Yesterday, the U.S. Women’s National Team won the World Cup, defeating the Netherlands 2-0. It was the culmination of an epic series of games, some hard fought, some a bit easier. The bigger picture is that this team has now dominated the women’s World Cup, winning an unheard of 4 times. What can organizations learn from such a successful run?
1. Lift others up. In preparing to perform, the USWNT watched other matches and interacted with young fans. While they prepared both mentally and physically to play, they also took breaks to meet local youth soccer (football) fans and sign autographs. Players were complimentary of their competition, as Horan explained, “just trying to enjoy the moment with my teammates… watching the best players in the world.” They were fortunate to have role models in previous teams who also performed under such pressure with dignity and respect.
2. Inclusive support wins. We are each unique and talented individuals but it takes a phenomenal team to win the World Cup. By definition, a team is more than a sum of its parts, and it is the support of the team—from the coaches to every player—that enabled individual players to shine and to be themselves. This team championed gender and LGBTQ equity on the world stage, and other players have taken note. For example, their counterparts on the French team do not feel that level of support and admire the freedom of U.S. team members to express their identity. Inclusion provides the foundation for individuals to share their whole selves at work.
3. Fun celebrations matter. In many organizations, we don’t recognize progress on the way to our end results. The clear objective for the U.S. Women’s team was to win the World Cup. Yet celebrating each goal in every game was important. Fun at work is primarily about coworker relationships, enjoying the work while doing it. This team found very fun ways to celebrate goals during the game. After scoring, the individual would do something unique—strike a pose if you’re Megan Rapinoe, sip an imaginary tea cup if you’re Alex Morgan, just scream if you are Rose Lavelle—then the whole team would gather around that person and celebrate together. The team recognized their success in the moment, and then refocused on the task at hand.
All teams and organizations rely on relationships to succeed. Let’s hope the USWNT continues to provide such positive relational examples through their extraordinary success.