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Five Traits of World-Cup-Worthy Teams

by Cynthia Woolbright

Imagine the incredible things your team can accomplish when they demonstrate World Cup worthy values. Here are five values that might just inspire your team.

The USA Women’s Soccer Team kicked the summer off by igniting record-breaking levels of enthusiasm and interest in the World Cup 2019 games. As I followed their award-winning journey, I was taken with the attributes many observed in the team and how they readily apply to any team committed to playing its best.

Here are five traits of the team that might just inspire your team:

Versatility – When asked what she believed was key to the team’s success, Rose Lavelle noted, “I think honestly the strength of this team is we have a lot of strengths. We’re really deep and we don’t rely on one person to get the job done. That gives us confidence moving forward, knowing that anyone can step up, have a big play and help us win the game.” Little did she know then that days later, the team would Play out that philosophy in the semi-final match with England, as Megan Rapinoe was benched due to an injury. The team didn’t miss a beat.

Bench strength and versatility. A colleague of mine once shared that in the early days of building her business (now a multi-million-dollar, award-winning company) she made one critical mistake – she hired “mini me’s.” Eventually, she discovered her bias and began to intentionally seek people who didn’t think or look like her.

As you build your team, be careful not to unwittingly narrow the field to only those that look, act, and think like you. You’ll end up with a very monolithic team that likely will not succeed. Diversity and versatility of style, approach, and philosophy will help ensure that you’ve got a strong bench of professionals who can bring unique and varied approaches to your work. It will likely be more challenging to manage a kaleidoscope of people, but the benefits will far outweigh those challenges.

And don’t play favorites. Ensure that all your team members benefit from your time, your attention and your focus. USA Women’s Soccer Team Coach Jill Ellis noted about her team “…everybody gets the same information; everybody gets the same attention and focus and detail from the coaching staff.”

Confidence - Coach Jill Ellis also shared, “You can have all the tactics in the world, but that essence of self-belief, that’s critical.” You got to believe! Not just in yourself, but in your team. Your team needs to be confident in themselves and in one another. Equally important, you must be confident in your cause. And, you must be confident in your donors; confident that they will share your passion and that they will want to invest in the work of your institution. If you lack confidence in any of those dimensions, your key constituents will sense it. Focus – Time and time again, spectators admitted the incredible focus the team showed on the field. Distractions abound. From the stir caused by Rapinoe’s remarks about the White House to the consternation caused when Rapinoe didn’t suit up for the semi-final game – there were distractions that challenged the team’s ability to focus. But focus they did. Institutions are dynamic, fluid and complex. That means that there are endless opportunities to lose your focus. Good leaders can help teams process the “noise and distractions,” put them in perspective and lead the team forward with renewed focus and determination to complete your team goals. Attitude – Time and time again, the amazing and unflinching “can do” attitude of the US Women’s Soccer Team was admired. Certainly, the other attributes we’ve discussed play into this value. Seek team player’s with positive energy. Work to build the team’s collective confidence. Each player has a unique contribution to make – together, you’re unstoppable. Look for opportunities to build that collective team confidence and moxie!

Consider what kind of values you want reflected in your team’s attitude. For example, one of my favorite values for development professionals is gratitude. Too often, I’ve seen big league professionals become numb to “average gift levels.” Landing major gifts of multiple millions can be intoxicating. It can also be toxic to team values. Every gift, every dollar matter. That attitude of gratitude for all donors is critical to success.

Resilience – The fairytale-like climb to grasping the 2nd consecutive World Cup could easily be perceived as a cake walk for the US Women’s team. But that climb to the trophy leaves countless years of practice, challenges, losses, and tears. No team, no matter how talented, gets to the zenith without hard work and gracious, gritty tenacity. Your challenge is to guide your team through disappointment, accept the lessons learned with grace, and get back in the game. The ability to foster resilience is the mark of a masterful leader.

Each of these attributes also support one another. Imagine the incredible things your team can accomplish when they demonstrate these World Cup worthy values. What you will achieve together will change the world – and that’s a pretty remarkable opportunity.

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