A motivated and resilient team – what can we learn from world-class football?

A team may have the technical skills and knowledge, but everything depends on the right motivation

– Kris Perquy, mental coach of the Belgian football team

As founding partner of sports consultancy Maenhout & Perquy, psychologist and coach Kris Perquy focuses on improving the performance of athletes, coaches, sports clubs and sports federations. He has been working with the Belgian Football Federation for more than ten years, with a focus to Improve the offer of sports psychology for coaches and players. He combines this with activities as an executive coach in the business world. “The worlds of sport and business seem to be two different worlds but have many similarities. Both top athletes and employees want to develop and use their talents and capacities in the best possible way in order to improve themselves and achieve success. Teamwork, training, role assignment and motivation are crucial in both sport and business. I use my experiences as a sports consultant to help managers coach their employees better, so they can develop themselves and feel good in the workplace. “

Kris, you have a lot of experience in the world of sports. What parallels do you see with business?

“Take a football team as an example. It consists of eleven players on the field. The goalkeeper defends the goal, the defenders keep the opponents in line and the attackers try to score as much as possible. To win the match, there must be a balance between the different types of players. It is no different in companies. The CEOs and executives determine the strategy and the broad outlines of the company, the executives and managers steer everything in the right direction, and the employees do what they are good at in each department. All employees have a different role and their own strengths. Just like in a football team, they must act as one to achieve success. “

“In the war for talent, it is crucial that companies focus on more than an employer branding campaign and the occasional fun team building. The organisation must be transformed from the core so that well-being and talent development are central. This creates a sustainable corporate culture with motivated and happy employees.”

Kris Perquy

So good team spirit is crucial in both sport and business. Are there any other similarities?

“In both worlds, it is about a combination of talent and motivation. Players and staff all have individual talents and abilities, which ensure that the team functions smoothly and does what it is supposed to do. But everything stands or falls with the right motivation. A squad or team may be overflowing with talent, but without motivation it becomes very difficult to achieve goals. The success of a team is a complex interplay of skills, strategy and the right mental attitude. The latter aspect is often underestimated, while motivation is crucial for achieving goals. “

So what can managers do to keep their team motivated?

“It’s all about creating a stimulating work environment with a lot of attention for individual strengths and needs. In such a context, employees feel useful and appreciated, which increases their job satisfaction. This way, the talent stays in the organisation – instead of leaving the company because they are dissatisfied – and they can develop further. And the more people feel they can grow, the more motivated they become.”

“In the past, the manager knew about everything. Today, knowledge is very complex. Many people are experts in a particular field. This collective intelligence ‘forces’ a manager to give responsibility to each team member. This creates a context of togetherness and people who feel they are making a valuable contribution.”

Kris Perquy

As a manager, how do you create such a positive and stimulating context?

“A motivating working environment is based on four important pillars: learning, autonomy, cooperation and meaningful work. Which factors are important for someone’s motivation is a personal matter. Some people attach more importance to a great team spirit than to working autonomously and being given many responsibilities. That is why it is important to talk to your people. If you know what they want and what makes them feel good, you can adjust their role in the team accordingly. In a good team, everyone’s strengths come into play. This way, all employees feel that their knowledge and skills really matter and a sense of belonging is created. As a result, their motivation remains high. “

Motivation can be stimulated, that is clear. Finally, back to talent: can and should you also boost it in your team?

“Besides motivation, it is indeed important to pay sufficient attention to the talent in the team, especially in today’s scarce labour market. Talent is something you really have to mine and nurture in the organisation. By looking at the strengths and weaknesses of your employees and listening to what they want, you give them the opportunity to develop their talents to the full. This has a positive influence on their well-being. Talents are not just about technical competences. It is also about social skills. Apart from his technical skills, a programmer can be very creative, for example, which enables him to think along with certain solutions and thus, if he so desires, to be deployed more broadly within the organisation. Success is always a combination of technical and social aspects, of performance and group dynamics. Striving for a balance between the two is an important task for managers.

The 4 Pillars of a Motivating Workplace

Lifelong learning
Merely relying on talent is not sustainable. In order to deepen knowledge and skills, it is important that you invest in training. In technical teams, this often involves new technologies, software updates, etc. If you ensure that your employees remain up-to-date, they will be more motivated to achieve the intended objectives.

Give the employees who want it the necessary responsibilities. Drawing up their own schedule, organising tasks, setting priorities, taking part in decisions in meetings: this makes them feel more valued and increases their happiness at work.

Working together
Everyone has his or her role in the team, but without good cooperation the pieces of the puzzle will not fall together. Each individual makes a valuable contribution. Cooperation in a team is the lubricant that keeps a company running smoothly.

Meaningful work
People who feel that they are doing something for the organisation and who also receive appreciation for this, feel good. As a result, they make extra efforts to achieve the intended objectives.
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