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Lessons from the World Cup - Coaching your way to success

Lessons from the World Cup - Coaching your way to success

It was all over the news, on the radio, on TV all day, finally…. the World Cup has started! Football is an excellent example demonstrating how culture impacts life and business. For instance, it shows how diversity is a value-add and what a foreigner can bring to another cultural environment.


In this World Cup for example, the USA team have a German coach (above), the Ivorian team has a French coach and Russia has an Italian coach.

Many teams opt for a foreign coach in order to improve. One of the most interesting examples is that of the appointment of the Dutch coach Guus Hiddink in 2001 to the head the South Korean team in for the 2002 World Cup.

Hiddink is a famous coach with a great reputation and the South Korean Football Association appointed him to rise to a challenge: win a game at the World Cup,  since South Korea had never won a single World Cup match before!

When Hiddink started to work with the team, he was surprised how the South Korean team had been functioning. Players who were selected for the national team were not selected based on the usual criteria - sporting performance. This sounds strange, doesn’t it? Why would you be picked up for the national team without being the best player in your country? The reason is simple: the national team’s organisation was reflective of South Korean culture where seniority and authority really matters. The players selected were senior players who were about to finish their career and thus players who had an important status. These standards however, would not fit the requirements to win at the international stage.

Hiddink had to break with cultural habits from South Korean and to impose his management style.

It was a real shock for Korean people. Before the World Cup the Dutch trainer was arguably the most hated person in South Korea as they did not win one single match prior to it. However, when the 2002 World Cup started they performed spectacularly, finishing 4th in this tournament. It was a surreal achievement for a team that had to work so much to improve and that was not expected by observers to pass the group stage.

hiddink hugs korean players after match


Guus Hiddink has been a national hero who is still adored today. Why is this important for us today?

South Korean would never have known such a success without Hiddink’s new management. Managers in companies are drivers of change as they have to lead the way to adapt, change and grow. Often they may think that they can manage it on their own however, finding the right coach to develop new habits and uncover the blind spots and potential is of invaluable help.

It is obvious that top athletes work with coaches to improve and coaches can help to work on two sides: the technical skills and the mental preparation. Often times, the world’s best athletes are at a similar physical performance level and who comes out on top is dependent on their mental strength. 

The best athletes in the world still think that coaches are crucial for their performance, why would it be different for managers?

by Elorn Causer

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