The Drama of the Penalty Kicks

I am hooked on World Cup soccer. 

Utterly totally hooked. 

The insane energy in a soccer stadium. The ferocious spirit of the fans. The rapid pace of the game. The pyrotechnics of the well-executed goal. Close-ups of the coaches emoting on the sidelines. Outbursts of extravagant joy seconds after a goal. Post-game reflections from soccer super-stars on ESPN. 

The ultimate thrill is the drama of the penalty kicks. 

If you don’t know soccer: When a play-off round game is tied at the end of overtime, a winner is picked via a penalty-kick shoot-out. 1 player. 1 goalie. A 1-on-1 shoot-out until one of the goalies stops the onslaught of kicks. 

In that moment, you play for yourself. You play for your team that is standing behind you on the court. Play for your fans in the stadium. Play for a nation that is watching. 

It doesn’t get much better than this. 

Sports analogies are an overused leadership cliché. But boy, as I keep watching the games, everything makes me think of how we play in the business world. 

A team that really is a team and doesn’t just fake teamwork. A team that integrates true superstars. A team that executes strategy in the face of relentless opposition. A team that plays with a resounding purpose. A team that celebrates itself. 

I have no tidy soccer lessons for you this week. 

Just an invitation. 

This is the final week of World Cup soccer. The field has narrowed to 4 of the world’s great soccer nations. Brazil. Germany. Argentina. Netherlands. 

Even if you’re not a soccer fan, tune in and watch. 

Watch with two lenses. 

The sports fan who revels in the thrill of competition and the spectacle of public performance. 

The professional who belongs to many business teams and knows all of the ways in which those teams tend to fall short. 

And contemplate these two questions: 

What insights do these games offer me and all of the teams I play on, back in the office? 

Which aspects of superior performance may I be able to emulate, back at my desk? 

Contemplate. And enjoy the games.