Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Team Building Lesson from the World's Most Popular Team Sport

When thinking about team building, most people think first of successful sports teams. Even in a work context many managers and leaders often use sports examples and methods as ways of inspiring and building teams. So what can one of the most successful teams in the world’s most popular sport teach us about team building?

The sport is soccer. When it comes to soccer people think superstars: Pele, Zidane and Diego Maradona. Even if you're not a fan, pop culture has absorbed famous footballers like David Beckham and teams built from the best of their leagues, such as the US Women's World Cup team. However, the most successful team in terms of championship wins, revenue earning and brand worth is arguably Barcelona.

Unlike most teams, Barcelona is largely made up of local players. Think about that—with one of the richest cash accounts in sports Barcelona prefers to grow their own players through their own school rather than buy superstars from elsewhere. The players often grow up together, share a common culture and local values and see their careers as being intimately tied up with something bigger than themselves.

Not only that, but instead of trading shares in the club to the highest bidder (or highest local millionaire) the club is owned by club members. It is managed through a process of deep engagement with the fans and a customer council made up of randomly chosen and senior members in good standing.

Too many organizations try to hire superstars and run the business divorced from the feedback of their customers. Barcelona is an example that shows that even in sports, employee engagement and customer intimacy build crushingly successful teams.

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