When Lionesses Roar: The joy of team achievement

The superb performance of the English women’s football team throughout the Euro 2022 tournament has been remarkable. Culminating in their dramatic win over Germany in the final to win the trophy for the first time, over 87,000 spectators saw the Lionesses’ victory first hand. Over 17 million viewers watched on television. This makes the Euro 2022 Final the most watched women’s game of all time, and three times as many as the most watched men’s Premier League game (Everton vs Liverpool in June 2020). The Lionesses’ win has brought pride to the country, joy to thousands of fans, and has changed the face of football forever.

For this incredible achievement, all the players in the team deserve recognition for their dedication, hard work and perseverance. Head Coach, Sarina Wiegman, has created an outstanding, world-beating team. Quoted in the Daily Mail, FA Head of Women's Football, Baroness Sue Campbell, said 'My goodness, she's moulded them together. Not just the players, the team around her. There's a togetherness. You have to be in it to feel it. There are no people sitting on the edge, there's nobody outside the bubble. They're all in this together and she's uncompromising on that front.' FA Chief Executive Mark Bullingham said 'She is incredible … we were delighted to secure her, even though in our wildest dreams, we thought that this tournament might be too early. So we weren't sure we'd win this one, we were hoping we would win one in the future so she achieved brilliant results earlier than we could have ever hoped.

There are some key themes here which are worth highlighting and apply equally to organisational coaching and teamwork as they do to football and sports coaching. First, Sarina Wiegman has created a team in which the talents of all are included and utilised to the full. She has been able to draw on each player’s unique abilities to create a team more talented than the sum of the individuals themselves. The synergistic effect of team relationship is what all effective team coaches aspire to, and Wiegman has succeeded in doing this superbly. Further, Wiegman has held the bold possibility of winning the tournament with such conviction that the Lionesses have held it too. If a team is totally convinced that they will achieve a particular thing, and totally committed to putting in the work to achieve it, then the chances of success are very high. This powerful sense of team possibility creates a focus and aspiration for success that has energetic momentum. Creating opportunities for taking action then moves aspiration towards actuality, a process that involves feedback, learning and constant practice to improve performance. This might be hard, even grinding work sometimes, but in the context of the bold possibility, the team becomes a powerful cohesive unit which supports and nurtures everyone to be the best they can be. With their coach as guide, the team’s individual talents are multiplied and developed as they move towards their goal. The team becomes a high-performance learning process with commitment, energy, fun and comradeship at its core. This is the very definition of effective teamwork and which any organisation might want to emulate to improve individual and team performance. All managers should be aiming to lead their team in this way. As managers, we can’t all be Sarina Wiegman, but we can all try to do what she does in her work to build team relationship, hold a powerful vision for team possibility and create space for team action, learning and acknowledgement.

Sarina Wiegman has created such a team with the Lionesses and winning the Euros 2022 is the outstanding result. Perhaps the most powerful result of all is a new possibility for the game of football that didn’t exist before. It will change the game forever and shape the lives and aspirations of a whole new generation of Lionesses to come. In a small way, perhaps managers too can play their part in helping organisations change the ‘management game’ to become more empowering and inclusive and with energy, fun and performance at the heart of team management. The next generation of team players in all organisations will expect no less.