How Iceland made us laugh and the English helped us learn…

A funny thing happened last week.  The Iceland football team took on the might (ha!) of the English in the Euro 2016 Round of 16 – and won!  Funny, right?

Ok, the English currently have the Ashes. Yep, they just flogged the Aussies on our home turf in the Rugby League and Mark Cavendish just keeps winning stages on Le Tour.  It’s only fair then that we take great joy and pride in every Australian’s second favourite football team inflicting this most humiliating defeat on the old rival!

We laughed with Iceland commentator Gudmundur Benediktsson’s unadulterated joy in calling/screaming the climactic final moments of the game and we laughed at the reaction of the English players slumped on the turf at the final whistle.  Classic.

But for all of this we don’t get another crack at reclaiming the famous little urn for a couple of years and the Wallabies will be licking their wounds for a while too.  So apart from the fleeting moment of gratification of this superb underdog story what do we really get out of it?

Luckily, now former English football coach Roy Hodgson oversaw a campaign so out of touch and devoid of strategy that we can’t but take some lessons from it.  In his article in The Age newspaper last week Matt Law reported on Hodgson’s clumsy campaign, here’s what we can take out of it.

  1. Ensure clarity – it’s no secret that we like to know what our roles and responsibilities are, yet how often in the workplace or sporting arena does this become blurred or confusing? Everyone should understand and be able to articulate the goals of the team and how their role contributes to achieving this.  Law reported that players were confused about the manager’s decision making which clearly had an effect on the synergy of the team and the style of football they played.
  2. Explicit communication and listening – ties in with the above and could have at least alleviated some of the confusion players felt based on Hodgson’s decision making. At the very least explaining the why behind some of his decisions may have helped players try to get their head around some of the perplexing decisions he made.  One of which was resting Wayne Rooney (captain, arguably their most important player) for a group game – without telling him beforehand!  This was after Rooney had communicated with the coach that he plays at his best when playing regularly.  Listening is a critical skill of effective leadership and it appears Hodgson was thinking about hoisting aloft the Euro trophy when Rooney had a quiet word with him.
  3. Never underestimate your competition – this simple rule is one taken from Richard Branson’s start up failures learning. Regardless if you face your competition every weekend or every day they are a very real and proper threat  On the day of the Iceland V Austria match, members of the English coaching group took a River Seine boat cruise before watching the match at the team hotel.  Incredibly the coaches who did go to the match celebrated Iceland’s goal which meant England would meet them and not Portugal in the quarter finals.  This lack of respect and preparation came home to roost.
  4. Keep things interesting – boring, repetitive drills lowered enthusiasm at training which can derail player motivation and their competitive psyche. In the professional environment how do you as a leader offer new opportunities, education or a change of scenery for your team to keep them enthused, motivated and excited for what may be coming next?

It’s not to say managing an under-performing and over-hyped team would be easy, to the contrary.  What would make it easier is getting the little things right, something Hodgson failed to do.

So don’t be a Roy.  Be a Heimir (Iceland coach) – even if it means having to go back to the dental surgery after almost scaling Europe’s football peak!

If you’re looking to develop and motivate your team contact Leaders of Evolution – [email protected]

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Leaders of Evolution are passionate about education. We expertly design and deliver technology enhanced e-learning courses focused on leadership, social and emotional learning, career readiness and sports coaching for students, teachers, athletes, coaches and the wider community.

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Damian Hecker

Keeping an eye on all sports, especially the mighty Hawthorn Football Club, staying fit in the great outdoors and sneaking in some travel wherever possible occupy Damian's time away from designing e-learning curriculum for both Leaders of Evolution and our valued E-learning Hub Partners.


  1. pevespult on July 20, 2021 at 8:47 pm

  2. Dick on July 27, 2021 at 9:34 am

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