Another Individual Mistake Sabotages “Teamwork” in U.S.-England Tie at World Cup

Teamwork never breaks down.

Teamwork never fails.

This again was proved in Saturday’s U.S. vs. England World Cup tournament opener.

Despite outstanding teamwork that allowed the stronger team from England to control the ball for 57 percent of the game, they left their opening game with a disappointing 1-1 tie.

The reason? A misplay by England goalkeeper Robert Green on a shot by Clint Dempsey of the U.S. allowed the tying goal late in the first half.


It’s plays like this that continue to reinforce my belief that breakdowns in what many consider “teamwork” rarely are the cause of achieving desired organizational performance results.

Teamwork is a buzzword in corporate america that continues to ask employees to strive for. They strive for ways to breakdown silohs that build up due to competition over resources between divisions and departments.

Yet, these requests, proclamations and teambuilding initiatives continually fail. They fail because the focus is mis-directed.

Teamwork fails in organizations and in athletics not because people do not understand the importance of working together so that “Together Everyone Achieves More.”

Teamwork fails for three reasons:

  1. The rewards and benefits of giving of oneself for the betterment of the group/team are not strongly enough aligned for the individual to do so;
  2. The rewards and benefits of giving of oneself for the betterment of the group/team actually create greater competition for resources between those who are supposed to be working together to share those resources.
  3. One individual on o the team “drops the ball” (or fails to perform the necessary task or assignment) as England Goalkeeper Robert Green did in attempting to protect his goal against the U.S. in their opening World Cup match yesterday;

On athletic teams, when team members fail to perform to expectations and make mistakes that cost their teammates there is usually tremendous despair on the part of the teammate who didn’t perform.

In today’s Wall St. Journal, Robert Green was quoted “It was obviously a horrible mistake, a terrible mistake,” said Mr. Green, bobbing his head incredulously after the game. He blamed neither the controversial new ball, the bounciest ever, nor the slickness of the pitch, and said his teammates left him alone after the mishap. “People don’t say anything. You know you made a mistake. You’ve got to deal with it.”

Yet, in many business situations, few individuals who fail to support their team members in situations when teamwork is required feel as though they’ve let anyone down.

This is due to one of three reasons:

  1. They are performing only in their own self-interests and don’t care about contributing to successful team/group effort
  2. They truly have a blind spot and do not realize the negative impact of their parochialism, or
  3. Others in the environment. like the team leaders, are enabling the negative behavior and avoid issue and tolerate the outcomes of this behavior

If your organization has team members who are not contributing to the ‘team’ effort there are reasons that need to be addressed before morale and motivation decay and decline. Leaders of high-performing athletic organizations do not tolerate this behavior and you shouldn’t, either.

’til next time, make it a great week!