Paul Butler: Champions!

Paul Butler

I was glued to my TV last Sunday morning to watch the USA women’s soccer team play in the World Cup final against the Netherlands. What I love about the soccer World Cup is that in contrast to the baseball World Series, the competition actually comprises teams from other countries! I hope that comment won’t count against our citizenship application later this year.

As I hope my readers know, the USA did indeed win the soccer World Cup final by beating the Netherlands, 2-0. There is, of course, no perfect team, and, yet, I have been very impressed in watching how this team played, on and off the field.

Here are three aspects I observed in their performance, which I believe are beneficial to all work teams:

  1. Great teams have great leaders:
    Jill Ellis, the coach, did not play organized soccer until her family moved to the United States in 1981 from the U.K. when she was 15 years old. There was no organized football for girls in the U.K. in the 1970s as it was considered “unladylike.” Her resume, as both a player and subsequently as a coach, is remarkable — she knows what she’s talking about because she loves the game and she’s played it for so long.

    My observation in the regular working world has been that great leaders must always understand the work of those they lead. Some of the best leaders I’d ever worked for often started at the bottom of the organizational ladder, and by doing so, they knew what they were talking about when they called out correction and gave out praise.
  2. Great teams celebrate success:
    If you watched the game last Sunday, did you notice every member of the squad, including the substitutes, switched out their soccer jersey for the award ceremony? Did you notice what was written on the back of the jersey? Yes, just one word — “champions.” They’d given up their own individual identity (as their original shirts show their last name) for a new team identity — “champions!”

    My observation in the regular working world has been great teams celebrate success — why? Well, it seems to be what we focus on gets fulfilled. What we applaud seems to get accentuated. Great work teams focus on success while still recognizing and correcting along the way. Talented individuals are attracted toward winning teams led by great leaders.
  3. Great teams are confident:
    Along their World Cup campaign, the USA women’s soccer team was accused of being arrogant, and it was nice to hear one of the commentators correct that negativity. Essentially, the commentator said that confidence is not arrogance, and I agree with her. The USA team has worked incredibly hard, on and off the field, to play well and to represent their country well.

    They were confident in their ability because they’d worked so hard for it — what was hard had become easier for them. It is also very evident, from the snippets of the individual interviews I watched, the USA women’s soccer team really like each other as people. They respect each other.

    My observation in the regular working world is teams who work hard every single day get better and better at what they do. What appears hard to many becomes much easier. Over time, a team develops a cadence that’s unstoppable because they’re incredibly competent at what they do.

    My observation has also been when individuals on the team really like each other, there’s invisible glue that bonds the team together into an even more efficient work unit. I’d suggest the brand name of this glue is spelt: R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Just like another great American woman once sang.

    Time, of course, marches on, and this team will surely not be together in their present form for much longer. Isn’t it just like this in the regular working world? People come and go — teams change and leaders move on. My observation, however, has been that great individuals — those who exhibit high character and high competence — are always in high demand.

    Just as each of these incredible individuals will go on to other noteworthy endeavors; I am never concerned about high-performing team players in today’s workplace. There may be organizational changes, downsizing, rightsizing and layoffs, but I’ve noticed great players always seem to land on their feet.

    Go USA!

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].

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