From football goals to career goals: lessons from the World Cup

World Cup grass

When we developed Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders, one of our key premises was that people learn best when they have fun. So we invented the game starring Carmen Spinoza and all her colleagues as archetypes of senior business leaders. It’s been two years and have now run simulations helping professionals explore key issues in journey as strategic advisers.

But what if you took things from the other perspective and started with a game and then translated it back into business?

We give you the World Cup Strategic Adviser archetypes, part 1. Part 1 because this is written half-way through the World Cup. Part 2 will come near the end when we know which country makes it to the top of the football ladder, avoiding the snakes along the way.

The teams in the World Cup all embody a different corporate archetype. The question is: which team are you most like in your career?

Germany. You have already ‘won’ the World Cup Strategic Adviser game. In fact you are at the top of your career and are the incumbent. Maybe you have stopped being hungry. Maybe a long track record of success makes you feel that victory is routine. But it turns out that others are hungrier for your position and the ‘corporate snakes’ are after you. Your complacency is your downfall. Others want your job more and if you snooze you lose.

Mexico. You are a solid all-round corporate player who – when you are at your best – can best any champion (Germany). You have been routinely underestimated, so when you prepare and shine, you amaze the audience. You have flair, you have talent, you have loads of supporters. And then, you stumble. When you lose your focus, you can make basic mistakes and fall apart more quickly than a hastily constructed IKEA bookshelf (Sweden). Sometimes you are lucky, and you find unlikely allies (Korea).

Iceland. Maybe you suddenly find yourself at the top table on the back of some unlikely successes in previous jobs (tournaments). You are popular and endearing. People like you. On occasion you can hold your own (Argentina). But let’s be honest: the step up to the C-suite is more of a challenge that you realised.  Your big success in your previous job (England, European Championship) got you this one but unfortunately you are a small fish in a big pond and it shows. Turns out the Peter Principle applies to football as well.

England. Cruise to victory when the challenge is easy. You can score a big win in a simple situation (Panama) and then your fans get carried away thinking you are going to win it all. When faced with a tough test (Belgium) you make the strategic choice to sacrifice a short-term gain in order to improve your chances later by resting your best players. This is the business equivalent of keeping your best skills for the key opportunities. Of course only time will tell if this is successful or not so watch out for part 2 of the blog.

Japan. Perhaps unexpectedly you find yourself in a leadership role – a candidate for the next promotion. Some luck has helped you on your way (Colombia). You know what you need to do in your career: you have calculated your chances of progression and plot a course which will get you what you need, even if it isn’t popular (Poland). You play by the letter of the law, rather than its spirit. Will this help in the long term? Again stay tuned for part 2.

Russia. You have an opportunity. A time to shine. A chance to show the world what you can do. And, boy, do you take it. You raise your game to the right level just when you need to; and prove everybody wrong. Sure, a bit of luck came your way (Saudi Arabia, Egypt) but you had the pride and motivation to take advantage of the opportunity. Sterner tests will come (Spain) but so far you can say ‘job well done’. Give yourself a pat on the back and know that you have already done more than what people expected of you.

That concludes part 1 of our World Cup Strategic Adviser Review. Stay tuned for part 2 at the end of the tournament. We’ll probably review some different teams, or maybe our assessment will change as they move up the career ladder (win a game) or get fired (knocked-out).

In the meantime, we welcome debate and comment: which team do you think you are most like? @CarmenSpinoza11 is going to be watching the knockout phase so look out for her commentary.


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