Watching the World Cup unfold before our eyes in the last month has been exciting. As a customer strategy professional, I could not help but be jealous of the emotional loyalty fans demonstrated toward their favorite teams. If companies were able to generate such loyalty from their customers, their growth and profitability problems would evaporate overnight.
There are several lessons we can learn from the games and especially the Final between Germany and Argentina. This nerve-racking match brought the best teams in the world into the ultimate battle for the title of world champion. The tears in the eyes of Messi and his Argentinean team made it very clear that no. 2 was not an option. Rather it was an excuse for not becoming champions.
Here are some things to consider when your goal is to be no. 1:
Lesson 1 – You’re only as good as your next win
Both teams played their best games prior to reaching the Final but the amazing results they achieved in the previous matches were merely stepping-stones. As soon as the games were over, those accomplishments were taken for granted by the fans, who quickly shifted their attention to anticipating the next game. Where would the next win come from?
You’re only as good as your next act of customer delight. The past brought you here but will not take you any further. “What’s next?” is the ultimate question we all must ask ourselves – every day, in each and every customer interaction.
Lesson 2 – Team over starters, every time
The German team is known for its “well-oiled machine” that plays an integrated game with no starter more important than the other players. The team scored the most goals overall during the World Cup (7-1 against Brazil, still unimaginable) and ultimately won the title of champions. Argentina with its amazing star could not beat the great German team.
It’s time to break down the silos and lessen the dependency on the single heroes. You either have one hero-like team or nothing. Break the silos and develop a superior line-up. The days of the individual rainmaker are gone.
Lesson 3 – Every player matters
While Germany had veteran stars, it was Mario Gotze, a 22-year-old who subbed into the game, that scored the redeeming, title-winning shot. He did what many of his older, more experience teammates failed to do.
Talent is everywhere in your organization. Nurture it. Engage every employee and empower each one to score the winning goal.
Lesson 4 – You’re playing against the clock
No one has the patience to wait anymore. Time is now a product feature. You need to perform at your best in a limited timeframe. Who knows, Argentina may have scored had there been more time on the clock. But there wasn’t.
The same concept applies to your customers. Your timeframe to score is ever shrinking. Time is not working for you. Act fast.
Lesson 5 – Efforts don’t matter, results do
Argentina played well. They did try. But “trying” is simply an excuse for not scoring. No one rewards excuses. Get results or get eliminated. Such is the way of all World Cup games.
The same is true in business, efforts and meetings and PowerPoint decks will never substitute an amazing moment of customer delight. Either you drive results or your efforts do not matter.
Lesson 6 – Focus everyone on the measure that matters
In soccer, you measure various actions such as assists and fouls but only goals matter. Every player knows it and no one is excused from this single focus.
In organizations, the KPI’s are so complex that people forget the real measure that matters. It’s time to unify everyone around a single, clear measure and align everyone to achieve the ultimate goal within their specific role and position. Just as in soccer, a unified corporate team, clearly focused on a single goal, will get results.
These lessons, always true, are amplified during the World Cup Final where the stakes are high and every action matters. Thinking about it in the context of working with customers, the stakes have always been high and every action has always mattered. Competing for customers’ hearts every day is our World Cup. The lessons above should be a clear roadmap to our championship, one game at a time.
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