, re-energises you, and that same energy – those sound waves, they travel through and out of you to those you are with – and there is nothing so amazing to me as the power of collective sound.  Cheers at the goal, groans at the missed penalty, the support of being in it together – this is why companies have award ceremonies and invite clients, guests, family – because you need the fans cheering for you.

Obviously, in a business setting the cheering is a little more subtle, it’s knowing your staff have the support they need, and knowing your clients are truly happy is essential, there is nothing more powerful than personal recommendation and if your clients are raving about the service, results, or people from your company … that can only do you good.

What are you communicating to your team? Do you only tell them when it’s wrong, or do you sing their praises too? Do you support them when they miss that penalty (don’t bag the client) and find out where you went wrong in the preparation or training, and try to fix it for next time, or do they get berated?  Do you play together, as a team, or have a selection of ‘golden ones’ out there doing their own thing well, but not collaboratively? 

The key is actually to not just “Sing when you’re winning” … but to keep on singing when you’re not.

See you in front of the TV Wednesday night – I’ll be cheering for one – bring on the final…

“Come on!”


If you like this – let me know in the comments below & feel free to pass it on… we all know how important a good pass is.