World Cup 1966

As a long-standing supporter of the England football team, I was privileged to be at Wembley last weekend to watch the World Cup Live ’66 event, organised by the BBC as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of England winning the World Cup.

The show re-lived the Final minute-by-minute through music, culture, history and sport. It was great entertainment and well worth catching up with on i-Player.

Reflecting on it this week, two lessons spring to mind.

1966 World Cup Final

First, it’s clear that leadership and teamwork played such a big part in England’s success in 1966.

Alf Ramsey, the manager, was a very focussed, determined individual who had great belief in himself and the members of his team. He was laughed at before the World Cup when he said that England would win it. He was very much the leader, building a team in which the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. England possessed very talented individuals but he put together a team who were aware of their responsibilities, played to their strengths and were able to make decisions on the field. In comparison, the England team at the 2016 European Championships fielded players who did not seem to know what they were doing or take responsibility to make decisions, and they were unsuccessful.

The second key lesson for me relates to what else happened that day; something that no pundits, commentators or leadership experts will have had the opportunity to consider.

I was six years old and as England were playing at home thought it was entirely obvious that we would win! On the morning of the Final I decided to ride my bike around our estate as many times as possible; the council variety, not a grand country one I should add! After 90 laps it rained and I had to stop. Later, I set out on my goal to reach 100 laps, only to be called in my Dad with the words “come in and watch the football, you’ll never see England in a World Cup Final again.” How profound!

I reached my 100 laps after England had won (cause for a double celebration in our household), but we have never reached another World Cup Final and, quite frankly, I’m not sure we ever will.

Here’s the lesson. Looking back, it’s interesting that even at a young age I had the determination to achieve my goal, to know when to pause, alter the plan slightly (it was really pouring), then get back on my bike and keep going. This approach has served me well during my working career.

Business can learn a lot from successful sporting teams and I believe that it’s no coincidence that companies with confident leaders, who have the vision to put plans in place for the future and which they communicate effectively to their staff, have a much greater chance of success than those who do not.

It’s certainly something that we’ve put in place in Target with very positive results.

Colin Spencer