Management and Leadership Series Posted by Nicola Maxwell

World Cup Winning Organisation

Euro 2020 is still fresh in our minds and the qualifying rounds for the next World Cup are well under way. The eventual winners will no doubt have many things in common with the highest performing teams and organisations in industry.

In this article we examine three things that the eventual winners will have gotten right. These are three strategic priorities, critical to the success of any organisation.


Sounds obvious doesn’t it? Common sense? Maybe, but not common practice. The eventual winners will have more than a vision of winning the world cup. They will have a strong collective sense of purpose, something that each member understands, feels passionate about, is aspirational and attainable.

Winning the cup is not enough. A purpose statement that achieves all of the above is much more compelling and has a customer benefit. It may well be about delighting their supporters and making their nation proud by playing attractive, attacking free-flowing rugby. They may even want to change the way that the world views rugby.

In industry, organisations often say that their purpose is to maximize shareholder value. How boring. I don’t know anyone who will get up in the morning with a spring in their step, itching to get to work so that they can, “maximize shareholder value”. I’m not saying that this isn’t important; but it is a by-product of a strong collective sense of purpose.

An effective purpose statement is compelling, states clearly why your organisation exists, has a clear customer benefit and is one that gains commitment, passion and belief.


They will have three or four shared values that they live and breath. These values translate into actions in the changing room and on the pitch and play an integral part of the team culture. The world champions will have values along the lines of Support and Team Performance. These values will mean that team results are more important than individual performances.

So, when the winger is one-on-one with the full back, he has a really good chance of scoring and is moments away from glory and becoming a world cup hero, instead of taking a chance on rounding the winger they will slip that pass to the support runner who has got himself into a great position inside him and is certain to score. Their ambition is first and foremost for the team and not themselves.

When the fly half is pressed and their pass is intercepted there is an overwhelming desire to help them out and cover for them as opposed to pointing fingers and blaming them for their mistake.


They will be playing to their individual strengths and the collective strengths of the team. Many organisations today (and that includes sports teams) spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to fix weaknesses in the belief that fixing these weaknesses and producing a team of good all rounders will achieve high performance. This is simply not the case. Multi tasking is a strategy to achieve mediocrity.

All the research proves that the highest performing organisations focus on developing people’s strengths and setting challenging goals that play to these strengths.

The 2019 world champions may not be the best 15 players in the tournament. They will however be a team who are all playing to their strengths, understand each other’s strengths, how they all work together and know specifically how their individual contribution fits in achieving their purpose.


The world cup winners will have a strong sense of collective purpose that is ambitious and compelling, they will be clear about what’s important to them and all be playing to their strengths.

All of the above are of course leadership issues. Leadership however does not simply relate to the role of the coach or the team captains. The more leaders in an organisation the more effective that organision will be. The more leaders on the pitch who are committed to that purpose the better.

Anyone spring to mind?

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