You can understand a lot about individuals when you play football with them. In fact, the way individuals behave on the field could help explain why they behave in certain ways with colleagues in the office, and what to expect from them in specific situations.
Before getting started, I must point out that I am no expert in football despite any football-related terminology used henceforth. Six months ago, we started playing football for two hours every Sunday. When we first started playing, we had to limit each half of the match to no more than 30 minutes due to fitness and other time commitment issues.
Afterwards, however, we managed to play whole 90-minute matches, physically and, somewhat, ethically. Here are a few personal observations.
1. Some individuals will always be late. It may be the non-seriousness of a football game with friends and colleagues. Yet, it could also be a behavioural trait that have become part of them. Even a penalty of 10 push-ups, for late individuals to the game, did not deter those who are always late from being late.
Most of the individuals who are late to the weekly football games are the same ones struggling with time management at work. They miss deadlines and they tend to show up late as well.
In an organisation, such individuals are potentially ones that need to be given their own space and time to work on projects. Thus, they can focus on what they can do best without the limitations of tight deadlines and the wastefulness of meetings.
This will also allow them adequate thinking time, which is key for them to provide the organisation with meaningful content and brings out their originality and inventiveness.
2. The do-it alone will always try to do it alone. For a sport which is based on group collaboration and cooperation, this, normally, should not work out. I have seen it on the field, though, in almost every single game.
There is always someone trying to run their lungs out from one goal to the other before missing the shot due to sheer exhaustion. The same individuals too do not see the point of collaborating with their colleagues and team members.
There is nothing wrong with that as long as you are positioned within your organisation in accordance with your self-exclusion and social distancing trait. If not, however, you may end up with burnt out employees, both physically and emotionally.
In football, the do-it alone could be your striker if you are depending on a single one. Likewise, in an organisation, similar individuals must be placed where they can provide the greatest value without having to go through bureaucracy to pitch their ideas.
Those individuals are not your first line of defence, but the ones to score you points in the long term, as long as they are allowed to specialise and to grow horizontally in an organisation.
3. The best players are the fittest, who are not necessarily the ones capable of jumping through loops to score. Literally.
Fit players rhythm their running and playing effort with the match’s intensity and with what needs to be done. If the team is lagging in score; they will pick up the rhythm, in a sustainable manner, either to balance the score or to change it into the team’s favour.
This is by no means a statement against highly skilled players, as you need a mix of the fit and the skilled to be competitive.
Being the fittest in organisations can be seen in the patience and perseverance shown by team members and their commitment towards fulfilling the organisation’s goals ... along with their career goals. In spite of challenges, those team members are more than capable of levelling out disadvantages and turning them into opportunities to score points.
And just like a 90-minute football game, organisational goals must be realised within certain time frames, depending on their nature. If need be, the organisation’s fittest will pull through extra-time.
4. Confident individuals do not shy away from lending a hand to an opponent. In one of the games, a team player kicked the ball out of the field. Then, and despite being closer to the ball than the opposing team’s player who was going to play the out, he simply ran past him without passing him the ball.
In an organisation, those players are probably not the first ones to volunteer to help, whether at an organisational level or at a department level. Lack of empathy is probably one of the worst traits that you may have to deal with in the workplace. One way to deal with that is to create teams and working groups across teams and functions to curb unhealthy competition and to encourage collaboration.
This may not completely alter an individual’s trait, yet, it could help minimise and neutralise its negative effects in the workplace. Also, emphasis on empathy in the workplace could encourage less empathetic team members to alter their behaviour and to adopt a more constructive conduct.
Individual growth does not need to come at the expense of others.
In a nutshell, an individual’s behaviour is almost never limited to one place and not the another. Therefore, behavioural traits, observed in group activities and sports, can provide insights into better management of teams.
Drawing on lessons from places other than the workplace can result in acknowledging the different personal traits within a team, especially ones that extend into the workplace. This will better equip and enable managers to deal with challenges and to achieve common goals and objectives.
The last though that I want to leave you with: What other observations can be made from group activities?
— Abdulnasser Alshaali is a UAE-based economist.