The Saudi Football Team World Cup Experience

On November 22, 2022, the Saudi Arabian football team, also known as the Green Falcons put an end to Argentina’s unbeaten 36 runs during the world cup.

After the Argentinian team had scored a penalty goal, the Green Falcons took action together to prove themselves. How did they take action? Many claimed that the Green Falcons looked like a different team in the second half. The change in performance was clearly visible at the beginning of the second half of the game, it is believed -from many uncited sources- that their coach, Herve Renard had a talk with his players during the break. Was it a serious talk? A motivational speech? An encouraging discussion? It turned out that Mr. Renard talked to the team with an attitude of “No pressure. Just enjoy the game and do your best”, this was echoed by the words of His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. As the second half started, the Green Falcons dominated the game in such an energetic unseen behavior.

What an amazing lesson to be learned from this experience, one of linking high performing teams with a sense of psychological safety; a key component to sustained performance.

Team performance, team work, collaborating, and leadership are all common words we have been exposed to lately with the shift happening between individual performance and group performance. Through this development, one will think of going for the team work in order to achieve the high performance we all look up to.  When asked what is a high performing team, one might think that it is where the members of this team have a leader who stands by them and guides them in order to perform their tasks in an efficient and effective way. Then, this allows the transformation of individual high performance into a team performance. After having this idea, one will also claim that their team is a high performing team, with a great leader and high performing members who achieve great results.

However, this is not what a high performing team actually is. Although it is satisfying to claim to have a high-performing team, creating one does not seem to be an easy task. The misconception of emphasizing individual performance and flaws, to reach a collective and common performance is likely to happen. 

It has consistently been observed that teams outperform individuals, and even indicate that switching to a team-based organizational model greatly improves performance, when teams are created effectively of course. But not all groups will function as teams, and not all teams will be high performing. Business settings frequently avoid focusing on the degree of collaboration between the leader and the team members and instead emphasize the flaws of an individual or a high-performing team member. As this happens, one might think that it is the suitable way to tackle flaws and adjust them, but however it will only result to a low-performing team that will not function properly. Such behaviors in the workplace will create a significant sense of frustration, which come from a common consequence of lack of self-awareness and poor leadership. Such teams do not even meet the basic principles of a team, which include having a clear mission and objectives.

High performing teams are efficient, reliable, solid, and dynamic, with lower turnovers and higher reported satisfaction among peers. Simply put, they perform better and offer a competitive advantage that any manager would want to have, but what does it take to have high performance within one’s team?

The action centered leadership model (ACL), published by John Adair in 1973 is based on the three circles model:

  • Developing the task.
  • Developing the team.
  • Developing the individual.

This concept is simple, elegant and straight to the point. The secret ingredient for the success of this recipe can be clearly achieved with a combined effort, where:

  • A leader recognizing himself as a teammate within the team he/she manages as well as part of a team with leaders from his/her own rank.
  • Teammates recognizing themselves and each other as leaders through the responsibility and accountability they carry while performing their work.
  • Individuals recognizing their own needs just as much as their peer’s regardless of their rank within the group.
  • Every individual within the team focusing to achieve the task at hand, through a shared vision and within an integrated culture exclusive to this very team.

At a first glance, this description might seem like a dilution of roles but we oftentimes confuse leadership, hierarchy and the chain of command. A symbiotic relationship does promote the idea of treating all team members as leaders while preserving the clear structure of the latter two.

Although the ACL model dates back to 1973, its use is essential now more than ever as it highlights the importance of the individual within a team.

 In a society nowadays increasingly inclusive and individualistic, one’s challenge is to establish the right balance between flexibility and discipline, individualistic needs and the compromises needed for the sake of the group.

In addition to having the right knowledge and skills to perform a task optimally (what to do), leaders creating high performing teams also invest in developing the right behaviors within a team (how to be).

The doorway towards building high performing teams if often overlooked even though it represents basic concepts done right.

ighcc believes that in order to reach that doorway, a path should be built to develop the qualities of a high performing team. These teams cannot be made competent and effective without appropriate planning and essential resources, which ighcc offers. Additionally, no team is the same as the other, regardless of the fact that the issue they are facing might be the same, which makes it essential to evaluate the team and help them create clear objectives. ighcc offers a combination of learning solutions, consultancy, assessments, coaching, and development tools to help our customers prepare for the challenges and opportunities that await them.  

Here are some questions one can ask to evaluate the effort found among one’s team:  

  • Do all team members understand their respective scopes of work as well as the big picture and final goal at hand?
  • How easily does the information flow among peers?
  • How much trust and transparency is there among team members?
  • Is equal opportunity of expressing ideas present within the dynamic of the team?
  • Do the individuals hold themselves accountable for their actions?
  • How easily does feedback flow within the group?
  • How easily can peers initiate hard conversations with each other when needed?
  • What are the ground rules set during a meeting or working in the field?
  • Does every individual feel safe to freely express their needs?
  • Does every individual feel valuable within the team?
  • Is there a perception of fairness among all peers?
  • Is there individual growth within the team?

High performing teams are no coincidence, but the result of arduous dedication and investment in each individual present within it.

Each team is unique in its dynamics and challenges, it takes a life of its own and will always be in a state of change as people evolve and are sometimes replaced, it is therefore essential to constantly monitor and evaluate the individual and overall performance.

High standards require a vigilant eye, consistent maintenance, investment and supervision, as well as a dynamic mindset and a flexible approach when needed.

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