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Argentina won the World Cup as a High Potential Team

March 14, 2023
Tomasz Zawadzki
The Argentinian national football team became world champions. Due to the money involved, and above all, the number of people who train this sport professionally, it is the most competitive contest in the world. The level of difficulty is increased by the fact that a High Potential Team must be organized for a month, consisting of a fairly large number of people - 26 players plus staff. In addition, to be a coach of the national football team, it is good to be able to work in agile sprints - teams are created as projects, and planned to achieve goals: eliminations, championships, and friendly competitions.

Which team was your favourite during the last World Cup and why? Let me tell you that four teams qualified for the semi-finals.  Their managers (coaches) seemed to remain at the back of the teams they lead.  They didn’t consider that they have a great contribution to the victory and put knowledge above the competition, the team above the individual.

Let’s begin with some quotes from Didier Deschamps - the French coach – that explain masterful leadership:

 "I don't consider myself the most important member of the team"

 "One of the main tasks of a manager is psychology"

 "You always learn, especially from failure."

I know, I know, we are all modest, and we declare that the team is valuable above all else.  Of course, we like to learn and we like the text promoted by my fellow coaches and business trainers that failure is nothing but feedback! All of this needs to be operationally transferred to the team.

Recently, Forbes Magazine published an article based on Ernst & Young's Global CEO Outlook Survey, which found that:

86% of Polish CEOs believe that strategic decisions in the company should be made top-down (46% of CEOs from other countries have a similar opinion).

74% of Polish CEOs are more willing to reward individuals for their contribution to strategy implementation than teams for collective work and effort (50% of CEOs worldwide).

In the same article, there is an answer to the question of what, according to Polish and foreign bosses, determines success after the pandemic, and what characteristics are key. Vision and determination account for the most, 24% in Poland (25% - worldwide).  Humility is 10% (11%). Openness and transparency are 8% (16%).Humility, openness, and transparency are still not at the highest price ;).

Now to the next story about the Argentinian coach and the High Potential Team, which in my opinion is somewhat at odds with the CEOs' choices in the study.

The fact is that the national team of Argentina four years ago was eliminated by France in the 1/8 finals of the World Cup. Before this match, the team itself fired the coach Jorge Sampaoli, whose way of running the team was extremely self-centered - at MindSonar® we call this set of values: POWER. They just cut him from the team during the tournament. The coach did not suit the LEARNING values, of players seeking joy and a sense of playing, he did not give them added value, and he disturbed them. A leader's strong internal locus of control kills the team's engagement and eventually kills the leader himself.

We are told how significant a strong locus of control is. Sure, that's an important thing when it comes to achievements. We measure this in MindSonar®. Unfortunately, it often turns into a negative internal locus of control for the manager: “Everything depends on me, I control everything! And I will tell them!” = micromanagement.

Lionel Scaloni was then appointed interim coach of the Argentinian national team. And you know what happened next? Their development towards the High Potential Team began. Quote from Goles en Directo:

"Scaloni is the most beautiful case in the history of Argentinian football. All because of the humility of Scaloni, who got rid of his ego and played what his players wanted. He wanted to play vertically, and they wanted to play closer to each other, to enjoy the game. Modesty. From a guy who rose to prominence as a one-off, interim coach who was treated like a meme. Today, he is the youngest coach to win the World Cup."

In an interview with Spanish Sport, Lionel Scaloni, the current Argentinian coach, spoke of his conversation with L. Messi in 2021 - because he felt strong anxiety after the draw with Brazil, he shared it with L. Messi. "Messi told me, 'It doesn't matter… we're moving on… I'm sure it will be fine, and if not, it's okay to try.'  It took the pressure off me…” (quoting Football-Espagna.Net). A manager who learns from a player's attitude. A manager who lets go of the pressure! A manager who has concluded that the locus of control is not entirely within himself, that it is better to give leadership to someone with knowledge (value system: LEARNING + balanced cognitive patterns of locus of control and internal reference).

I hear our Polish managers passionate about football or I read sports journalists shouting: “We need a coach who will rule the locker room! Who's going to hold the locker room by the face!" or "Only Herve Renard (Saudi Arabia coach) - he's the best coach - did you see how he motivated the players in the changing room? You heard him say: 'Messi has the ball in the middle of the pitch and you guys are not doing anything - why don't you take your phone and take a picture with him on Facebook?!' I see a value system here: POWER + extremely high: internal locus of control and internal reference.

I hear our managers and sports journalists like it, but it's counterproductive. I would venture to say that the High Potential Team, the team of Argentina, would have fired Renard if he motivated them like that as they fired Sampaoli four years ago!

And as far as I know, the Saudi Arabian team did not go very far in the recent World Cup, but journalists do not mention this.

It seems to me that today's manager, who has a chance to create a High Performing Team, is closer to Yoda than to Han Solo or any other Avengers.

From my managerial colleagues, I hear frequently uttered incantations: “This generation of young people (Y, Z) is hopeless, they do not engage in work! They don't care about anything!"

Well, in response, I will again quote France's coach Didier Deschamp: "Managing players is harder these days because of the arrival of new technology. They are all using it in their spare time so they become more isolated and selfish. They share less, they talk less. They have apps, their phones, and the Internet but they are less used to talking to people.” Didier Deschamps knows that the players are guided by different values than those that were close to him at their age, therefore it is a challenge for him, and ... he adapts.

Think about your role in the team, about the team itself, while remaining its leader.

Maximize your performance with our mindset analysis - MindSonar®

The photo for this post from the dressing room of the Argentina national team was probably taken in 2016, unfortunately, I do not know the author.

About the author 

Tomasz Zawadzki

Tomasz is Head of Poland for MindSonar.
He is highly experienced in the application of MindSonar to coaching, team building and leadership. He has taught many MindSonar Certification Trainings in Poland.
He is also a driving force in MindSonar's technical development, mediating between the wishes of the MindSonar Professionals and the technical partner(s) coding the application.

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