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Why Spain won the World Cup

I was recently coaching a business in Canada and advising the CEO about building up a team. He was on a recruitment drive and looking to build up a team of “stars”. My advice Forget it. Too many stars across too many disciplines bring their egos with them.

Stars want to hog the limelight – so how do you then resolve problems between the sales superstar and the marketing superstar or the finance superstar?

On the basis of this thinking, I thought Spain wouldn’t do well in the World Cup. They were a team with too many stars. How could they park their egos and work well as a unit” When they started the tournament with a loss to Switzerland, my views seemed to be confirmed. The failure of England with its “Golden Generation” and the success of Germany with relative unknowns again seemed to vindicate my views.

Okay, so Spanish proved me wrong by winning but consider the following facts:

* Most of the players came from one team; Barcelona. They were therefore used to working as a team and as a unit with pre-defined roles and responsibilities.

* The captain of the team was the goalkeeper; by definition, he had to trust the team to motivate themselves to perform on the pitch. He needed to provide little leadership.

* Their early defeat to Switzerland – and the elimination of both France and Italy at the first stage – may have proved a great lesson to the team. They were not invincible. They had to park their egos at home.

The team, on this occasion, proved to be much bigger than any individual. The key lesson for someone looking to build a team is to make sure employees, not matter how senior, understand the essence of teamwork; the importance of inter-dependence and shared goals. They must be capable of putting their own interest aside to work for the greater good.

Very few great managers were great footballers (the current Barcelona manager is a notable exception). Ironically, I suspect, it is easier to motivate and manage people when you have genuine respect for their talent because you realise you cannot do certain things yourself. Superstar CEOs tend to think they can do everything better themselves; very de-motivating!

Permjot Valia is an active angel investor and blogs at


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