What Euro 2012 Can Teach Startups about HR Management


Euro 2012 The great football manager Bill Shankly once said, “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” Now if you replace the word football with the word business in the quote, wouldn’t that be apt for a startup? More often than not, sports especially football have numerous instances that can be drawn parallel to HR management.

Keeping with the flavor of the month, we are listing out how the four semi-finalists of Euro 2012 can teach you a thing or two about managing your human capital:

Process-driven Culture (Germany)

Die Mannschaft has always fared well in major tournaments, reaching the finals on so many occasions. Engineering or football, Germany has always been known for their precision and planning. In the QF of Euro 2012 against a resilient Greek team, coach Joachim Löw took a bold step of replacing the entire forward line – with Reus, Klose, and Schürrle coming in for the tried and tested Müller, Gomez, and Podolski. And it worked wonderfully well. Why? Because even though the “personnel” were changed, each member played the same way and with same style.

The learning here is that an organization should be process-driven rather than people-driven. As an entrepreneur or an HR manager, the focus should always be on instilling a process-driven culture. You might have the rockstars of your company who are driving it ahead, but as life is, things can be unpredictable. If there are proper procedures in place, a new hire or an internal company transfer can easily fill in the gap left by the loss of an important driving force.

Leadership in Times of Crisis (Portugal)

The Portuguese football team has always been left wanting at major tournaments, especially when they start on a bad note. The same thing happened at Euro 2012, when the Portuguese lost to the Germans. Needing to win the final game in the group stage, their talisman and captain Cristiano Ronaldo rose to the occasion scoring two goals. He followed this up by scoring the solitary goal in the quarterfinals. Though a world-class player, many critics as well as the media have accused him of not performing at the bigger stage. Even at Euro 2012, he missed quite a few “sitters” in the first two matches, but eventually put everything behind when it mattered the most.

The thing here to learn is leadership in times of crisis. As a founder of a startup, there will be numerous occasions where you will encounter failures and the pressure will be more the next time you are in a similar occasion. However, as a leader it is necessary to keep calm and ignore criticism (especially the media) and rise up to the occasion. Employees always look up to a leader who can guide them in challenging situations.

Unity amongst Teams (Spain)

Spain is the team to beat these days, so much so that in many circles they are being labeled as the new Brazil. Though they came to the current edition of the Euros as favorites, there were reports of rifts in the team. Nearly half of the squad consists of players from either Real Madrid or FC Barcelona. Given their fierce history, especially in the last two years, many pundits pointed this out as a potential weakness. However, La Furia Roja has had nothing of it at Euro 2012 and have been playing as a team. The partnership between Pique and Ramos at the back, or the Alonso’s and Xavi’s chemistry in the midfield has been mesmerizing.

What an entrepreneur or an HR manager at a startup can learn from this is the importance of unity amongst the different departments or teams. As a company grows, and newer and newer challenges crop up with different people doing different things and still having to co-ordinate, it often leads to uneasy situations. However, if all the members of different teams share a bond or a vision, it not only increases productivity but also makes things easy when facing tough challenges.

Resilience (Italy)

After Brazil, Italy is one of the most successful nations in world football, and has won four World Cups. Coming to Euro 2012, they faced a situation similar to the one before they won the 2006 World Cup: match fixing. In fact, the Italian PM wanted to suspend football in Italy for 2-3 years! But the Azzurri put all this behind and have put up a stellar show so far. In fact, in the QF of Euro 2012, they out-classed the resurgent English team, with their star playmaker Pirlo even scoring a vital penalty in an audacious manner.

The knowledge to soak here is that whatever the situation, it is necessary to be resilient. As a startup, there are many challenges that you’ll face when managing your human capital but if you are robust in your approach, you will be able to gracefully tackle any challenge that comes your way.

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