Lessons from the Word Cup: how to push your agenda

Posted July 13, 2010 in Communication, Latest News & Insights

As the offspring of a rugby football player, I have to confess that following soccer was not something that was encouraged.  Growing up in the UK, this rejection of the national sport was akin to cheering for, well, soccer instead of hockey here in Canada.  In the wake of the World Cup final, there’s been much chatter about why Canada fails to qualify and what we, as a country, need to do to make our mark on the world’s game.  As the Canadian Soccer Association plots to get soccer on the national sports funding agenda, there are some great take-aways for any leader trying to get their agenda’s heard.

Watching some Canadian soccer experts talk about why Canada isn’t a dominant player on the international soccer stage, the hurdles seem to boil down to:

  • inadequate coaching… our coaches just aren’t on top of the latest techniques
  • insufficient practicing… the feeder system for soccer emphasizes playing games not practicing technique.  To take your play to another level, you need to move to Europe.
  • underfunding… Canada has a history of underfunding sport in comparison to other countries and soccer is no different
  • lack of motivation/passion to embrace the World Cup objective… Canadian’s already have a national game tied closely to the country’s identity and a cup named Stanley.  Who needs a new one?

So, spinning the hurdles into “must haves”, here’s a list of things that the Canadian Soccer Association – and YOU – need to put in place to get to the table:

  1. The right talent (leadership)… it’s easier to sell an idea when you can prove you have the talent to make it happen.  You may need to hire new talent with the knowledge you need to mentor others or upgrade the skills on your existing team.
  2. Know what skills and behaviours will make your team successful… being clear on who you need and what they will need to do is probably the most crucial ingredient for any team.  After that, weaving the building and practicing of these skills into an ongoing part of the teams activities will help you regularly raise the bar.  In the world of “we need this yesterday”, building in solid performance improvement programs is easy to overlook.  Sink or swim is too often the on-the-job training program.  (Hands up everyone who has a great orientation program… not just for new hires but for people who are promoted from within?)
  3. Ask for money AND time… launching new initiatives on a shoestring budget is often a recipe for disaster.  Without adequate funding and support, your initiative will slowly derail.  On top of that, like Canada’s goal to “Own the Podium” in 2010, to achieve lofty goals takes time.  If you don’t fight for reasonable timelines along with the funding, you’ll find yourself behind the eight ball before you’ve even begun.
  4. Assess the will to support your idea… this is perhaps the most important component of all.  Do you have the critical mass within your organization that believe in your idea and support you?  If people don’t care/don’t understand/don’t see the need for your new initiative, you may need to build up your base of support before proceeding.  And for this to occur, timing is everything.

For Canadian soccer fans who would love to see Canada on the world stage, the tides may be shifting.  Immigration has brought in thousands of ardent soccer fans who may provide some of the momentum needed to bring forward the national soccer federations agenda.  We probably won’t be seeing Canada in a World Cup anytime soon, but with the right elements in place and a healthy dose of patience and perseverance, who knows?  The World Cup may just find its way onto Canadian soil sometime before 2030 (hopefully bringing the Stanley Cup back with it).

Happy leading!


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