In today’s episode I evaluate the leadership traits of the Wales Football Team and the mindset of the players to understand exactly how these unlikely heroes went on to achieve greatness by reaching the semi finals of the European Championships in their first major tournament since 1958, where they were finally knocked out by the eventual winners, Portugal.
The European football championships came to a close on Sunday evening and everyone is talking about the winners, Portugal, who clinched the trophy and claimed the title for the first ever time in their history in emphatic style when the winning goal was struck in extra time, leaving France, their opposition and the host nation, in tears.
However, now that the tournament is over and all the teams have returned home, there is one team who captured many hearts and minds during this tournament…that team is WALES!
Please note – this episode is NOT about football! It is about what we can learn from the unbelievable transformation of the Welsh Football team to help us in our own pursuit for greatness, so regardless of whether you are a football fan (or soccer fan to some) then you will still learn a lot about what it takes to create exceptional results in this episode!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do” Pele
My top 4 lessons from my interview with Jody Jelas:
1) Overcome the entrepreneurial disease of wanting to do everything yourself with ADD…
2) Find Your Jam – Choose a marketing method based on:
- 1) the needs of your audience
- 2) your own skills
- 3) what you enjoy
3) There is no such thing as too many emails …
4) You only fail if you give up…
THIS WEEKS CHALLENGE:
As the Welsh football squad mark the end of one journey and embark on another, your challenge this week is to consider how you can be inspired to improve your own performance in business from the lessons that I have shared with you today – please share your insights from the show in the comments below and remember, always surround yourself with those on the same path as you, as the saying goes – Together Stronger!
Behind every great team is a great leader. The Wales Football Team’s greatest football achievement was masterminded by Chris Coleman and the transformation under his leadership has been remarkable.
When Coleman took the helm just 4 and a half years ago Wales were ranked 117th in the world, their lowest ever position – however as a result of Wales’ performance in this tournament they are now ranked 11th in FIFA’s world rankings – above England! Given the intense rivalry it may be difficult for an Englishman to shower praise upon the Welsh, however many of the English were cheering for the Dragons in that pivotal final game, one of British football’s finest moments for half a century.
This is a story of a man who is willing to dare to dream – he has shown great resolve and desire in the face of adversity to hold on to his dream.
Coleman’s playing career ended prematurely and in brutal circumstances, as injuries sustained in a car crash in January 2001 forced the then Wales and Fulham centre-back to retire. The only silver lining of Coleman’s early retirement was a fast-tracked route to top-flight management, where he become the Premier League’s youngest manager when he took the reigns at Fulham in 2013 where he guided a turbulent team to four years of mid-table stability before being sacked for a poor run of results in April 2007.
Coleman’s next job was in Spain with Real Sociedad, fulfilling a long-standing ambition to manage abroad – but things did not go according to plan when he was caught out being late for a press conference because he had been out partying the previous night until 5am. His career took a rocky path and he moved from Spain back to Britain to manage a lower flight team before being sacked and taking some time out to do everything he could to make himself a better leader.
His decision as an important one and he finally came back into management when he took on Greek second division side Larissa in 2011, but despite some success he left the club due to their woeful financial predicament where he and his team were rarely able to be paid.
Despite his turbulent history as a manager he secured the job of his dreams in January 2012 by taking on the Wales job, though it was in tragic circumstances as he succeeded former manager Gary Speed who sadly died two months earlier.
Initially it looked like Coleman’s turbulent past was haunting him, losing his first four games in charge – the worst start by a Wales manager. The most crushing result was a 6-1 mauling away to Serbia, Wales’ heaviest defeat for 16 years.
Understandably Coleman considered his future but his players were unaware of their managers inner turmoil given that expectations were never high for the Welsh team. However, Coleman was under intense pressure, yet undettered he steered the Welsh team to one of their proudest moments since 1958 by securing their place at a major tournament for the first time since the 1958 World Cup.
Having overseen one of Wales’ most humiliating results, Coleman had orchestrated one of their proudest moments and that was just the beginning.
Let’s look at some of the factors that led to Wale’s tremendous transformation, starting with Coleman’s inspirational leadership, where he conquered adversity to succeed against all the odds:
1) LEAD FROM THE HEART.
Chris Coleman has been an inspirational leader and motivator to the Welsh team and their supporters. He had a dream and a plan and he stuck to it, providing his players with clarity and consistency.
One of his players commented on his leadership saying “He doesn’t make long speeches … when you look at him you can tell he means everything he says. It comes from the heart. By the time you leave the changing room you are ready to go into battle.”
As the figurehead of the team, his leadership provided a strong backbone which is critical to the success of any team. Coleman’s fair approach and determination has earned him the respect of his players as he worked tirelessly to get the best out of the players and forge an unbeatable team spirit.
2) DARE TO DREAM
It takes some nerve to ride around France in a team bus bearing the slogan “The Dragon Will Rise”, but that’s what it did, and nerve is exactly what Wales displayed. It sent a clear message that the team had arrived to compete!
When interviewed after victory in the quarter finals against Belgium, beating a team ranked 2nd in the world to qualify for the semi finals of a tournament for the first time in the nations history…Coleman said:
“Dream – don’t be afraid to have dreams. Because four years ago I was as far away from this as you can imagine and look what can happen if you work hard enough and you’re not afraid to dream and you’re not afraid to fail. Everybody fails. I’ve had more failures than successes, but I’m not afraid to fail.”
Coleman and his players dared to dream.
This leads to number 3…
3) DEFY FEAR
The key to Coleman’s and Wales’ – success was the absence of fear. There was no fear of failure, no fear of any opposition and no fear of any consequences. All of the players spoken of this fearlessness which had been drummed into the team.
In contrast, senior executives within the England camp have gone on to comment regardling England’s dismal performance by saying that the England players were scared out on the pitch, dwarfed by the pressure of failure.
Coleman says not being afraid to fail was the key to his country’s greatest night of football as they reached the Euro 2016 semi-finals. Being fearless is one thing, Wales also had winning mentality in the form of number 4…
The Wales team realised that each game was a battle that they can win, whoever the opponent. They had confidence, they had the DESIRE for success. Coleman said “It’s not just about talent. It’s about players with a good mentality. You have to have heart and desire and it is this that carried us through a lot of games.”
The players showed up to make their mark and show what they can do. They had the will to work hard and learn and the desire to win. When you dare to dream, and you back your dreams with desire you can achieve far more than you may have previously imagined.
5) UNWAVERING BELIEF
Wales showed what is possible when a team functions as a team with a winning mentality and deep reserves of self-belief.
Coleman developed a team with a winning identity and strong belief. He said:
“We have a good team and we know what we’re about. Whether people say good or bad things, it’s only every been about what we think of ourselves and each other. We believe in each other.
Star player Gareth Bale booked his holiday for the day after the final, saying ‘Why can’t we do it?’.
This belief amongst the team undoubtedly boosted their confidence and enhanced their performance throughout the tournament. With each success, the confidence of the squad increased and spurred them on to the next challenge.
6) TEAM WORK
As basketball legend Michael Jordan put it: “Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships.”
Teams work better when everyone involved is singing off the same hymn sheet. Wales’ strength is that they are very much the sum of their parts. Every player knows his exact role and the style of play expected.
Gareth Bale may be the star player in many eyes but he shares the view that this is a team who work together as one team with no egos. He said:
“The team is the star, there are no stars in our team. We are all together, we all work as one. We all run for each other, we all tackle for each other, fight for each other…we are a very close team, we get along like brothers. WE are here having fun. We have no fear.”
This is a team who demonstrated the hallmarks of an unstoppable team…togetherness, unity, organisation and a fearless desire to win – a team willing to attack, defend, and run through brick walls for each other…when the team score, all the players celebrate, even those on the bench who have not played in the tournament yet or contributed to the game.
The team brought a deep sense of fun…When not training or playing, they were challenging one another at pool, table-tennis, golf, having a good laugh enjoying themselves, relaxing, unwinding without letting the obvious pressures effect them. The teams ability to enjoy the whole experience and inject an element of fun despite these pressures are testament to the teams fearless mentality.
THOSE WHO PLAY TOGETHER, WIN TOGETHER
Compare this to England, who (on paper) possess far more individual talent than Wales, but they did not possess the winning mentality, desire, fearlessness and the infectious team spirit that has endeared the Welsh team to football fans across the world.
Wales showed everyone what it means to be a TEAM- but it goes one step further…number 7
7) UNSHAKABLE PRIDE.
Throughout the qualification campaign – and the tournament itself – there’s been a real feeling of the Welsh team doing it for something bigger than themselves, they have been doing it for national pride.
This is something that was instilled by their much respected former manager, Gary Speed, who died five years ago. Previously the Welsh players did not always sing the anthem, much to the annoyance of the fans, particularly as the Welsh rugby team belt out the anthem with such gusto. Gary Speed made it mandatory to sing and Chris Coleman has carried this forward. It is clear that the team are now united by the love of the crest upon their shirts, playing for the team and their nation and the incredible emotion displayed whilst singing the national anthem shows real togetherness, not empty words.
– so much so that it has inspired a nation…
8) TOGETHER STRONGER
The team united a nation, and a small nation in football terms. The nation of wales got behind their team with the ‘Together Stronger’ campaign whish isn’t just a hashtag dreamt up by the marketing team at the Welsh FA, it’s two words which combine to make a statement that means something: Working together we can all achieve so much more than we can alone.
Without any prompting or incentive the players began to tweet it out and it has since been used in millions of tweets and is a centerpiece within Wales’ success. The football team captured the hearts of a rugby mad nation. Everyone wanted to pull in one direction to support the team.
Together they ARE stronger. (I’m not even going to make another England comparison here…I think you are starting to see the picture…! But think about what you can take from this message for your business or your team – how can you unite your tribe around your dreams and ideals?
9) PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS, STICK TO THE GAME PLAN.
Ten players started at least five of Wales’ six matches in France and though it meant others were disappointed, this level of consistency within the set up of the team meant that they were able to build upon the synergy of their ‘off the field relationships’ whilst carrying out the gameplan on the pitch where it counts.
After losing to England in the group stages it would have been easy for the Welsh team to have lost their morale, even more so when they found themselves 1-0 down against Belgium in the thirteenth minute of the quarter finals. Instead, the team used their passion, pride and determination to double down, rise up and work collaboratively to succeed. The unity of the team made them resilient to their setbacks and this solidified their success in the tournament.
The team knew their strengths and they did not deviate. Coleman said “We just stuck to the gameplan, we knew what we had to do,”
10) THE EXTRA 1% – THE WELSH WAY
Wales have a ‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ motto. What I discovered next came as a huge surprise to me but it soon became evident that the level of preparation that Wales put into this tournament has been paramount to their success.
The nation of Wales have their own manifesto for the style of football that they want to play called the ‘Welsh way’ which has become central to everything that they do and it has been implemented across the board right from the under-16s right through to the full international team. The plan has been designed to create a clear pathway for the long term success of the Welsh national team and to develop the players of the future.
The ‘Welsh Way’ is an innovative approach that formed a huge part of the preparation for the tournament as they seek the extra one percent that makes the difference between winning and losing.
You hear about marginal gains in other sports and Wales have brought this to football. They have army of sports scientists and sports technologists to help give the team a cutting edge, mentally and physically.
Some of the data behind the work that Wales have put in is akin to that seen in the film ‘Money Ball’ starring Brad Pitt, where the coach of the baseball team uses computer-generated analysis to design an optimal team and acquire new players on a budget.
No stone had been left unturned to provide Coleman and his team with all the performance data they require to give them the extra one per cent required in elite sports. For months and months prior to the tournament, the Welsh backroom team had been going through every minute detail of every player within every team that would feature in the tournament. As such, no other players at the tournament were provided with as much data about the opposition as Wales.
The team received a video analysis of the opposition a few days before the game, in addition each player had specific data on his direct opponent that would be fed directly onto his Ipad. So, for example, the Welsh defenders were able to study which way the opponents forwards tend to move, which foot the strikers favour, the type of runs he makes and where he goes for corners. This incredible detail meant that the Wales team could create their game plan based on how they know the opposition tend to play.
This level of mental preparation meant that the team were always 100% equipped prior to kick off, mentally and physically!
In addition to all the data and visual coaching that the leadership team were able to provide, the Welsh team also used cutting edge training methods when it comes to fitness.
They used a traffic light system to monitor fitness through daily saliva and urine tests. Each training routine was tailored and customised according to the results of the testing. For example, if the test results show Bale needs to rest, red will trigger and his work-load will be reduced. If the tests show another player needs extra training, the green light will be given and the training plans are increased.
All the training sessions are filmed, analysed, poured over and fed back to the players to get them ready like a well-tuned engine for kick-off. The key here for future generations is that the Welsh way is a system which has been implemented at under-16, under-17, under-18, under-19 and under-21 level too, with individual action plans given to the players to make them more rounded footballers.
So what does the future look like for Wales?
Coleman wants his players to go into the next campaign with the same hunger and desire as they have in the past two or three years but he acknowledges that the mark that Wales have made in this tournament mean that they will no longer be treated as the underdogs…teams will be aware of what they can do and Wales will be expected to win. Coleman knows he will have to do something different:
He says “you have to be brave and I will. If I fall flat on my face so what? I’d rather do that than not do anything. I didn’t make any changes in my first campaign and I won’t make that same mistake again.”
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