Josh Merkin|Jul 15, 2011

Have you been watching the U.S. women’s soccer team’s improbable run to the World Cup final? If not, you have been missing some of the greatest lessons you can possibly learn about being a business owner and/or manager.

Think about it for a minute. Not only have the last two games against Brazil and France provided incredible drama and a feeling of pride, but they have also shown the results of what it means to have leaders, a never-say-die attitude and a group of people working together toward one common goooooal.

Oftentimes businesses will pay thousands of dollars to corporate trainers, spend hours reading books or sitting in webinars to learn how to become a successful company or how to manage a staff.

Save yourself the time and money. I’ve got a much better idea. Grab some chicken wings, nachos and your favorite beverage and sit down with your staff to watch America’s golden girls dominate the pitch. (That’s the field for all you soccer novices.)

Here’s five things you will learn:

1. Persevering through the ups and downs

After leading the entire first half against Brazil, the U.S. found themselves down one goal with just minutes left in the game. But they kept hustling, kept pushing, stayed calm and scored the tying goal to send the game into penalty kicks, where they eventually won. Against France in the semifinal, it was similar story. As a business owner and manager, it’s inevitable that you will have your ups and downs. Maybe the economy has zapped your revenue or your staff is not working as hard as they need to. How will you respond? Will you bury your head and admit defeat, or will you persevere through the difficult times and leave it all out on the field?

2. Surviving unfair calls

The U.S. was victim to at least two questionable calls in their game against Brazil. On the first, U.S.’s goalkeeper Hope Solo came up with a huge save on a penalty kick. However, the referee called a penalty on the U.S. allowing the penalty kick to be retaken and Brazil scored. On its second goal, a Brazil player was very close to being off sides, but nonetheless, the goal counted. While the U.S. team could have pouted and allowed these bad calls to ruin its moment, they didn’t. They still won the game in spite of receiving seeming unfair treatment. In the business world, there are times when you will get a “bad call.” Maybe a client decided to terminate its contract for no apparent reason, or your company is being used as a scapegoat for a problem that arose. It’s a necessity that you find a way to survive these challenges and continue towards achieving your goals, in spite of how others may try to affect the outcome.

3. What it means to be a leader

Speaking of Hope Solo, watch how she responds when Brazil scores on its second penalty kick attempt. She is seething, but she doesn’t let the moment destroy her. She quickly rallied her team shoulder to shoulder and told them to play on. Her leadership performance was matched by that of teammate Abby Wambach. At 5’11”, she is an imposing figure who willed her team to victory scoring the tying goal against Brazil and the winner against France. She is always in the right place at the right time, is the glue for team U.S. and can always be counted on. The characteristics of both Solo and Wambach are ones that should be emulated and permeate through any great leader.

4. The importance of support staff

You can’t do it alone. The U.S. women’s soccer team has a handful of players who have stepped up and played a major role in their success. They may have not initially received much attention, but both Lauren Cheney and Megan Rapinoe have been major contributors and are the reason that the U.S. will be playing in the finals. For any business, it can’t just be about the people on top. You need those role players and contributors who, while they may not be flashy, do key things that bring success. When you find these employees, be sure to recognize how important they are to you.

5. Team unity

This can be a huge cliché, especially in the world of sports, where all teams always say they are united. But with the U.S. team, it’s obvious they truly believe in everyone working together to achieve a common goal. It’s been captured in both of their victories against Brazil and France. When they were down, they didn’t snipe or panic. Instead, they stayed together, believed in each other and understood each person’s role on the team. It is very hard to be successful in business without all employees being on the same page and believing in each other. A strong team can be the difference between being sent home in the quarterfinals and having a chance to win the championship.

The U.S. women’s soccer team will play Japan at 2 p.m. on Sunday in the World Cup final. Take some time out of your day to sit and watch. Not only is this a spectacular moment in American sports and pride, you just may learn something about business too.


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