Orange leadership lessons

VdVaart I had planned to post a blog on ‘Orange Leadership Lessons’ last week, when things were still very different from today. This is what I would have come up with:

The Dutch stun the world… with a sudden, unexpected performance at the Euro 2008 soccer championship. What is their secret? Is there anything to learn from this experience?

Most answers I heard to this question had something to do with the team-element. And I agree – I think the fact that the Dutch were actually acting as a team was very crucial. It was almost the same group of players as in the months before, and those that were expelled from the team were so precisely because of their (alleged) non-contribution to the team.

So, let’s see what a succesful team is. Within Agapè, we use Pat McMillan’s ‘The Performance Factor’ to improve ourselves. McMillan comes up with a model that consists of 6 key factors that determine team succes:

  1. Common Purpose
  2. Crystal Clear Roles
  3. Accepted Leadership
  4. Effective Processes
  5. Solid Relationships
  6. Excellent Communication

Orange seems to score quite well on each of these characteristics:

  • Their was no doubt whatsoever about the purpose of their team: winning the Cup! This is what they had been working for for many years. Marco van Basten even sacrificed a World Championship two years ago to prepare the team for this event.
  • Although he tried in the beginning, Van Basten did not force his players on positions that did not fit their competences ánd their preferences. In other words: players played at their natural positions. I think this created much clarity about the roles and contributions of each of the team members – they could explain their own role very well, and they recognised those of others.
  • Marco van Basten has been heavily critized before the Championship by the media and so-called experts. Most players however, and surely those that are on the team today, seem to really run for him (literally). They accept and value his leadership probably because of his track record as a player, but also because of his cooperative style and his positive focus on enjoying the game and seeing the privilege to be in this tournament in the first place.
  • Apart from the crystal clear roles, there were very effective processes. It is one thing to have a clear role as defender or striker, it is something else to get the ball from one side to the other. The last few matches showed that the team mastered the processes of attacking, defending, and countering equally well. Combining these techniques, they showed to be extremely effective.
  • As much as the players need to accept the coach’s leadership, they must trust and accept each other. They don’t need to be best friends, but they need to understand and value the contributions of others and be willing to contribute their part to the common goal.
  • In the first match, Van Basten made two changes during the game that turned to be very effective. He gave them instructions with regard to the strategy and tactics that were carried out very well.

So far so good – my assessment was going really well. Nine points out of nine, nine goals scored. Who dares to disagree…

But then.

Last Saturday.

What went wrong? Is there anything I missed in the analysis? The answer is still to be found. However, in an obscure radio show last week, maybe the answer was given, even before the events took place. Some scientist had analysed many tournaments to find correlations between results in the pool and in the finals. He stated that for winning the pool, a real team effort is the single most important thing. But in the second round (quarter finals and beyond), the availability of highly skilled, individual players was the determining factor for winning.Interesting, he? It would account for the fact that apart from Spain, only second-best teams in their pools are now in the semi-finals.

I’m not sure whether all is said with that, but there might be a clue. Fact is that this team has played extremely well and has entertained millions. Fact is also that they are kicked out by another Dutch guy – Hiddink, who is a genius on the team chemistry. Let’s see what happens – who knows there are some Russian Leadership Lessons to be learned after next Sunday!

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