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  • Paul Pilling

Crossing that white line.....


Everyone who knows me knows how much I love an analogy. Perhaps I should have called this site Analogy's Of An Agile Mind :D


Anyway when I think about how to make successful high performing teams I normally always revert to sport, in particular football, but could easily be any team sport.


The reason for this is that it is very much like an agile team and clearly articulates (for me anyway) the role the leader plays in the day to day.

So the leader is the coach or manager before the season starts they :

  • set the vision for the team,

  • they ensure that they have the right people in the team to achieve this

  • they organise training to work on different styles of play

  • they work with rest of club to ensure the team have right equipment

  • they ensure stakeholders know what they are setting out to achieve and protect the team from pressure

  • creates the right environment for success

The players :

  • join or stay with the team because of the vision and how it can help them progress

  • train and learn from the coach how to play in a certain style and how to adapt

  • are responsible for looking after their learning, development & health (with help from club colleagues)


Agree so far and see how that is the same as a good leader and squad? But this is the crucial part of the analogy for me. When the game starts and those players cross that white line, it is up to them to deliver the result, not individually but as a team. Relying on the right blend of skills across the team, but also helping their team mates if they are struggling.


The leaders preparation of the team with a game plan, study of the opposition and styles of play, have created the right environment along with tools to enable the team to succeed.

Yes the leader can change things if they don't like how things are going or there is an injury, but they cannot cross that white line themselves and influence directly.

There needs to be a degree of trust in the team and belief in themselves that they have done all they can to help the team succeed.

If not they need to reflect see how the game went where they need to improve, discuss with the team how to learn and make sure in the next game they succeed and don't commit the same mistakes.

If things don't improve like in football it is the leader who is ultimately responsible. Often in football you have seen the same team that was floundering suddenly spring to life when a new manager joins, why? Mostly is was because they lost faith in the managers vision and techniques. Sometimes it is a higher up power (the chairman) who falls out with manager and replaces them, yet this can upset the team and see some valuable players choose to leave especially if they believed in the leader.


So what are the key takeaways from this rambling?

  1. Leaders set the right vision

  2. Leaders create the right environment for growth

  3. Leaders hire the right people to deliver their vision

  4. Leaders recognise they need a blend of skills on the pitch to deliver

  5. Leaders trust the players to deliver once they cross that white line

  6. Leaders work with the players to improve and learn from failures

  7. Leaders protect the players from external stakeholder pressures maximise performance


Hope you took something away from this is if you would like to discuss more please get in touch

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