World Cup is giving us a lesson in business

If your business relies on one person in a key role, that no-one else can replicate, you'll have big problems if that person doesn’t perform. It's akin to Argentina's Lionel Messi (pictured during the Croatia defeat)

THEY say sport can teach you lessons about life and business. At age 27 I gave up my battle with fitness, along with any lingering ambitions of being spotted by an EPL talent scout (he'd need to have been scouting student bars in the early 90s) and decided to find somewhere my statuesque figure would be regarded as a benefit, not a hindrance. So I joined Queens Grads FC and immediately (and for the next five years) was their official youth policy.

Sharing changing rooms smelling of wintergreen and Grecian 2000 with men who never seemed to age I learned plenty. The main lesson, apart from an aesthetic appreciation of the delightful cultural murals each pitch seemed to be ringed by, was a firm grounding in stoic philosophy.

To put it more bluntly I leaned: ‘Never show you care'. No matter how badly you played, how much you got slagged, if you were sat on the subs bench or were dropped to the team below, you never showed that the negatives affected you.

And if you ever have had to lead a team at work through some bad times, the ability to exuding a calm, unruffled demeanour and not spread panic is a useful tool to have in your locker. So thanks lads: the Friday night ‘motivational' talks in the Bot actually did some good.

A universe away from the amateur league, the World Cup has also started to show some us very good lessons in people management. Argentina illustrated that you should never have a single point of failure.

If you rely on one person in a key role, that no-one else can replicate, you are in for big problems when that person doesn't perform. If Messi is poor, Argentina usually fail.

One form of mitigation for this is shown by Portugal. They also have a single point of failure, but unlike La Albiceleste, Portugal have a solid supporting cast behind CR7 and are (usually) difficult to score against. If Ronaldo has an off night, at least they will be able to rely on Plan B and try to grind out a draw.

Mexico showed us the benefits of planning ahead. Beaten pretty easily 4-1 in the Confederations Cup this time last year, Mexico started carefully, developing a tactical plan designed to bring the Germans down, ever since the groups stages were announced in December.

It always makes business sense to deconstruct what happened the first time you fail, identify lessons learned and put in place measures to eliminate these. Whether Mexico have spent too much time focusing on one opponent will remain to be seen.

It could be argued that Croatia actually have the best midfield (and midfielder) in the tournament, yet they remained very much under the radar coming in. If you really need to focus, then take time away from the daily grind, move away from your desk, turn your phone off and focus on the task at hand. Don't allow unnecessary distraction to intrude and you will be able to quietly and confidently finish you work.

And finally, the World Cup has given us a great lesson in being careful with sweeping generalisations. We see so many people critique the current Millennial generation as needing everything handed to them on a plate and perhaps not knowing the value of actual graft.

But that's a very dangerous assumption. The World Cup poster boy, Ronaldo, has always been credited with extra training, dedication, ambition high achieving targets and, most of all, hard work. There are plenty born in the 80s and 90s who have similar characteristics, so don't treat them all the same!

:: Barry Shannon ( is HR director at Cayan in Belfast

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