In Episode 10, Matt Parker, CEO of Teamwork City of Hope, talks with Phil about getting your team on the same page and maximizing performance through clarity, communication, culture, minimizing “noise,” developing leadership from within, and...
In Episode 10, Matt Parker, CEO of Teamwork City of Hope, talks with Phil about getting your team on the same page and maximizing performance through clarity, communication, culture, minimizing “noise,” developing leadership from within, and covering for your teammates when they’re “out of position.” Specifically, he discusses:
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Phil: [00:00:00] Well, welcome back to How Soccer Explains Leadership. Once again, we have some great information, some great wisdom in store for you today. Today we have with us Matt Parker, and in a minute, Matt's going to share his story. He's going to share with us just how he got to where he is leading, he has led non-profits. He is a soccer guy. He is a Brighton fan. And you know that you don't hear that very often. So that's something we're going to hear a little bit about.
So. without much more for me right now, I want to get the Matt 'cause we got a lot of great stuff to talk about today. So Matt Parker, first of all, welcome. Secondly, can you just share a bit about yourself with our audience, with people out there to help them understand just who you are, why I asked you to be on this show, your connection with soccer, your connection with the leadership and just everything that you've been able to do in your life.
Matt: [00:01:02] Well, thanks, Phil. It's great to have this opportunity to have this conversation with you today. My love with soccer started when I was around 10 or 11 years old and growing up in England. My dad took me to my first game. it wasn't the English Premier League. In those days, it was called Division One.
It was a game between Brighton and Hove Albion and Aston Villa. And, we stood on the terraces. It was freezing cold, freezing cold December day. I loved that and I was hooked. And, played for a number of years. I was not very fast. I was not very skillful, but I could throw myself around and I could do a few good tackles here and there. So I ended up in defense and, I played for a number of years and, and then, I was a teacher for a few years.
So ended up coaching the school team. After that, my wife and I were working out at Lebanon at a children's home. So, coaching the soccer team was part of my role there for a time as well. And then for the last few years I've been involved in nonprofit leadership. Currently working for an organization called Teamwork City of Hope.
We work in East Africa, caring for orphans, vulnerable children. So in terms of soccer these days, I watch more than I play or coach. Watch a lot of English Premier League. I watch my son, my son's a freshman playing soccer at university. He's a far better player than I ever was. And in fact, my wife is a qualified coach as well.
And she's a far better coach than I ever was. So we're a soccer family.
Phil: [00:02:39] I'm very fortunate and blessed to be in a soccer family as well. My wife was a much better player than I was. My kids are much better players than I am. So we're kindred spirits here as well. We also have had the, the blessing and the honor to be able to run nonprofits. And that's a lot of what we're going to be talking about today. As we've talked about so far on the show, and as we will continue to really the intersection of, of this beautiful game and of the leadership that we are able to do and, and how we can learn from both of them in our respective fields.
So, the first thing. And that I want to get into really, and just talk about with you just dig right into it is part of any great team involves getting on the same page. Getting everyone on the same page with each other. what does that look like in a soccer club and how does intersect with leadership of, the various organizations that you've been able to lead the teaching you've been able to do?
How are they very similar?
Matt: [00:03:29] One thing that I've really enjoyed the leading a number of different organizations. Helping these organizations develop a longterm strategy and plan. Identifying the milestones that are needed to accomplish those plans. And that means starting by being clear on vision and mission and values.
And I think it's very much the same for a soccer team as well. For a soccer team to identify what's the long-term vision? What do they want to accomplish? What will their style of play look like? What are the types of players that they will need to, To accomplish what they want to? And what are the behaviors that are important?
What are the values that are important in how that vision is accomplished? And, and often that takes time, identifying a long-term vision, delivering on that vision often takes time. It takes time in business. It takes time in the nonprofit world. It takes time in the world of soccer as well. And I think one of the challenges is that often leaders are not given the time that they need to accomplish that long-term vision. We certainly see that I think in professional soccer. Many managers, coaches, that they don't last long in, in that management coaching roles. Many club owners, I think have a short-sighted approach that fire managers after a few poor results.
Thinking of Watford, in the English premier league last season, I think I'd have four or five managers,
Phil: [00:05:01] right.
Matt: [00:05:02] And no consistency, no stability. And they ended up being relegated as a result of that. And, Phil, you can talk about Sir Alex Ferguson, obviously of Manchester United, but it took him time to build a great team at Manchester United.
And I think there were times in those early days when people were wondering, is he going to be able to last and, and build the team? And thankfully he was given that time and ended up really being as one of the management greats. So really important, any organization, any business, nonprofit and soccer teams as well, soccer clubs that there is that longterm vision.
There's a plan to accomplish that vision and that people are given time to, to do so.
Phil: [00:05:50] This is something I've seen, I know in organizations, but also in the teams that I've coached. Because if you aren't on the same page, you will have a lot of, discontent. You'll have a lot of strife in your team.
You'll have a lot of, inconsistencies going on. Just as an example, I coach a high school team. And at the beginning of the year you asked the players, what is your goal for this year? And some of them will say, we just want to play and have fun. And others say we want to win in California.
Here at CIF is the big, it's not one state championship at now. It's the Northern California, whatever championship. And some want to win that. But if you're not on the same page there, you're going to be practicing differently. You're going to be playing differently. You're going to be satisfied with different results.
You'll be okay just losing a game that you should have won if your goal is to just have fun and have a social hour for a couple hours as, playing soccer. But if your goal is to win state, that doesn't cut it. Those games that you should have one, you need to be on the same page to be able to do this.
So, is your mission to have fun and just be a, a social club or is it to do your best and play at the level of excellence that you can, that you can get to. And, again, if everyone's on the same page, neither of those is necessarily wrong. For me as a coach, I would really hope and pray that they are not just wanting to go out there and have social hour.
But if that's what everyone agrees to do, then we will, as a group, as a team, have that mission and vision and values together, and everyone will be on the same page. And then you will be able to work for it together. But like you said, the leader will be the one that is going to be leading that.
Presumably, and hopefully, right?
Matt: [00:07:27] The leader is responsible for building that clarity around this is where we're going, inspiring, the people that he's leading, inspiring the team and yeah, just building that, that consensus, that clarity. And, everybody knows. This is where we're going as a team. This is where we're heading as a group.
This is what we want to accomplish. These are some of the steps that we will need to accomplish in order to, to reach that long-term vision.
Phil: [00:07:56] That's right. And I, and I think that you and I both have seen organizations and, soccer teams over-perform when they're on that same page. That you see teams win, that shouldn't have won games.
You see like Liverpool last year. They won games that they probably shouldn't have won, but because they were on the same page and they knew that their vision was we're winning every game. Yeah. The 93rd minute they're pulling something out of nowhere and winning games. Right. And so I think we've seen that with organizations too, that they're over-performing because their vision and their values and their mission is, is so clear that they're together going to make sure that they're going to go that extra mile to do stuff.
Have you seen that?
Matt: [00:08:40] Absolutely. Talking about Liverpool last season, but we see it very much at that champion. A champion team. You see that very regularly, regularly. That's really the focus. they have that focus that they know where they're heading. They know what they need to do. They know what they need to accomplish.
And that's the one focus that they have and, working together as a group to accomplish that.
Phil: [00:09:04] Definitely. as we move forward, I mean that, that obviously there's so much the mission, vision values. We can't cover it today. We have a lot more than we want to talk about, so we're going to move on, but I think you, get the point out there, folks that just, that it's so critical to be on the same page and whether it's a soccer team or a, an organization that is absolutely essential. And another thing that's essential, we talked a little bit about this in the prior episodes, but the idea of culture, the idea of having a culture that is mutually agreed upon as an, as an organization and is something that is part and parcel of that team.
And so how does culture play out on a soccer team and really, how can we develop that healthy culture so that our teams flourish?
Matt: [00:09:49] I think with any organization, Phil, the culture that is, developed by leadership is absolutely critical. Whether it's a business, whether it's a non-profit, whether it's a soccer team, that culture is a critical component in its success.
Patrick Lencioni, in one of his books, The Advantage, he's talking about business. But, but it applies to all teams and all organizations. And he talks about the need to build organizations that are both healthy and smart. Many organizations don't do it. They focus on the smart piece, but he says, there's an absolutely critical need for organizations to be both healthy and smart.
So in a soccer team, in the context of a soccer team, smart means they can show that they have the quality of player that's needed. That tactics are second to none that they're using research and statistics to inform decisions that are being made. That they have to training facilities that are needed.
And the quality of field that's needed to play on. The strategy is that the marketing is all of these different pieces are in place. And so that's smart. But the healthy piece is more about the morale and the relationships. The quality of the relationships that exist within the team. The focus that the team has on working together, putting the team first, the level of trust that exists within between team members.
The desire to help individuals grow. Individual players grow. And the accountability that's needed as well. And so being healthy and smart is really important for any organizations, including a soccer team.
Phil: [00:11:40] Yeah, absolutely. And I think that that's something that when you look at it, you go, it goes back to that mission, vision values, right.
That healthy. If you're on the same page, you're able to have the accountability. You're able to have the trust level and stuff. But if you don't make that clear, then it could be that people misunderstand where each other are coming from. So if you have, again, going back to that, that example of the high school team, if you have someone that wants to win state and another person that wants to just go out and play and joke around and have a good time.
And they haven't talked about that. That's going to lead to a lot of unhealth, right? Because on practice, one's going to be goofing off. The other is going to be wanting to be intense and they're going to be yelling at each other. And if you never communicate that, and again, I think that's where that leader comes in to be able to ensure that everyone's on the same page for that health.
But with that also, I think comes the idea of the, the superstars and role players and team players and, and how you can be able to bring all of them together for a culture. How is that leader able to do that? I mean, you talk about Alex Ferguson. He probably did that as well as anybody in history in the game.
But how are you able to do that? Whether it was in coaching teaching, and leading the organizations because we all know we have superstars in our organizations. But if we just put them on a pedestal or if they put themselves on a pedestal, usually that's not the best. So how have you experienced being able to have everyone be able to work together for that help the culture?
Matt: [00:13:06] I think in any team that I'm working to bring together, obviously we need those people that are capable. We need those people that have the skills to deliver. In the context of our soccer team, we need capable players who are going to deliver when they're out on the field. But then also it's people that are hungry.
People that are committed. There's nothing worse in a soccer team. There's nothing worse than having a great player, a superstar player who, as soon as you go a goal behind his head goes down and kind of gives up. Or doesn't look interested. And so having people that are committed, people that are hungry is a really important. People that are going to just give all like they've got, right up until the final whistle. And then humility, I believe is a key, a key need. A lot of superstar players are maybe, it's easy for them to get big headed. It's easy for them to think, well, the team can't exist without me. And so just that need for humility, within the team, and that commitment to not just self, but to the whole team. I was in. Interesting. I was listening to, an interview with one of the players at Brighton and Hove Albion recently, and he was just saying, talking about the quality of the, the team spirit in the changing room. And, and just saying that, they have, a kind of policy and unwritten policy, but it's a policy that nobody's allowed to get too big headed.
No matter what they achieve, no matter what they accomplish. And there's accountability in place, or if somebody, one of the players starts to go down that route, then, they brought back down to earth by others. And, in a coaching, situation, we will often have players that really stand out and there's that need to work with those players and just encourage that and to see team. As most important, not just their own accomplishments but team as being the most important thing. And to stay grounded, despite the best successful, the way that they are, held up by others. Just that, that humility and that commitment to team is vital.
Phil: [00:15:27] And again, all this is interconnected with each other. Because if you have that mission, vision, values and it's clear in that team, then the team becomes the focus and that's where the humility is. You are doing something bigger than yourself. It's not about you.
Have you watched Ted lasso, you watching Ted lasso No, you're not. Okay. Well, I will tell you, and if you folks out there watching it, yeah, we won't necessarily get into too much, but there's this one scene in there reminded me of it. It's a fantastic show by the way. It's really funny, but brilliant writing and amazing leadership principles throughout.
But one of the things he talks about is almost exactly what you just talked about there where during the show, there's this one guy that is the older guy on the team leader in the locker room that you can tell, but he's not taking on that leadership role. And so, Ted Lasso is the coach.
He says, he's the one. If we can get him to get what we're doing, he will be able to transform this team into a healthy team 'cause it wasn't healthy at all. And so that's something that, I don't have time on the show today to get into all the details, but I think that point of the superstar can either be a virus or it can be someone who the team can rally around, but it does take that humility for that superstar to somehow get into their head that this is bigger than you. This is bigger than, than a single person. And that goes for organizations that goes for really any healthy team in the world. And again, not to this, isn't an Alex Ferguson special show, but I love his book where he goes through different players and how they were different people.
And he knew them and he knew David Beckham wanted to be a rockstar. And it was the only guy on that team that did. And so he treated him and handled him differently than the rest of the players, Ronaldo coming in and being able to take this young, arrogant little kid and make him into who he is. And to go player to player and seeing how their, each of them are different.
And, and it can either be again, either be a virus or it can be an amazing, beautiful thing. And so I think that that's something that is critical, but that, that really leads us to the next question that In any team, it's got to start with that manager, that coach. And I think over the last few years we have, I mean, if there's any time in the history of the game where you're seeing the differences that managers and coaches are making, I think now is it.
That's right. I mean, you're seeing Messi wanting to bail on Barcelona, which is crazy. Now that's the board of directors and everything else. You're seeing Klopp and Guardiola, having amazing impact. You're seeing Ole coming in after a few years of these different managers and everyone's criticizing every manager at all times, but do you see a manager focused on something?
So talk about that for a bit. Just the importance of the manager, coach. The importance of the CEO or the leader of an organization and why it's so critical and how the manager can be the start of a healthy organization.
Matt: [00:18:17] it's really the top leader, whether that's the manager and a soccer team or CEO in an organization, it's the, it's that person.
It's that top leader that really sets the tone. It's that top leader, the models, the attitudes, behaviors that he wants to see throughout the organization, throughout the team, doing it in the changing room, in the. Well in the training field, when the team is on the, on the field and playing a game, it's how that, that manager, sets the tone and how he models those behaviors.
That is absolutely key. And Phil, you mentioned, Alex Ferguson as somebody that really understood his players as individuals. And that's a key piece that we understand each individual player on our team. What works for them, how to get the best out of that person, and how they can fit, how they can best fit into that team structure. I think there's also a need, There is the need for accountability.
Holding people accountable once as leaders, as we set out, exactly what we want to see, the attitudes, the behaviors that we want to see that we're holding people accountable for those. And, sometimes that means turning up the heat on, on people. And sometimes it means dialing the heat back down again.
But knowing when to do that, having the wisdom to know when, to turn up the pressure a little bit and when to dial it back a little bit is important. When you're a goal behind at half time, when throw the teacups around or do you just give an inspirational talk instead?
What does that look like? And knowing, how to handle different situations is absolutely key. And then there's also a key need I think that leaders have to be able to get different perspectives. And so sometimes it is insuring that they have that big picture perspective. That they're seeing the big picture.
And sometimes it's getting down on the ground and into the detail, the day-to-day. And I guess an analogy, if you look at a soccer coach, there are times when the soccer coach needs to spend time high up in the stand and be watching the field from, from a high up and getting that bird's eye view of what's happening, but there are also times on the training ground
he needs to be there. It needs to be down on the, on the field with the players and interacting with them. And because there are different perspectives that you get the bigger picture, but then also that, that day-to-day, and into the details.
Phil: [00:20:53] And I think that's something that we see with the teams, with the Premier League teams, with the professional teams.
Yeah. We see they have a trainer and they have a manager. And, going back to Ferguson in his book, he talks about, he couldn't be the manager he was until he realized he couldn't be both the trainer and the manager. He couldn't be both in the weeds and at that 30,000 foot view. And even in the high school games.
Yeah. Like I'll go up into the press box sometimes at the high school and, I'm the assistant coach, but the head coach down there, I go up in the press box, watch the game from up above to get a different perspective, even in the midst of games, to be able to see different things, because, we can't see all things at all times.
And so Sometimes to know as the leader to that, I can only do so much. I need to bring someone else alongside me that can be my eyes and ears as well, from a different perspective. To give them that respect, to give them that level of, of responsibility that we can actually be, while I am the ultimate responsibility of this organization, there's somebody else who I am bringing into that circle that will be at that same level of authority.
And, that's something that I think you hit that right on the head there with that perspective, but there's something else that I know we've talked about in the past. Just the idea of the last 20 years or so, there's been a lot of change in our world that's impacted leadership. Whether it's in, in soccer you have the 24 hour news cycle that's hit the soccer global football as well.
If you're a manager, I can't even imagine the pressure. But how as a leader, can you minimize the impact of that, all that noise going on outside of your organization. How can you minimize the impact of that in the locker room, on the pitch, in your team. What are some things that you can do as a coach, as a leader, to be able to maximize your team and minimize that noise?
Matt: [00:22:42] I think part of that is going back to the whole concept of focus. Identify what we need to accomplish and, how are we going to get there? Okay. And really being focused on that, because as you say, there's a lot of, there's a lot of voices, in our soccer team. That has for a soccer club that has made maybe 50,000 supporters.
Each one of those supporters has their own opinion, who should be in the team, what should be happening, what the tactics should be. And, there's so much opportunity now for supporters, for the media to be able to share those opinions and those views and, that there's just the need. for soccer coaches to just focus on this is where we're going.
This is what we're accomplishing. These are the voices I will listen to, but those are the ones that I will. I will ignore. I won't listen to them. I'll put those to one side. And so just that whole area of focus is absolutely key.
Phil: [00:23:41] And the other part I know that we've talked about too, is just really that idea of praise in public and criticize in private.
And so can you talk a little bit about that?
Matt: [00:23:52] As a leader, we want to be, we want to be encouraging our teams. And part of that will be at times being able to praise individuals or a group of the whole team in public. And that helps to really, to raise the, the morale within the team.
But there are times when we're going to need to address some difficult issues. There are times when there will be conflict within a team and how we address that is absolutely critical. Because obviously conflict or when things are not going well, that can be so disruptive and it can cause irreparable damage to a team.
so yet doing that, appropriately. sharing that with the appropriate people. If there's a conflict situation, who needs to be involved in that? It doesn't need to be a public. It doesn't need to be a soccer manager who goes to his press conference and says, I'm having issues with this player.
Or, I'm having all of these problems. It's addressed appropriately, with the right people. it's addressed as quickly as possible. and, just in a way that helps them build, hopefully strengthen the quality of relationships rather than break them down.
Phil: [00:25:09] I've seen this at the highest levels of football. I won't name any names, but it's a manager that managed Manchester United and is currently managing a different Premier League team right now. But he tends to criticize in public and criticize in private and probably criticize everywhere else too.
And you see that with the teams that he manages often implode, almost always implode after two or three years, because it can only go so long to have that. And I see that in my family as well. When I criticize my kids and I discipline them in front of each other and there's only five of them, it's different than when I pull them aside into their room and just say, Hey, here's some issues that we have. and usually the former, when I'm doing it in public, it's usually out of anger. It's usually not a healthy discipline. It's usually not a healthy conversation. And I think the same thing goes a lot of times when you're in a press conference and it often just comes out of anger, out of frustration, rather than okay, if I have a rule that I'm only going to praise in public, Yeah, then it changes everything and you're able to take that time to examine, okay, what's really the issue here? Then when we're in that private time, you can have that conversation a lot better and it's not an escalating thing. It actually deescalates.
At least that's what I've found. Have you found the same thing?
Matt: [00:26:21] Absolutely. I think it's, as we say, when a manager goes out and publicly criticizes his players, that's incredibly disruptive and that's the same in any leadership context. In business, in nonprofits, whatever it is. It's really going back to we were talking about culture and that then becomes part of a culture of the organization. And that if people are being criticized publicly, that is then part of that culture and it's unhealthy.
Whereas every organization we know every organization, there are issues. There are challenges, there are conflict, but addressing those in a way that reflects the culture that we want to establish within that organization is absolutely key.
Phil: [00:27:02] This is, so this stuff fires me up, because I think this is the things that make the difference between what could be a good team or a really an unhealthy team and what could be a phenomenal team.
And look at the talent in these different teams in the Premier League is not that different from each other. If you just look at the talent pools, a few of the teams have, some rock stars, but at the end of the day, it's not that much. But you look at some teams just completely outperforming other teams.
And usually it is because of leadership and the culture of that team, which stems from that leader. But there's a lot of other things that go into a great team. That go into another, they often stem from leadership, which is why we're doing this podcast really is from the standpoint of both soccer and from, culture leadership, our families, our life, really how we can be better people. But one of the things that you see vividly in soccer clubs is the idea of investing in young talent and developing them. What does that look like in the, in the teams that you've seen, with Brighton that's one of the reasons I love Manchester United is because, historically not necessarily in the last decade or so, they have developed their teams through the academies, and developed their leadership through the academies too.
So what does that look like on the field and what does that look like in the organizations as far as healthy organizations and developing leadership from within?
Matt: [00:28:22] As you said, Phil, I think Manchester United, part of that philosophy through the years is developing young talent. Thinking about Brighton, that's very much part of the strategy. I think Brighton has one of the youngest teams in the Premier League. But investing in those younger players who have the potential who are not there yet, but the potential is there, investing in them, helping them grow their skills. Helping them grow their characters as well, because that's part of it too.
Helping them deal with the success, as it comes along. That is absolutely, that's a critical piece. Teams can buy success. They can bring in the best players from outside and pull together a high-performing team that way. But I think it's really exciting to see those younger teams, younger players starting to come through and that takes time. Looking at Brighton this season, playing some great football, but it's not being seen right now in some of the results that we're having. But some really good things that are happening, but still a little naive. And the manager Graham Potter is really working hard to manage these young players and manage them well. So it takes time. But as leaders that needs to be something, that we're looking at is developing people, identifying some of the emerging talent, maybe young people that have great skills. Working with them, helping them develop their skills so they are able then to reach their potential. I think that that is something that any leader, whether it's in a, soccer coach or, in nonprofit leadership and business leadership, whatever organization that leaders are looking to do that. To identify people that are not there yet, but who have a lot of potential. And, the skills potentially the skills to grow.
Phil: [00:30:19] And I think that goes for any healthy leader.
If they're not developing their successor, they're not a healthy leader. That's the reality. and how soccer really does show that and show that up. And oftentimes you're going to develop your success and they're going to go somewhere else And that is okay. Again, if you're seeing it as bigger than yourself, bigger than your organization, and sometime obviously within soccer, you sell the player and you get money for it. And it's part of the business plan, whatever. oftentimes too, though, and this is, I think this is leadership as well.
You know, your player will, grow better at another organization. So that's what these loans and other things like that, you know, you can be selfish and say, no, we're going to keep you here but that's not going to help them flourish. And so oftentimes what I've found in leadership is even when it hurts me as an organization, I'm like, I know you're going to flourish somewhere else.
Yeah. And so I'm going to let you go to do that. And when someone comes to me and says, Hey, you know, I'm, I got this great opportunity to go here and do XYZ. It's never a bummer for me. It's like, Yeah, go. Yeah, I agree. You're going to, you're going to do amazing things there. And I think that's where you see healthy teams where they're able to do that.
But at the same time also knowing when it's the right time to bring them back, if, if at all. With coaches, to be able to develop coaches through the academies, develop coaches through the assistant roles. All of those things are critical for healthy organizations.
Matt: [00:31:40] Yeah. It's having that concern as leaders being concerned.
One of our top concerns being for our people as individuals. Being concerned for them being concerned for their needs, being concerned about that growth and that development, in their roles, whatever that looks like. That desire to see, you used the word flourish. And I think that sums it up well, Phil, really seeing people flourish and grow. Whether that's with us as part of our team or we'd love that somewhere else.
Phil: [00:32:12] Again, part of that too, is another quality that's critical to flourish and critical to help the organizations is the idea of there needs to be excellent communication. You can have the best ideas in your head.
You can have a mission, vision, values that are the best in the history of the world, but if you don't communicate them well, and you don't create that clarity within your team, it's not going to, it's not going to be worth anything. So what does that look like? What does that communication look like?
I mean, you mentioned Lencioni earlier and The Advantage. Do you remember the four steps of a healthy organization out of that book?
Matt: [00:32:45] I think he talks about, communicate, or create clarity, create clarity again, continue communicating or something like that.
Phil: [00:32:52] Yeah. It's basically, I think develop a healthy leadership team.
Right. Which is that.
Matt: [00:32:56] Build that team.
Phil: [00:32:57] Everything we talked about and then create clarity, communicate clarity, reinforce clarity. Those are the four steps. But what does that look like? Okay. That's great. But a whole book was written about it. We don't have time to go into the entire book, but what does that look like in a soccer team? What does that communication look like? And then how does that translate into organizations?
Matt: [00:33:19] I would just say, I think communication is such a critical piece. you've mentioned this already, but, when a team breaks down, in whatever context, when a team breaks down, communication is almost always somewhere part of the problem. And communication, communicating well, creating that clarity needs to be just a super high priority for us as leaders. And I think in the context of a soccer team, just being able to communicate, obviously that vision we've talked about that already, being able to communicate very clearly with players what expectations are. It's absolutely critical that players know what is expected of them.
I was talking to my son, couple of days ago and he was saying just how much he's enjoying being part of the squad at his university, because the coach is talking with him individually and saying, Hey, this is what I want from you. This is what I need to see from you. When this happens, this is how you respond.
And so that's that real clarity that's needed. So, making players very clear individually, the expectations of them, but also the team as a whole and communicating very clearly with the team as a whole what the corporate expectations are of them as a group. But then also there's, you know, you just think about the amount of communication that's needed within a soccer club for a manager or a coach, communicating with the board, communicating with the media and all of these things needs to be done well, appropriate level of communication and, that's just really important.
Phil: [00:34:52] Right when you said that there at the end, it just made me think of whether it's a manager of a Premier League team talking with the board and being on the same page. I'm just looking through the transfer windows, you see healthy organizations and you see yeah.
Unhealthy organizations, right. You see coaches that are going, I want all these players in the board and the owners are, they're not on the same page or you see ones that are, and again, I'm not going to name any names of organizations that seem to have train wreck transfers windows every time.
but other ones that it's like, you don't even hear about it. And then boom, they got the transfer done. In like two days. And I think those are, and I, again, I'm not putting all of that on health or unhealth of organizations. There's obviously a lot of things go into that, but I think it's a big part of it because if you're not on the same page, if you're not communicating with each other well ahead of time before you actually need the action, it's not going to happen.
But the other thing you talked about there is the idea of crystal clear instructions and responsibilities and players knowing what's expected of them. Coaches knowing what is expected of them. And managers knowing what's expected of them from the people above them. And I think also to a certain extent, the manager and the club is actually leading the supporters as well.
Like, Hey, here's, what's expected of you. If they're riding, if they're, being hooligans and whatever that, the, the manager can either help put that out or make it worse by stoking that fire. So I think that there's a lot of, and you've seen that over the years too, but what that reminds me of an organizations is really job descriptions. It's also important to remember that sometimes you play out a position a little bit. Sometimes as an outside back. And that is not sometimes like 90% of the game, it seems like now they're making runs. And what happens when they make a run? Somebody has to cover for him.
Right. But that's, what's expected. So in organizations, have you seen that in your organizational leadership, as far as people kind of playing out a position and people having to cover from them? I mean, you, as a small nonprofit director, you see that probably all the time,
Matt: [00:36:45] The organization I'm leading at the moment, we're fairly small, we're growing but we're small right now.
And so it does mean, people are having people who are committed to working for one another and supporting one another, covering for one another as necessary. And that's why it's so important to really make sure people understand that long-term vision. This is why we're doing this.
This is why we're having to play out a position. This is why we have these expectations right now. it's about accomplishing that longterm vision that longterm dream that we have. but there's also that need for, soccer players. but then for all of us to adapt and be flexible, as needed. We're in a world that is constantly changing.
And looking back at just this last year and the change that we've seen in the world. And so there's that need to be able to adapt and that need to be able to be flexible and change, approach as needed. It's interesting watching, soccer teams and looking back over the last few years and just how soccer coaching has changed and team formations have changed.
But back when I started watching soccer 40 years ago, it was four, four, two. That was the formation every week. We all knew how every team was going to line up, but it was four, four, two, and now things are far more complex. It's very different and far more flexible. Players managers need to adjust to that.
Phil: [00:38:16] It's funny you say that. I was actually just talking with my daughter last night about that, where, her team is a U 13 team. And quite frankly, in my opinion, again, I'm not the coach coach hasn't asked me, but I don't think her team has the personnel to play a four, three, three. But now the four, three, three is what the four, four, two used to be. It seems like everyone's playing the four, three, three now. Now, I mean, four, one, four, one or whatever. I mean, there's all these times. I mean, whatever, but at the end of the day, it seems like, even a five, three, two looks like a four, three, three, most of the time, whatever.
So what I said to her is I said, part of being a coach, part of being a team is you need to know your personnel and you need to be flexible to not say, Hey, I'm a manager that plays a four, three, three. I'm not a big fan of changing my team's strongest formation based on the opponent.
But that's what a lot of, managers are doing and they have success doing it. So that's the beauty of it though. You know your personnel, you know, your management style, you know, your team clarity, you know, how you act and if everyone's on the same page and they know those different formations, then awesome.
Matt: [00:39:16] You get, and you get to an unexpected injury in a game that kind of throws things. in terms of maybe the formation or the game plan, or you go a goal behind. Yeah. Or the other team comes out and plays completely different tactics to the ones you'd expected them to. And so, yes, there are times when, need to adjust and, and be flexible and change the plans, that we have, and that we see that in life as well.
It's a little about learning. Being constant learners as a soccer coach, coach needs to be constantly learning. We all do as leaders need to be learning new things. Lifelong learning and growing and never being satisfied with where we are now. There's always something we can always learn and try out new things and adapt and innovate.
Phil: [00:40:01] Yeah. that's one of the oldest adages of leadership, Leaders are learners. Used to be leaders are readers, but I think now we're learning in so many different mediums, but, it's absolutely true. So we're coming to, we're winding it down now and now we're coming to one of my favorite questions that I get to ask guests on this show.
And, we've already talked about, we've established, you have a soccer family. So, what principles have you learned directly from the game of soccer and I also want to commend you.
I know you've lived in the US a long time, but I imagine every time you say soccer kind of hurts a little bit. so I'm going to say directly from the game of football that you have used in your marriage and parenting and really just in your home.
Matt: [00:40:45] Well, I noticed I slipped a few minutes ago and I did say football instead of soccer.
Phil: [00:40:48] Yeah. I could see you cringe every time you say soccer. So I had to, I had to mention that. So.
Matt: [00:40:55] Well, you know, Phil, when you're playing soccer, when you're coaching a soccer team, There are going to be ups and downs. There are going to be those good times. There's times when things are going well, when you're winning and you're on a roll and, and it's great.
And then those times, which are far more difficult, where you're under pressure, where you're dealing with, maybe challenging situations, maybe dealing with loss, dealing with defeat and. my wife and I were just talking about this, just to actually last night, but it's very much the same in life.
In our marriages, as we parent, there's just that need in the good times and those challenging times to stick together. To identify what needs to improve. To work at that. To keep looking forward and then to keep moving forward. And then the key word there is together. When a soccer team is going through a difficult time, they need to come through that time together.
If they're going to make it out the other side,
Phil: [00:41:53] yeah.
Matt: [00:41:53] And it's the same, I think in our marriages with our families. Working through those difficult times together. So that would be one thing. I mentioned my son has just a second thought on that. My son is a freshman playing soccer at university.
He's got into the squad trying to break into the team. And, this has been a challenging season for him as he looks to break into the team. And so we've been really encouraging him to see team the team as the most important thing. Yes, he has a part to play, but the team is the most important thing.
Encouraging him to work hard. Continue working hard, persevering through those disappointments. And even when he doesn't get into the team, when he's sitting on the bench, being ready to encourage and support and help others in any way that he can. And that is part of seeing the bigger picture. It's not just about him.
It's about the team and what the team is accomplishing together. And I think that applies to us, to all of us at different times in our lives and in our work, in our marriages and in our family lives.
Phil: [00:43:06] We talk about that all the time with our kids, that in the midst of any individual moment. In a fight, in a, whatever you might think, Oh, well, I'm just going to blow off this family thing or whatever. But to remind our kids, look. your friends are gonna come and go, but your family is gonna be here one way or the other. And it's either going to be dysfunctional and awful, or it's going to be healthy and incredible.
And I just look at my wife and her five, her four siblings in particular, but the, the family. They're so tight and they weren't when they were kids, but they, but to remember they come back and because it's healthy, it's amazing. And you look at a team too. It's the same thing.
Like you can hate each other, but you're still a team.
Matt: [00:43:46] Yeah
Phil: [00:43:47] So there's going to be problems. So to choose joy, as we say, oftentimes in our home.
Matt: [00:43:52] Great advice
Phil: [00:43:54] That goes for teams as well. That goes for our teams. so, if you're stuck together for a while, you might as well enjoy it, how can you find that way to enjoy it? How can you find that way to choose joy? And that's something that is such a great principle in our home. I'm sure it has been in yours as well.
Matt: [00:44:09] Yeah, absolutely.
Phil: [00:44:11] I don't know that I've ever seen you where you don't have that joy exuding from you.
I'm sure there are moments, but I haven't seen them. So I appreciate that from you too. All right. So the last question we have here is what have you read, watched or listened to that really has informed your thinking on this idea that we've been talking about, how soccer explains leadership?
Matt: [00:44:28] You've probably already guessed. I'm fascinated just by observing soccer managers, how they handle the complexities of leading, managing teams through, through good times and difficult times. My wife and I were just watching a documentary on Leeds United who've just come up into the the Premier League in England. And, that their manager, Bielsa, and just his passion and the level of detail that he went into to prepare, the way that they bounced back from the disappointment of not getting promotion a couple of years ago. Just the huge respect that he commands. And he's not necessarily the best people person in the world, but just with, the concern that the passion that he has. The concern he has for the team, the detail that he goes into, he just really commands just great respect.
So that's been interesting. My own team, Brighton, just being really interested to see how they've very clearly got a longterm vision and that's reflected in the playing style. Very clearly defined culture. A culture where people are a priority. That investment in young players that we talked about and hopefully the results will, will follow before too long.
And then I was just reading a book actually by Nigel Travis, who was the CEO at Dunkin Donuts in the United States for many years. So he had this great experience managing Dunkin Donuts, and then he took on the role as the Chair of the Board at Leyton Orient, which is a tiny soccer club in London and a club that had really been driven into the ground by the previous ownership. There were a lot of problems and very dysfunctional. And he was talking about the parallels of leading Dunkin Donuts and Leyton Orient, two very, very different organizations. And obviously some things that are very different about that management piece, but also some clear parallels as well.
And, just that need to create those long-term goals. Stable management, stable leadership, the importance of collaboration, the importance of listening to feedback, challenging some of the assumptions that people had in the past and really investing to create a healthy culture. Just very, very interesting.
Phil: [00:46:45] Sounds like, I need to get him on the show. I don't know. I gotta work that angle. That sounds fascinating. I gotta go check that out. Thanks again, Matt.
Thanks for being a part of this. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. Folks, if you've never heard of Matt, which I'm assuming many of you have not, look him up. Look at the work that he's doing, and encouraged to, to learn more about what the, what does nonprofits do and just working with the orphan and vulnerable kids out there in the world.
I've been privileged to be able to work with him in the orphan care community for years. And so he's just a phenomenal guy. I appreciate you. Thank you for being a part of this show.
Matt: [00:47:17] Phil, it's a pleasure. Appreciate it.
Phil: [00:47:20] So folks, as always, we want to invite you, now that you had another great show, in my opinion, with some great wisdom, that we were able to share today.
I hope that you subscribe to this show. That you go wherever you're listening to it now and just hit that subscribe button and then you'll be able to get all the future episodes into your, into your feed and be able to listen to those as well, to be able to engage us on the how soccer explains leadership, Facebook group.
and, if you have any questions, any way you want to get in touch with me, you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I just, want to thank you for being a part of this show.
Thank you for the download and as always. I just hope that you're taking what you're learning from this show, what you're learning from the stuff that hopefully you're reading from these guests and these other things that these guests are being able to share with you and you take it and you use it all to help you to understand how you can be a better leader, whether it's in soccer, whether it's an organizations, whether it's in your own home.
Thanks a lot. Have a great week.