Leadership Lessons from Coach Deschamps, winner of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

The World Cup is over but your team is still in the game. Here is a thought to get you going and winning. As leaders it's important that we define clearly what success means for each player, the team and the values we celebrate.

A case in point is the coach of France, Didier Deschamps, who continued to field a striker who was not scoring. We all know strikers are supposed to score goals but the Coach had something more important for the team than that. I love what he said when the press questioned his choice of Giroud as a striker in spite of the fact that he had played games without scoring. “It’s good if he scores but Olivier Giroud is always very generous. ...the team needs him in each and every match for his game in the air and how he defends. He does many things and it is the players around him who benefit". Wow! Quick question! What’s the level of generosity in your team? There is something remarkable happening here that builds team effectiveness. The coach has demonstrated to the team that sometimes we all fail to “score” but as long as you cover the most important basics of your task you have a place in the team. What a relief to the players to just go out and do the best they can without watching their backs. Eventually everybody wins.

Remember there are one or two players in your team who are blocking, tackling, running and not “scoring” yet. Make sure you treat them well. The team is watching and they will learn from your response how they will be treated the day they stop “scoring”. So examine the types of performance metrics you keep for each team member and which item has more weight. France won World Cup and Giroud played till the last moments of the final game. Here are three key actions you can take to enhance the effectiveness of your team:

  1. Define the purpose of the team. This may sound obvious. We all know that the ultimate is to win the World Cup. But is that the appropriate definition of success for your team. We don’t need leaders to point the obvious in just the same old way. The objective of wining is taken as given and was even stated before the games started. It’s a game and one team has to win. It’s a business right? We need to gain market share and achieve a reasonable return on investment. The real business of leadership is to find a reason for success that goes beyond “winning the cup”. It’s here that many leaders fail because they focus on the obvious. The team’s purpose is much more than doubling market share or profits.


  1. Make sure your performance evaluation criteria for every team member and department has got depth and breadth and not just goals scored. This is important because no two team members are the same. It may be hard to come up with not so obvious qualitative measures of individual and team performance but don’t give up. The secret is to focus on the elements that lead to final result. Dig up and uncover what leads to extraordinary performance. For example, how the team collaborates, supports each other, makes decisions, resolves conflicts, takes risks, etc. You are better off developing metrics around these than the obvious outcomes or results.


  1. Recognise and tap into the energies of your team. Coach Deschamps has said “I am at the service of my players, the match belong to the players”. His captain said “we try to find solutions together, we work together”. Use the energies of your team effectively. You cannot do it alone as the leader of the pack. Listen and evaluate what makes your teams tick. To succeed you have to invest more in building team values, and rearranging team structures and roles to bring out the best energies of your team for the task at hand. You can start by asking the football fanatics in your team to share lessons they have learnt in team building from the World Cup. I trust that you will create a winning team with lightning speed of execution comparable to Mbappe’s runs.