How can we create a winning team? or: What we can learn from a failing soccer club in Mexico

What is it that Atlas – the soccer club from Guadalajara in Mexico – does so wrong that causes them to NOT play for the champions title for the past 50 years.

Yup you read that correctly… this soccer club has not even been a serious contender for the championship for over 50 year… And yet – a lot of their players have gone on to impressive careers with other soccer clubs.

The story of the soccer club is interesting, especially when you compare it to the other club in the same town ‘Guadalajara’. This club arguably has less quality players but manages to excel in their game and seems to outrank Atlas on a regular basis in the leader board.

The big difference between the 2 clubs is in the leadership. Guadalajara has 1 owner, a visionary person who knows exactly what he wants to achieve with his club: he wants to win. And this owner hired a strong coach to ensure his vision is achieved.

Atlas on the other hand is owned by many people, and is managed by committee. The executive management team appear to try to have an active role in the operational decisions on the field and their main goal is to make money of up-and-coming players.

Both clubs succeed at what the upper management want to achieve – so from a performance point of view both clubs do extremely well. Guadalajara wins championships and Atlas sells their top players.

A strong vision combined with the right coach seems to be the recipe for winning the battles on the field. A chaotic approach to management only hinders that goal.

What can we learn from that as business owners?

I guess we work with star players in our organisation as well. We can organise them by strong leadership and a clear vision. With those 2 qualities we can win any battle and achieve champion status.

But not all is lost when we as business owners can’t achieve this.. even when we fight with our management team and stakeholders we can still make a bit of money out of the business. The question is: is this enough?

So does it really matter that Atlas never wins? It does to their fans. They are still loyal to their brand, but the question is: for how much longer. Nobody wants to support the losing team, year after year after year. Or do they… ?!

One thought on “How can we create a winning team? or: What we can learn from a failing soccer club in Mexico

  • Great post Ivanka!

    Being one of the many fans of Atlas (since my childhood), I could not agree more (even when it is painful for me to recognize that Chivas, our most “hated” rival, is doing better overall, simply because they not only produce great players now too but because they win championships and make a lot of money! So everyone is happy! … Well, not everyone, I´d better say: “everyone interested on Chivas”, that is, all its stakeholders, not only its owners).

    What you say in your post gets directly to the root cause of our frustration. Our team lost again in Guadalajara yesterday by the way, and the stadium was full… interesting phenomenon indeed… for how long, who knows… For sure those “executives” think their gold mine will last forever… Hope they got your post (although they wouldn´t care at all anyway)… On the other hand, if Jorge Vergara (the owner of Chivas, the other team) got this post, he would make you a member of his “cabinet”! And you would probably get enough money to fund a special sports news media company. =))

    As owners/leaders/managers your thoughts should make us reflect about many situations we´ve experienced during our professional and social lives & decisions. More and more, we will witness that sustainable success will only be achievable if we consider all the stakeholders and truly look at the long term, and not only thinking about us as owners/investors and our immediate profits or returns! Even if considering the interests of others and the long term imply a difficult and contradictory balancing act sometimes. Myself, I have found recently that in many cases all stakeholders interests can be satisfied with a solution that does not compromise or results in a significant trade-off.

    Indeed, strong leadership and clear vision is needed for all this to happen. And I would add the presence of shared values, strong push for execution, perseverance and patience to the “magic” formula. Easy? Of course not!
    So, following your thoughts, I guess a great deal of the art of creating a winning team is about identifying, attracting and retaining individuals who have any of the talents required (looking for them in and out of our organization) and locating or relocating them in a complementary, high performance and socially aware team configuration!
    Thanks Ivanka!

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