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There are lots of lessons to be learnt from football.  I particularly like how teams support each other when taking penalties. The most successful penalty takers support the nominated player right up to the last moment. You can imagine what the sense of responsibility must do to your flight/fight/freeze response as you walk, alone in front of 80,000 people in the stadium and another gazillion watching on television, the stadium is silent and you, alone, are responsible for placing the ball and, hopefully, whopping it into the net. I feel nauseous just thinking of it!  Contrast that with the African (and other) nations whose teams often huddle together, walking up as a group to the penalty spot singing, clapping and cheering right up until the last minute and only back off at the very last moment to comply with the tournament rules of distance. You can almost sense the relief of the physical support and how it shares the burden across the team as a whole rather than the individual. We saw something similar last week with Samantha Cameron being both figuratively and literally by the side of David Cameron as he made his defeat/resignation speech.

Here are some ways we can support team members when they are under pressure:

Presentation Skills

For an inexperienced or nervous speaker, physically join them on the stage and introduce them before letting them “do their bit” to avoid the long, lonely walk and to give them a moment to adjust to the platform


Provide support to a team member by joining them for a difficult meeting, standing by their side as they deliver bad news, staying late with a colleague who has a pressing deadline, sit in their office with them after they have been mauled by their boss  (I acknowledge that this approach won’t be right for everyone and some of us would prefer to lick our wounds in private)


Consider opportunities within your team to encourage socially-motivated team members by working on tasks collectively – such as designing a training programme, tackling the VAT return or organising a conference

Performance Management

Not isolating under-performing team members but sitting alongside them to help them achieve the required standards – physically and figuratively “getting on the same side of the table” as them.



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