BUILDING COMPETENCE IN YOUR BUSINESS – A FOOTBALL ANALOGY

Every business starts with an idea and a vision for profitability and sustainability. Sustaining and remaining profitable is not only a skill that the business person must have, it must reflect in the competency of the people on his team, and also his own competence to spot competent hands and position them rightly.

Every business must operate as a cohesive system govern by rules and regulations to make for viability and sustainability. And every player needs to understand their roles and how it fits into the global picture of the business.

The human body is a vivid example of a functioning system governed by rules… both nature and self/medically governed. Each human part operates interdependent of each other… and not independent. And the day, a part of the human body wears a semblance of independence from the rest, or shows signs of malfunctioning…it is a red flag that all is not well and not checked on time, it would lead to catastrophic consequences.

The game of football best describes how a business can be sustainable and viable. A good friend of mine had once shared that analogy with me, and i gained a clearer perspective after an incident I was privy to. 

How the parts interrelate

I am not much of a football buff, I just have the basic understanding to know how the game is played. In a team, it comprises of the strikers, midfielders (attacking and defending) and defenders (including the goalkeeper). Now a team is a team when they are engaged in a tournament or game. Hence, a successful team needs a coach and his or her crew, officials that officiate the game and rules that govern the game to ensure fair play always.

The Strikers

These are the front runners of any football team. The make incursions into the enemy territory to create opportunities at scoring against the opposing team. In the business world, they are the ‘marketers’, ‘sales maven’ who close sales for the company/business and ensures that the team takes a win away from the market game. Is the striker alone in this foray?

The Midfielders

The midfielders are the nerve of the team. The supply the balls to the strikers after receiving from the defence. They collect the ball from the opposing team and redirect it to their team to advance towards the post of their opposition, and act as back up for the strikers to score, create assists, or even score themselves. In the business world, they are the business developers, those in operations…HR etc who actively seek fro channels and absorb the information from the market to create opportunities fro the team to play and win on the field. They are actively making incursions, defending and supplying information to all sides of the team, defenders and strikers, attackers to ensure everyone is on track and have their head in the game. They are pivotal to a team winning and a collapse of the midfield means the game is lost. But they are not alone in this game as well.

The Defenders

The defenders are the last line of defence on the active field of play. They defend their goal post and ensures no ball is scored in their post and no undue incursions made into the final yard of their field of play. They build up the attack from their end all the way to the striker who will score a goal against the opposing team. In the field of business, we have those in Operations, the accountants, the record keepers etc. They collate and keep the tally that ensures we are in the game and to win the tournament. Without the defenders, a game is lost and the team is toast in any tournament, likewise in the business world as well. If you do not have your documentations and records in place, then what are you in business for? You are simply mincemeat to attacks from the sharks that want you out of the game and out of business…or moreorless you roll yourself out of business into bankruptcy. 


These three sets of people make up for the key elements on the field of play both on the field in literal terms and also in the field of business. But they alone do not make for the excitement that comes with the game of football and likewise in the game of business. There is the coaching crew on the bench and there are still the officials and the rules governing the game.

The Coach

There are renowned coaches in the world of football known for their understanding of any game and application of winning strategy on the field of play and player management. A good coach spots talents, natures the talents and deploys the talent when necessary in the game. He reads the rhythm of a match, knows when to move from attacking to defending, when to make a substitute, when to change formation, when to buy a player for a key role and when to sell/let go of a player. Nobody reckons with a loser as coach…its the guy that wins and even when he loses, he loses gallantly and bounces back to win again! Likewise in business, the MD is the coach. He deploys his team to the field of play in business and provides them with the strategy to use to play and win on the field. He motivates his team, encourages, coax and positions them according to their strengths, capacities and competency in the field of play. The coach/MD reads the rhythm of the business terrain, and deploys meets with his team and deploys them. That is why we have different playing formations on the field of play in any given match with coaches changing the formation in a strategic move to win the game. Not only that, he understands locker room management, knowing how to manage his team, their emotions and what have you in the heat of the game to ensure maximum delivery of results even if the odds are against his or her team! Any MD or business owner that does not know how or when or who…should not be in the first place…he or she is just chasing shadows or playing to the gallery. Any coach that fails to manage his team properly, even though he or she could be the best coach in the world, would lose the team or lose key members of the team to an opposing team that understands the rudiments. And most times, the coach is shown the door.

The Officials

The officials in any football match are there to ensure that the game is played fairly and the rules of the game abided with. FIFA, Referees, and name it, they all ensure fair play, challenge any wrong play, award fines and basically ensures everyone understands their role in the game. In the game of business, the officials are the regulatory bodies, the Auditors, etc that ensures compliance on the part of all businesses and companies to the rules of the game of business. They are they ones that ensures compliance and implementation of the rules of the game and also provides regular update on the game and inform of changes as at when due. While most businesses are afraid of scared of the regulators especially tax (which I believe is a case of ignorance of tax), they are necessary for any business to succeed and prosper. Can you imagine a team having disagreements with officials of the game when they are trying to ensure the game is played according the rules of the game? They get penalised and lose out more often than not. Do we have cases of officials been compromised and not delivering on the field of play? Yes we do! But does that mean we should not heed their whistles when they blow it? You dare not, even if you are about to score and you are flagged for been offside, you must stop and not continue play that you are right? You will simply cost your team. In the field of business, it is likewise. You can’t do without them, and likewise they can’t do without you. Everyone works together to make the game interesting and fun! Is that all?

The Rules of the Game

Every football game is governed by rules and regulations both on the field and off the field. (Which is why we have coaches and teams indicted for inducement and match fixing). The rules ensures FairPlay, and guides the conduct of both officials, players, coaches and the team in general. Without rules, it would be a free for all. You can imagine a striker catching the ball with his hands in the field of play…or a rough tackle on the midfielder that is not called out…or a keeper scoring a own goal? Madness you agree?? Likewise in the game of business. We have CAMA, Financial Act, Corporate Governance Code, the constitution and what have you that organisations and businesses needs to abide by for them to be successful. They create a level playing field for everyone and enforces the rules of the game on all irrespective of status. This is defined in the decisions made by officials in the field of play and also why a player will raise his or her hand when a foul is perceived to have been committed on the field. Every element within the game of football understands the rules of the game and play in alignment with the rules and regulations. And when they run foul of it, they get penalised according to that rule. In the business world, the same applies. You can’t run your business or organisation independent of the rules that govern business operations and conduct. You can’t act sovereign when there is a code of corporate governance that determines the conduct and what is expected of individuals and business, the Financial Act, that determines when and how and what your tax should be and how FRCN that determines how you report and document your books and affairs. You can’t run from the rules governing the land/game…neither can you feign ignorance of it…it is not an excuse.

Nitty Gritty of It

The game of football is a game of different elements with each playing their roles and not envious of the other or feel threatened by it. When a defender is holding the ball, the midfielder or striker should not feel threatened nor intimidated, likewise when the striker is with the ball, the defender nor midfielder should not feel intimidate or threatened when they are on the same team ooo! (If it is the opposing team, then feel threatened enough to defend your turf without committing a foul! lol).

Every player on the field should feel comfortable, competent and confident in their respective individual roles and extend the same to other team players especially when they have the ball. No one can play against 11 all by himself…he’s just set himself up for failure. And players must learn to trust the judgement of team members and their coach in their respective role and work interdependently to achieve the goal which is to win. In business it is the same! There should be no superstar syndrome in business…everyone works towards the goal and everyone is celebrated when the win is achieved. Even though, some people will stand out, it does not diminish the contributions of other team members to the win. Messi and Ronaldo are not great players only by their prowess on the field, but rather by the contribution of other team members to ensure they win and operate as a team.

A business/team succeeding is dependent on having competent hands, who are confident in what they do and can stand in the face of scrutiny or adversity without losing their calm. This aptly captures my summation;

“…Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands; 

Men whom the lust of office does not kill; 

Men whom the spoils of office can not buy; 

Men who possess opinions and a will; 

Men who have honor; men who will not lie; 

Men who can stand before a demagogue 

And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking! 

Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog

In public duty, and in private thinking…”

Josiah Gilbert Holland

Selah.

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