Written by:

Grant Yuill

Head of Marketing & Customer Engagement

Every football fan breathed a HUGE sigh of relief when restrictions were lifted allowing us all to enjoy the Euros with friends and family. Some of you might even have the chance to cheer on your nation in person – what a feeling it’s going to be!

Although we’ve recently been prohibited from watching football in the flesh, that competitive, neanderthal-like passion still burns deep within us all. Why? Because we care and we love to do see our teams do well. 

Every sports channel is now commenting on who will be crowned champions of Europe. It’s a hopeful time, as two ‘auld enemies’ are pitted against each other in what will ultimately be a year of history making or the resurgence of a nation declared MIA from major tournament fanfare for far too long.

Further south many will be looking to dethrone CR7 and his Portuguese compadres. Possibly a blessing in disguise if it means Gary Lineker and co will finally stop mentioning 1966 every time they utter the word England! (Scottish eye roll!) Whereas, up north, the term “glorious failure” might be more palatable when mentioned in the context of a major tournament. 

No matter what happens…many fans will ultimately be disappointed.

The same thing is true in business of law. Every year, law firms’ great expectations fall apart under pressure, and a few underdogs (or as I like to call them – ‘The 2004 Greek Law Firms’) go all the way. 

What makes the crucial difference?

In sports and in business, it pays to set goals, develop a strategy, and practice. What’s interesting is that most football teams, be it the star studded French national team or the hardnosed, passionate Sunday League teams, do a better job than a lot of businesses do in key areas of leadership and performance management.

So, next time you’re watching your favourite club or your national team, have a think about how you analyse the way they play. Think about the words and phrases you use when something you can clearly see isn’t working doesn’t get changed by the management.

Moreover, when a player isn’t giving his or her all and you’re not happy with the performance, you look at stats which will determine whether they are simply having an off day or it’s been happening for months and now, you simply want them shipped out the door.

Next time, just take a minute, and think about how passionate you are about your team winning and how important it is that every player has all the tools and training in place to give everything for that badge. Then, compare it to how you approach your business.

If you don’t see the similarities straight away, take a step back and brush up on these 4 principles drawn from football for a winning approach to your business.

  1. Practice isn’t optional

In any sport, it’s rare to come across a play in a game that you’ve never seen in practice. In football, most teams spend five days a week preparing for just one game. The goal is to fail in practice and iron out mistakes before the day of the game.

In business, practice is often short-changed. It’s pretty unusual for a team of lawyers to run through a pitch to a client three or more times. And how many of you take the time for a debriefing after important meeting or case?

The next time your team faces a difficult situation in court, in a meeting, wherever, spend some time training and supporting each other for the encounter. It’s guaranteed to pay off.

  1. Coaches can’t play

In small to medium sized law firms, leaders and partners often step in to handle difficult situations. That NEVER happens in sport. Since coaches can’t get in the game, they have to lead from the side-lines – which builds important skills. Coaches need to communicate strategy and let players handle execution – and so Law firm leaders.

Too often I hear lawyers doing the exact opposite – “We’ve got to get in the game, we’ve got to fee!” I get it. But there is a balance you can attain, without having to get the dubbin’ out for your Copas every time something needs to be done.

New leaders often simply fix mistakes or handle small tasks rather than take the time to coach their direct reports. In the short term, that just seems easier. But if law firm leaders can keep themselves “out of the game”, and automate some of their processes, they can build stronger, more effective teams for the long run.

  1. Every successful leader uses a playbook

Many businesses lack defined systems and disciplined processes. With no clear “playbook” for how the firm likes things done, team members end up running in different directions. This absolutely would not fly in a football team. And when you think about it, as a football fan, you wouldn’t stand for it. So, why should you allow it at work?

Arguably the greatest football manager to ever grace the game, Sir Alex Ferguson said; “Once you bid farewell to discipline you say goodbye to success.” 

Business leaders tend to tolerate this kind of behaviour all the time. Team members simply do what works for them, and the results are very hit or miss. How much better would your business be if everyone followed a cohesive process, one that’s been proven to get results. Couple that with a system that can streamline your entire practice performance and you should have a winning formula.

Having a playbook and system in place makes it possible to keep up momentum when people are off sick, on holiday or leave the company. Your football team doesn’t stop functioning when this happens, so why should your business.

  1. Objectives are clear

Imagine playing or watching a game and having no idea how to win! In football, the rules of the game are very clear, as is the score. In many organisations, however, employees really have no idea where the company is headed, how they are being measured or the rules that apply.

When employees are given transparent information about the company, including its financials, goals (quarterly, annual, five-year, etc.) and how their position fits into the bigger picture, they are more empowered, focused, outcome-driven and are able to find greater meaning in their work.

There’s not a lot of ambiguity in football: Everyone knows what’s expected and what’s needed to win, so perhaps it’s not that surprising that football teams do a better job of keeping their eye on the ball than most businesses.

So, what’s the next play?

Take a few pages from the football playbook – emphasising regular practice and focusing on goals to consistently ensure that the right player and the right tools are in the right spot at the right time run your business successfully.

Legal practice management software, like CaseLoad by Denovo, has the ability to provide you with fully customisable dashboards, showing recent matter activityKPI reports and other useful data, so you can have access to every performance report instantly to make informed, data driven decisions about your business.

Reach out to our team today and we’ll give you the tools to start winning!

Call us on 0141 331 5290 or email info@denovobi.com

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