Every team needs a Xavi and an Iniesta as well as a Messi

A couple of weeks ago I had two brushes with celebrity.  The first was a visit to a regular haunt in Marlow called the Hare and Hounds.  This rather lovely pub/restaurant has now been taken over by the winners of the BBC2 reality show starring Raymond Blanc “The Restaurant”.  Michelle and Russell from Essex have re-branded as “The Cheerful Soul”.  The place was packed, presumably as a result of the fame from being on the telly. However that night wasn’t a great experience for me.  My food was late and tasted overcooked, the wine I was served tasted like vinegar.  For the prices of fine dining, the quality of my meal seemed actually closer to the Happy Eater, an impression only reinforced when the ketchup requested by the kids arrived in a sticky tomato shaped dispenser.

The second celebrity encounter was a bit more exciting.  Only the next day I found  myself swimming with eight of Barcelona FC at a local hotel pool.  They were there training between two friendlies at Wembley in late July, and we shared the pool and Jacuzzi – although they kept the ice baths (located in green wheelie bins) to themselves.  Impressed to have been swimming with the best footballers in the world (Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta) I have been interested to explore what it is about their strategy as a team that makes them so good.

Obviously it helps to have the some of the greatest football players in the world in your team, but arguably they had more great players last year and didn’t do as well. 0f course as these things go the players that get the most attention are their goal scorers.  But the players who make the team so good as a team, who make it all come together are the mid-fielders Xavi and Iniesta.  They are always available to receive a pass, and they immediately pass the ball on.  A Barcelona player therefore always has someone to pass the ball to, they focus on staying in possession and they never have to boot the ball up the field in the hope that someone will be there to grab it.  The “receive, pass, offer” system works strongly to ensure that they don’t lose possession and it works because, just as in the workplace, not everyone has to be or should be a goal scorer.

There is always the danger in the workplace that the key deal makers, or the pitch winners, or the high profile strategists will look like the only reason for success or failure.  But a team that plays as a team, where there is always someone available to take the ball or to receive a pass, will beat a team relying on a couple of star performers, no matter how brilliant.

Creating a culture where everyone is playing for the team and is ready to help their colleagues is even more essential in the dog eat dog environment of this recession.

As seen at Mediaweek.co.uk

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