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In most countries around the world, the FIFA World Cup Soccer tournament is bigger than the Super Bowl is in the U.S. It is a really, really big deal. This tournament showcases top-level talent from around the globe. Players from all different teams come together to compete for their home countries. In doing so, they provide an excellent example of how high-performance teams function. This is especially true in a sport like soccer, where great teamwork beats great individual effort.

Sports Illustrated recently ran a story about the World Cup soccer team from Iceland, a tiny country with a population of less than half of Rhode Island. The fact that this country, with very limited resources, was able to make it into the FIFA World Cup at all is amazing. Consider that the U.S., with a population of over a hundred times that of Iceland and bountiful resources, failed to qualify. But even more interesting is how Iceland intentionally used their strengths to make it.

The Icelandic team was very aware of their weaknesses compared to other countries. In the SI article, their coach, Heimir Hallgrímsson, clearly explained each area of deficiency. The team knew they were underdogs and they knew why—exactly why. At the same time, they knew what made them unique. They knew that if they were able to take these unique qualities and turn them into strengths, they would have an advantage.

Hallgrímsson pointed out that his team was not striving to be good at everything. He broke down 10 specific areas of a high-performing team. Knowing that his team would fail if it attempted to be great in all 10 areas, they decided to focus on only a few areas. It is better to be excellent at a few things than to be mediocre at everything, according to the coach. Tiny little Iceland makes the tournament while the United States of America can’t put together a team to qualify.

Teamwork wins. This is true in all walks of life. It’s true in your company and mine. The best team wins, not the team with the marquee superstar. When teams understand their unique differences and develop them into strengths, success follows.

Now go forth.

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Phil Harwood

About the Author:

Harwood is a Managing Partner with GrowTheBench and Pro-Motion Consulting. Reach him at He is a Landscape Industry Certified Manager, NALP Trailblazer, NALP Consultant, and Certified Snow Professional. Harwood holds a BA in Marketing and Executive MBA with Honors from Michigan State University.

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