You Are More Important Than Your Skills

In a historic year in the EPL, Tottenham were one of the success stories, breaking through to unexpectedly challenge for the title in the first time in a generation.

Interestingly, they didn’t do this on the back of big spending and big name players (neither did massive underdogs and eventual winners Leicester City). They did it on the back of building closely aligned, well disciplined, and hardworking teams.

Take this passage from one recent article (parentheses and emphasis mine):

Potential new recruits are assessed on how they’ll fit with (head coach) Pochettino’s style, but also their personalities, a harmonious dressing room almost regarded as important as a talented one. Anyone who doesn’t fit with that is quickly dismissed, as (elite players) Townsend, Lennon and Adebayor will tell you. “You need to add not only the football side but the human profile,” says Pochettino.
This is all part of the way Pochettino has brought the club together, developing a harmony that hasn’t been seen for some years. You could dismiss his frequent talk of a good relationship with (club chairman) Levy as a platitude, but the pair genuinely seem to get along.
Of course, hiring a team comprised of people who are all ‘the same’ is as destined to fail as fielding 11 goalkeepers. But harmony of purpose and values crosses diverse boundaries, and is much stronger than we give it credit for.

I heard a similar story recently from the head coach of an AFL team, who said early in his career he drafted ‘star’ players based on talent first and foremost, but would frequently run into issues with their motivation and attitudes. With the benefit of experience, he now focuses on player attitude and values even at the expense of elite skills. The approach seems to be working – there is now a palpable spirit of belief around the club that has led to significant success.

“Work with people you get on well with, and you’ll naturally get better results” – sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But how many of our business systems are built to encourage this?

I’d argue most are the opposite – built on paper, not people; qualifications, not relationships.

You can read the full article referenced here. It’s a good read even for non-sports fans.

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