Paul O'Shaughnessy — Posted on November 30th, 2016

For all those who know me well, they know that I believe there is lots of symmetry between football (team sports in general), project delivery teams and recruitment sales teams; pretty much my world away of my beautiful wife and children.

Having been a pro footballer for 6 years, a specialist recruiter in the project services space for 10, I would be a fool not to see many similarities.

I state with confidence that in football, like project delivery teams and recruitment sales teams "Collectively you are only as good as your weakest player!” Think about that for a moment.... :-) And when I say this, I mean attitude towards the team’s culture, goals, leader and peers NOT skills or ability. 

I have found the English premiership this season and the France Euro 2016 fascinating to say the least. The hardworking team ethic is returning to top level football and the evidence is there that the small clubs and the players outside of the superstars can achieve success.

Let’s start with the EPL, Leicester City FC completed one of the most remarkable stories in the history of English football by winning the Premier League title. Written off as relegation candidates at the start of the season, when the bookmakers made Leicester 5000-1 outsiders, to go to be crowned champions. Amazingly, many team members had previously been rejected from former clubs at some point in their career on ability basis, only to join Leicester, and form a strong, victorious team.

It is an incredible tale on so many levels, not least the fact that Leicester were nearly relegated from the premier league last season. In fact they spent 140 days at the bottom of the table and looked set for an immediate return to the Championship until they won seven of their last nine matches under the previous manager Nigel Pearson to climb clear of the bottom three.

A new manager came in, a highly experienced football manager, a manager who had managed football teams across the globe, but a manager who had never been crowned a league winner. The bookies made him favorite for the 1st manager to lose their job in premiership season but with his experience he quickly changed the team philosophy and psychology.  

So how did a team of rejects and a former non-league striker win one of the most prestigious and notoriously competitive football leagues in world football?

And why are we seeing in the Euro 2016 tournament victories like Iceland beating England, like Wales reaching the final stages of the tournament after convincingly beating one of the tournament favourites, Belgium?

My opinion is that there are 3 fundamental elements that successful teams are getting right as a philosophy, they are working on some core team basics to ensure extraordinary results and I believe any Project delivery team and sales recruitment team can do to ensure outstanding performance.



“Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard” – In Project Teams and Sales teams, you if don’t work hard you get left behind, it’s that simple! We all know the saying “work smarter, not harder” whilst this much is true, but what if you work hard and you work smart? As long as you have a strong work ethic and a desire to be the hardest worker in the room you’ll always produce good results. On the football pitch, teams with significantly less talent and ability, can achieve more by working harder than the competition. The evidence is there, Leicester FC, Wales and Iceland have demonstrated that a team with less talent can win by working harder and working together.



Togetherness, never ‘give up’ attitude, when the chips are down the collective team picks each other up. In all the Project teams I have recruited for in the past 10 years, every Project or Program will face challenges, no project or program runs smoothly but the best teams pull through and pull through quickly, saving time, resources and energy to ensure project delivery (Victory)



In my opinion this needs to be set by the leader and the players/team members will follow. The manager in Football, Project Delivery Teams, Sales Teams should never demonstrate anything less than absolute belief that the team, CAN and WILL achieve the victory, delivery or sales target. The manager of the Wales national team Chris Coleman stated early on in the competition to the media, that Wales and his collective team have great capability, a team spirit so strong that they are at the Euro 2016 tournament to compete, he stated that “we are not here to just enjoy the fact that Wales have never been in a major tournament, we are here to compete, I believe this group of players can achieve great things". I have interviewed many different leaders in Project/ Program Delivery, in recruitment and had some wonderful football managers and the very best leaders give the team, the belief they CAN and WILL achieve results as a TEAM.  They install this belief and the team members follow and over time they create a strong culture. They NEVER vocally mention the teams weaknesses to the team members instead they focus on strengths and always vocally convey that message to the group and individual team members. Even if she/he feels that there is a lack of experience, a lack of talent, they focus on believe, the attitude and development of team members/players to do better.


Of course there are other important elements like identifying key strengths and identifying the best position on the field or best responsibilities in the delivery team, or best duties in a sales recruitment team. (Picking the right person in the right role) and strategy (game plan), I will most likely will do in one of my other blogs but get the basic team culture/philosophy right and the results will follow. 

If the leader focuses on getting the above team philosophy right and there is 1 or 2 players, team members or recruiters who just don’t come to the table and have no desire to do so (And again, I stress that this shouldn’t be a talent level call, I mean attitudes towards the above) and they don’t want to contribute to the team and are having a negative effect then a tough call has to be made. In football Sir Alex Ferguson made more tough calls than most other managers, like releasing David Beckham at the height of his footballing ability and fame, or Roy Keane when he publicly turned on his players in the media, or Jaap Stam when he negatively commented certain team members at United such as the Neville brothers in his auto biography book release. For the most successful football manager of all time it was all about the above and always about putting his collective team, club (company) and team spirit (culture) 1st before any individual, even if they have performed so well in the past (as we all know this can happen). 

As an aspiring inspirational leader, Map Talent is about to embark on a journey of growth and as the leader I will be modelling the above but also immersing myself in continued personal leadership development. Please wish me all the best! Hope you enjoyed my 1st ever blog... :-)  



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