Building a Winning Team with Daniel Coyle and Vlatko Andonovski

Published

This week on World Reimagined, we explore how leaders can build and support successful teamwork.

Great leaders recognize that it takes more than talent to build a winning team. The culture and cohesion of a team can make or break it. It’s up to leaders to cultivate an environment that empowers people and promotes growth and opportunity.

 In this episode, host Gautam Mukunda speaks with Daniel Coyle, Award-Winning New York Times bestselling author of The Talent Code, The Culture Code and more and Vlatko Andonovski, Head Coach of the U.S. women’s national team, about the secrets of creating a world-class team.

Performance in business is actually a learning contest.
Daniel Coyle, Award-Winning New York Times bestselling author
I think that’s what drives me, the challenge to do something that has never been done before.
Vlatko Andonovski, Head Coach of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team

Resources:

Books by Daniel Coyle

Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl

Follow @GMukunda on Twitter or email us at WorldReimagined@nasdaq.com

For more information on this episode’s guest please visit:

Nasdaq.com/world-reimagined-podcast

Guest Information for Building a Winning Team:

Daniel Coyle is the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of The Talent Code, The Little Book of Talent, Hardball, The Secret Race, and The Culture Code, named Best Business Book of the Year by Bloomberg, BookPal, and Business Insider. His latest book is The Culture Playbook: 60 Highly Effective Actions to Help Your Group Succeed. Coyle consults with many high-performing organizations, and also works as a special advisor to the Cleveland Guardians. He lives in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, during the school year and in Homer, Alaska, during the summer with his wife Jenny, and their four children. 

Vlatko Andonovski (Ann-DON-ahv-skee) was named the ninth head coach in U.S. Women’s National Team history on October 28, 2019. 

Although his first full year as head coach was tremendously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Andonovski did win his first 11 games in charge, going 11-0-0 while setting a record for best start for any coach in USWNT history.  

He coached his first two games at the end of 2019, defeating Sweden and Costa Rica, and before the sports world shut down, he won two tournaments at the beginning of 2020, leading the USA to titles at the 2020 Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship and the 2020 SheBelieves Cup. The USA got in one more match in 2020, an impressive 2-0 victory against the Netherlands in Breda at the end of November. 

Through his first 14 months on the job, Andonovski called up 56 different players to take part in at least one training camp. Of those 56 players, 31 earned at least one cap. Through the end of 2020, had had given 16 players their first senior team call-ups four players their first caps. 

Andonvoski, 43, came to U.S. Soccer after spending seven years as a head coach in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), five with FC Kansas City (2013-2017) and two with Reign FC (2017-2018).  

He led FC Kansas City to back-to-back NWSL Championships in 2014 and 2015 and was twice named NWSL Coach of the Year, in 2013 and again after the 2019 season. He led his teams to the NWSL Playoffs in five out of the seven seasons he coached in the league.

During his time in the NWSL Andonovski coached numerous U.S. and foreign international players who have represented their countries on the highest stage. He had an overall record of 21-13-16 record with the Reign and 51-37-27 record at FC Kansas City, giving him an overall record of 72-50-43 in NWSL play. As of the end of the 2019 NWSL season, his total of 165 games coached in the NWSL ranked him first all-time and his 72 wins tied for 2nd all-time. He guided his teams to the playoffs five times and had a playoff record of 4-3

Episode Transcript: 

Gautam (00:00):

When success means winning it all, how do you build a team to be the best?

Dan (00:06):

World of performance and business is actually a learning contest. It's not a performance contest.

Vlatko (00:12):

It has a lot to do with managing the team, creating relationships and communication.

Dan (00:18):

Humility is the new smart.

Speaker 1 (00:24):

World Reimagined, with Gautam Mukunda, a leadership podcast for a changing world, an original podcast from NASDAQ.

Vlatko (00:33):

This environment where everybody is doing whatever they can to be the best version of themself on a daily basis.

Gautam (00:52):

One of the best things about this sport is that the clock never stops, not for goals, not for penalties, certainly not for commercials. In soccer, or football if you prefer, you play for 90 minutes with just one break at halftime. This means that for that hour and a half, even if the ball isn't in play, you have to keep looking, strategizing, adapting, scanning the field for that one small break that will yield a big advantage. In one way or another, you have to keep moving.

(01:29):

That isn't a bad way to think about leadership either. Great leaders have to constantly keep planning their moves, updating their strategies, observing the conditions around them, and of course, making sure everyone on their team is doing the same. Time is always in, so reaching your goals means not getting complacent, not even for a minute. But let's say those goals go beyond doing a good job, past improving on your own benchmarks. Let's say your team's objective, its only objective is to be the best, as in take the sum total of everyone else on earth and being better than them. Where do you even begin when failure is anything less than that?

Vlatko (02:21):

That's the question that I ask myself every time I go in camp, especially working with the national team.

Gautam (02:31):

Vlatko Andonovski is the head coach of the US Women's National Soccer team. When he took over, it was his job to assemble, train, and lead a team whose minimum standard as being unrivaled at the world's most popular sport, and he only gets a limited window of time to do it.

Vlatko (02:50):

It's not like every other team. The national team is in very unique situation or has very unique structure. So it's one thing when you have a team that is together on a daily basis, you have a planned preparation, you execute it on a daily basis and you can debrief correct every day, but the national team only spends about one third of the year together. All the players on the team, they go in their own environment, their own markets, their own teams for, let's say, four, five weeks. And then they come and spend 10 to 14 days with the national team and then they go back to their own markets again.

(03:24):

So it's not easy to build a connection on a regular team, but it's even harder to do that on the national team because of the time that we spend together. That's one dynamic. But then another dynamic is, when these players go back to their markets, they have to adjust or adopt the culture that their markets have. But also, when they go back in their markets, they're competing against the players that when they come on the national team are going to be on their side. So it's very unique dynamic. It's not easy to switch from one environment to another environment and to switch the mindset from the moment they compete against someone and the next day they're on the same team and they're on this great journey to become the best in the world.

Gautam (04:09):

No one would look at what Vlatko has to do and say that he has an easy job ahead of him, but there is someone who is perhaps uniquely qualified to say just how hard it really is.

Dan (04:20):

The bar is set so high. If you don't win everything, it's going to be viewed by the world as a massive failure.

Gautam (04:28):

Daniel Coyle is the author of The Culture Code, The Talent Code, The Culture Playbook, and other books that have enjoyed an enormous amount of time on the bestseller list and influenced untold numbers of teams. His work focuses on the tactics of teams that, not only perform well, but perform so well that they could arguably be called the best in the world at what they do. From Navy SEALs to online mega stores [inaudible 00:04:54], to Chicago comedy legends, Upright Citizens Brigade. He spent countless hours analyzing the systems and strategies that make up these elite teams. And thus, he has the credentials to say that Vlatko has a really unfair job.

Dan (05:10):

A, that's tough. That's really tough. B is the challenge you just touched on, which is you don't get your team to be together all the time. You have got a team that is scattered and then together, and then scattered and together, and their incentives are not always aligned. And they're competing in practice and they're competing on different teams when they are apart. And then they come together and you have to come together on the fly, and read the room, and read the situation, and play teams that you don't get to watch all the time. I mean, to me, it adds up to a really difficult, narrow path. And multiplied by the fact that you're playing a game where there's a lot of randomness in it. The best team doesn't always win in soccer. It wins a fair amount, but the ball can bounce. You can get a weird penalty, things can happen.

(05:54):

And so, to maintain connection, to maintain the shared vulnerability that it takes, to maintain the really, really high standards and identity that you need to create, I mean, to me, it strikes me as an incredibly difficult road that you're on, and one where you're going to learn a whole bunch and the team's going to learn a whole bunch. But I'm just completely fascinated by what you face every day.

Vlatko (06:17):

Thank you for reminding me about the pressure of the job that I have to win.That I have to win every time. But it is very hard and the team has been really successful winning two World Cups back- to-back, but I knew that when I accepted the job. I knew that when I took the job. And I think that's what drives me, the challenge to do something that has never been done before. I didn't know this when I took the job, but when I got in this environment, the way the people think inside of the environment aligns with literally the way I think or the way I just described, is they're excited by these challenges because the environment itself is brutal. I mean, it's absolutely brutal, but it's so fun. And I don't know how to explain it. How can be so brutal but at the same time be so fun? I guess the only way you can explain it is it's brutal because it's intense, it's competitive, it's fast, 100 miles an hour environment. It's stressful. I mean, it's really tough environment. It's challenging, but in same time, if you love these challenges and you know how to turn the stress into excitement, if you love the competitiveness of the job, then it's fun.

Dan (07:35):

I love it. It reminds me of talking to Navy SEALs because they're not dissimilar situation in some ways. Their job is kind of impossible. They're coming together at weird times, doing all these unpredictable things at a very, very high level with very, very high stakes. And the thing they talk about is they almost get addicted to that feeling. Some SEALs will leave the SEALs and then they often come back because they don't get that feeling other places. And I guess the way I would distill it is to say the feeling of solving really hard problems with people you admire. That's a really rare treat in some ways, really hard problems with people you really admire. That combination doesn't happen often in life and it can be addictive. It sounds like you might be addicted to it.

Vlatko (08:16):

It's interesting you saying that, that is addicted. I've never really thought of that or used that phrase or word, but it seems like addiction. It's an environment like I've never seen before. It's an environment where everybody is doing whatever they can to be the best version of themself on a daily basis. Literally, everything that we do, and regardless, I'm not talking here coaches or players, medical personnel, communication, admin, equipment manager, I mean anyone that you can think of, everybody is literally trying to be the best version of themselves every minute they spend in the environment. And if you don't do that, nobody needs to tell you that you need to leave. Their environment just pushes you out. There's just no place for you unless you're willing to commit, to be-

Vlatko (09:03):

There's just no place for you unless you're willing to commit to be the best version to yourself and know how to embrace challenges. The environment has no place for you. Daniel, in the conversation we had before, you mentioned Carli Lloyd. In her last speech to the team before she retired, she finished it with one sentence pretty much, and said, you'd cut out for this or you're not.

Gautam (09:25):

In The Culture Code, Daniel tells the story of four person groups that were told to build the tallest structure they could and were given marshmallows, tape, string, and 20 pieces of uncooked spaghetti in the mix we're business school students on their way to successful careers at major companies and kindergartners. And depending upon who you are and how much time you spend with kids, the results may or may not surprise you. The elementary schoolers consistently outperform their grownup counterparts. While the adult teams appear disciplined and well organized, they were in fact riddled with inefficiencies, with participants constantly second guessing themselves and each other in both conscious and unconscious ways. The children, on the other hand, moved as a cohesive unit, prioritizing cooperation and offering help when it was needed, which was why in the end, their marshmallow structure stood supreme. So what can a tower of pasta and dessert tell us about building a championship soccer team? Well, it turns out that whether you're an Olympic athlete or a five year old, a leadership strategy that prizes humility and seamless teamwork will get you a long way.

Vlatko (10:39):

Building the team and building a national team, it's like this big puzzle for me. We start first with selecting the players by health performance. They have to be physically fit, but also we are very careful in selecting players of how well they fit inside of our environment. And that's the tricky part. That's probably the trickiest part. And I will just explain this with one example, very recent example, the CONCACAF tournament. A few weeks ago we played... Which is World Cup in Olympic qualifying tournament outside of the actual Olympics and the World Cup. This is the biggest tournament. Without it, we can't even go to the World Cup and Olympics. So we called up very young team, most inexperienced team that has ever been put together on the field since 1991. So we knew the challenges that we're going to have, that it's a team that hasn't experienced any adversity, any tough time. They haven't been in meaningful games or to be or not to be game.

(11:36):

And we needed someone to lead the players on the field. We needed someone to lead the place off the field, but we also needed someone that can influence the environment or that someone can be a leader on the field, off the field and the environment. And everybody's familiar, and I'm sure everybody knows Megan Rapinoe, we called in Megan Rapinoe. Megan Rapinoe was healthy. She wasn't playing at the moment. She only played one game before the tournament, and she wasn't fit to play all the tournament games. So she didn't check the boxes that she needed to check in order to be selected for the team. But she checked one big box and that was the fit for the environment. Megan Rapinoe was what we needed for this tournament. And why did we need Megan Rapinoe? We needed Megan Rapinoe to guide and be there for the young players. We needed Megan Rapinoe to take everything on her back when the tough times came. But also I needed Megan Rapinoe. I knew that if there was something that needs to be shared with me, good or bad, Megan Rapinoe has the guts to come to me and say... And the way usually she says is she goes, boss, I don't think that was right. I think that you were a little too hard on so and so. And so everybody needed Megan Rapinoe for different reasons. Or what Daniel explained in one of his books, Megan Rapinoe was the good apple. That's who she was. That was her role. But here's where the dynamics actually are very tricky. Megan Rapinoe coming in environment can be also counterproductive if she doesn't know and understands her role. And then second thing is it could be counterproductive for the young players because they're fighting for minutes, they're fighting for game time, and when they see Rapinoe next to them, they can get in their shell and we're not going to get the best out of them.

(13:29):

So what we did, I had a very long meeting with Megan to lay down the expectations and responsibilities, which she was superb and very excited and did an exceptional job. And part of the reason is Megan Rapinoe has won everything that a soccer player can win from World Cups to Olympics to best player in the world to everything. So right now, she just wants to give back and she genuinely wants to give back and be the person to help the young players and grow this game, grow women's soccer. Now, I also had a conversation with the young players in order to create this safety and this comfort level, I actually told the young players that they're going to be starting no matter what. There were certain young players on the team that I told them, you will be starting no matter what. And Megan Rapinoe's responsibility is to create this uncomfort for this young place enough to where they feel comfortable with the uncomfortable.

(14:34):

And she was challenging them, but supporting, she was pushing them, but helping. So she was creating uncomfortability so they can get used to it. And being comfortable with the uncomfortable. Eventually, just the outcome obviously, we won the CONCACAF tournament. Everything was great. We had a debrief with our staff members, with the technical staff. We had a debrief with everyone. But with the technical stuff, we always go through the players and we say, who's the player that succeed the most? Who's the player that surpassed herself or exceed the expectation? And who is the one player that we can say that was most impactful in the tournament? And usually the player that scores the most goal or plays the best defense. And it was unanimous that we don't win this tournament without Megan Rapinoe and Megan Rapinoe probably spent the least amount of minutes on the field. It was amazing.

Dan (15:25):

Wow. I love that story, Vlatko. I love it. Think about the story you just told. It was all about navigating emotions through conversations, right? This incredibly complex landscape you're trying to navigate with the young players, with the older players, with the dynamics, with the team, with the goal and your humility.... There's some coaches that would've been more authoritarian and say, oh, I have a plan. Our plan is to play these guys with this tactic in these games. And it would've been top down. But instead, you were much more bottom up. You went from this place of what's really going on here emotionally and what narratives, what frames, what sort of understanding, sense making we can do. You took a complex situation, you helped them make sense through these long conversations. And that's a pattern that I see in a lot of good coaches. They're good with tactics, but a lot of people are good with tactics.

(16:14):

They're good with strategy, but a lot of people are pretty good with strategy. What they're great at is seeing what's really going on a human level and with humility, navigating that with the players, with the people. In some ways, your larger situation isn't that different from a lot of modern managers. A lot of people in the world of remote work that we live in now, the team isn't together all the time. You have to go through these things where you're sensing, okay, what's really going on here? What conversations do I need to have? What people do I need to put in the same room and let them know what the dynamic is? And so modern coaching and modern leadership ends up being way more about this skill set, not the kind of Churchill skill set of making a big speech at the right time and inspiring everybody. But it's like humility is the new smart, right? Having humility to know, to say, I need to learn what's going on here, and then I need to connect to people, and then we need to navigate it together. That's good coaching.

Vlatko (17:10):

Thank you. Yes, it was great experience and it was very good to see. For me, it was almost humbling to see one of the best in the world, one of the most successful players in US history in soccer history, to be on the sideline with water bottles ready for the players that are on the field. Even in the debrief that we had after the tournament... We do team debriefs, but we also do individual debriefs. And in the debrief with Megan Rapinoe, she said something that was very inspiring for me in the final game. We didn't make a sub because I wanted the young players to figure out a way to win. So when we go to these tournaments, there's so many things that we have in mind. Obviously we want to win the game that is in front of us. We want to develop the players. We want to win long term and prepare them for the World Cup. So this was the moment where we felt like we're going to win the game-

Vlatko (18:03):

... prepare them for the World Cup. So this was the moment where we felt like we're going to win the game, but we also want to prepare this team to win the World Cup. So I didn't make a sub until like a minute before the end of the game. After the tournament, in the debrief with Megan, she says, "You know what? I really wanted to be on the field and I knew I could help the team." And I believe that, and I believe that she could help the team myself too. The staff believed that she could help the team, but she said, "I'm so glad you didn't make any sub, because there'll be time where this group will have to figure out themself. And there was not a better situation for them to learn that actually be in it." And I thought that was very good to hear and humbling, but also inspiring.

Gautam (18:44):

The great psychologist Viktor Frankl wrote about the importance of purpose in his extraordinary book, Man's Search for Meaning. Frankl's realizations about a life built On meaning came from his time in a Nazi concentration camp. One of the darkest, most hopeless places in all of history. But what can someone on top teach us about finding purpose? When she began working with Vlatko, Megan Rapinoe had already won the World Cup, and everything else there is to Wayne and women's soccer. What could she get from sitting on the bench while younger players won a championship? Meaning the meaning of helping others develop to become their best, just as she once had. Finding that meaning and learning is one of the key things that distinguishes a good team from one that can become great for a long, long time. One that keeps learning and improving even when it's already the best team in the world.

Dan (19:43):

I think you end up finding that the people who are able to successfully do that are in tune with the fact that the world of performance and business is actually a learning contest. It's not a performance contest. It's how quickly can you adapt, and sometimes radically adapt. And the image, I think, that comes to my mind as we think about this is high performing groups. You can sort of conceptualize them. They're not machines, they're not race cars. They're more like a flock of birds moving through a forest. They're connected, they're communicating, there's information traveling all the time, and they're navigating around obstacles toward a goal. They've got this malleability to them. And at the core of that malleability is the question, how do we get a little bit better tomorrow than we are today? How do we create systems and processes where we can continually learn and question, actively question, the successful things we're doing now? Because there's no narcotic like success, that's one of the reasons that people don't stay on the top.

(20:37):

One is that they get copied and competitive. But the other is that there's this narcotizing effect where being successful makes you really resistant to change, really resistant to learning. Naturally so. We don't want to let go of things that are working really well, but to actively say, "Wait a minute, we just won the tournament. We need to debrief. We need to change the way we're approaching defense. We need to put younger players in." Whatever that might be. That willingness to be humble enough and to realize you don't have all the answers, you need to continually learn. You need to create, in a word, it's vulnerability. It's leaders being vulnerable enough to say, "I don't have the answers. I can't be out in the field knowing everything. I need to create channels, and trust, and communications," so that we can create, what essentially is a big group brain, that is sensing where we're failing, sensing where the opportunities are, and exploring and experimenting in those directions.

(21:27):

The world moves really fast. It's really complex. Anybody who says they've got all the answers forever is not being accurate because they don't. So having these systems where you can continually adapt and make your flock change direction, while staying together, is building those capabilities, are kind of the core capabilities for sustainable success.

Vlatko (21:49):

I totally agree with Daniel and some of the things that he said. It just made me think, how do we get a little bit better? And the resistance that comes from the group, the resistance of, "Hey, we've always done it this way and it worked for us." Or, "We just won the tournament doing it this way and it worked for us." For our group, when I see any time when we try to improve something, any time when we try to add a different layer, a new layer, or new ideas, the first thing that we go... Or maybe the stage, let's call it a stage. So the first days that we get into is the resistance. That's the one that the players, especially successful players, successful team, they always go with why? Why do we change it?

(22:29):

So this is a tough one for a coach because in this stage, the coach has to be really prepared, very thorough, very detailed. It has to know the pulse of the team, it has to understand it, it has to know to read the room, and to know how far we can go and how far we can add. So that's the first stage.

(22:52):

The next stage that the players go from resistance is confusion. And this is where the players are willing to learn, but they don't know how. And why they're confused is they know that they want to learn, but then they're weighing their option. Is it going to benefit me personally if I do this? Is it just good for the team, but bad for me? So they're looking at different angles. This is the stage when they're a little bit quiet and just trying to read everything to figure out how is this going to work? But this is the stage that I've realized that this is where the leaders of the team come big. This is the stage where the leaders actually push the group from confusion to the learning stage.

(23:34):

So once the leaders explain and guide them through, and help them buy into it, that's when we go into the learning stage. And this is the fun stage. This is where the coaches are buzzing. Now, we are coming in with energy and enthusiasm. We're throwing things at them. And some things are working, some things are not, but they see a little bit of an outcome. The players are trying hard, they're committed, and they see that things are working.

(24:01):

And now, eventually, from the learning stage, we move into the satisfaction stage. And at this stage, the players are flying. I mean, this is where they're enjoying the results of the change. They feel good about themself. And this is the stage that, we as coaches, usually have to be really careful, how long do we want to stay in this stage? Because we do want them to enjoy the outcome. We do want them to enjoy the success. We do want to see them perform, but also we need to get them back or add another layer. And the moment we add another layer, we're actually pushing them back into the first stage we were talking about, the resistance.

Gautam (24:42):

It sounds unbearably cliche, but it's true. The best teams are built on solid relationships, and solid relationships are built on trust. So it stands to reason that if your objective is to be the best in the world, the trust among your team has to be airtight. This makes Amy Edmondson's concept of psychological safety, and the idea that group members need to feel not only safe, but empowered, to speak up, a cornerstone of success when the stakes are this high. Although, as Daniel points out, it's a concept that can often be misunderstood.

Dan (25:16):

There's something called critical moments theory where the most important moments in any group's life are the first five minutes, the first disagreement, and the first learning, because those set the norms for how we're going to proceed. If the first five minutes is a little standoffish and authoritarian, then that's kind of what's going to go down for the rest of the time.

(25:35):

There's a coach who I work with at the Cleveland Guardians baseball team, and the first time I went to spring training... His name is Terry Francona. He's the coach, the team manager. He'll be in the Hall of Fame someday. And the first thing I saw when I got into the clubhouse a few years ago was a picture of Terry, picture of the coach. His glasses were all askew and it was posted on the clubhouse door. It was sort of a Xerox of his face, and he looked really goofy, had a funny expression. Underneath it was written, "I demand respect." And it was just hilarious. It's like, he's obviously a funny guy. He's obviously making this point that, hey, this isn't going to be a really formal Winston Churchill environment. This is going to be kind of fun.

(26:12):

And that moment, it's really small, but it's also really big. It sets the tone. So making sure that first learning is spotlighted as a learning, and not as a place for people to feel dumb or underpowered. And that first disagreement ends up being a place where people really have voice. People talk about psychological safety as being the most important indicator of a good team. And psychological safety gets misunderstood sometimes because people think it means making people feel safe. That's not true. It actually is about voice. It's not about wrapping people in cotton, as Amy Edmondson of Harvard likes to say. It's about giving people voice. And so making sure that in those early spaces, people do have voice. And then you got to kind of follow where the energy goes. There's no recipe book for this kind of leadership, but there are structures of...

Dan (27:03):

This kind of leadership, but there are sort of structures of communication and relationship that can really matter.

Gautam (27:08):

Whether you're best selling author or a championship soccer coach, no one rises to the top of their field alone so I wanted to know who in Daniel and Vlatko's careers had most impressed them and why?

Vlatko (27:23):

There's so many people that have impressed me and people that I've met in my career, but there's one person that keep on impressing me every day. I know it, it's kind of cheesy, but it is my wife. We've been together for 30 years and every day she just keeps on impressing me with the way she lives her life, the way she behaves around me and my family. I always say, and I don't know if you heard Adam's .... we mentioned Adam Rent, Adam's quote where he says, "Being a giver is not for a 100 yards dash, but it's valuable in marathon." I think that's the way she lives her life, and she has been advising, she's my advisor, she's my educator. I was just taking a class for my PhD in ethics and leadership, and I feel like she was better than me. I almost wanted to say like, "You want to take the class for me?" She's been tremendous. She's been by me for 30 years, and I know for sure that I wouldn't be where I'm at without

her.

Gautam (28:20):

Wow, that's a wonderful answer. And Daniel, same to you.

Dan (28:23):

That's too wonderful, Vlatko. Can I say my wife too?

Vlatko (28:31):

You have to. If you don't do it now, you're going to be in trouble.

Dan (28:34):

I have to, I have to. If she listens to this, I am in such big trouble. But I'm going to say my answer would be a person that we mentioned briefly in this podcast before, Terry Francona, a baseball manager. I've been advising the Cleveland Guardians for the last nine years, and I've been privileged to watch him up close and from afar and the intentionality with which he approaches relationships. He will spend days thinking about a five minute conversation with a player, beforehand, not afterwards, beforehand, to think, "How exactly should I talk about their hustle? How exactly should I talk about their defense?" Talking to other people and collaborating and integrating with such humility. He's got wonderful intuitions, but he combines it with this humility and this willingness to collaborate and bring the best data to the conversation and bring the best expertise to the conversation and bring the best humanity to the conversation. To me, it's been a real living lesson in how to connect to people.

(29:33):

The other thing he brings is this extraordinary patience every year. It takes time for teams to come together, as Vlatko knows. It takes time for young players to step up and become leaders, and you can't snap your fingers and make it happen. There has to be crises, there has to be problems, there has to be real difficulty that they have to work their way through. They have to behave their way to being a leader, not just talk or think their way to being a leader. His patience with that process is stunning. He realizes it's not about him, and that's what makes his teams come together so well. As a guy who does leadership lessons every single day, that's who I would say Terry Francona.

Gautam (30:12):

Pope John Paul II once said, "Of all the unimportant things, football is the most important." If you're building a team that can win at this level, that's an important thing to keep in mind. There isn't an athlete, an executive, or to be honest, a kindergarten student who doesn't love to win. Daniel and Vlatko will be the first people to tell you that. They've studied and built teams in some of the most demanding situations in the world and what they've found is that if you just focus on winning, you're missing the point. Winning is the product of all the things that make teams great and while it may be the objective, it can't be the way. The way is building a team that cooperates, that comes together to find purpose, that sacrifices individual egos when it needs to, even those of its leaders, and that values trust, safety, curiosity, and yes, fun, because soccer, after all, is just a game. But the lessons this game can teach us about building unbeatable teams that reach unparalleled goals might just be some of the most important ones we can learn.

Speaker 1 (31:33):

World Reimagined with Gautam Mukunda, a leadership podcast for a changing world, an original podcast from Nasdaq.

Speaker 2 (31:46):

Gautam Mukunda does not speak on behalf of Rose Park Advisors, LLC or any of its affiliates, and is not soliciting investments or providing investment advice.

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