Last reviewed 3 August 2022
As England’s Lionesses celebrated their historic 2-1 win over Germany in extra time in the final of Euro 2022 last night, they became the first English football team to win a major trophy since 1966. Their success can be attributed to the team’s manager, Sarina Wiegman who won the last European Championships in 2017 and 2019 World Cup final with the Netherlands, in a clear example of the difference strong leadership can make to a team’s performance.
Sarina Wiegman has had a transformative effect not only on the England team’s journey throughout Euro 2022 but also on the future of English football as a whole, so what are the secrets to being a great leader?
In this article, we take a look at what HR can learn from this sporting triumph.
A clear vision
Having a clear vision and earning the respect of your team are key. It is reported that Sarina was upfront with her team and told each member before the start of the tournament what their role would be, which meant that every player understood the part that they would play. These are important takeaways for HR. Managers who are transparent with their team and make them feel valued will find that they are more engaged, motivated and focused on the task in hand.
Be upfront with staff
Implementing robust employment contracts and policies can help managers to earn respect from their team by making sure that they know their employment rights. Suitable training and regular communication are also vital to reassure staff that their rights will be protected and upheld by the organisation. Managers should be consistent with how they treat their team members, promote equal opportunities and take a zero-tolerance approach to any discrimination, bullying or harassment.
Look forward, not back
Sarina Wiegman’s leadership style demonstrates the benefits of looking forward and not dwelling on past failures. Managers should consider ways to prevent the issue happening again and encourage employees to learn from their mistakes, where possible. This could include, for example, providing further training, reallocating work amongst the team or improving communication so employees feel they can ask for help if they need it. If the mistake or failure by the employee is serious enough to warrant a formal disciplinary warning being given under the employer’s disciplinary procedure, the warning will need to be for a limited time period and should not be taken into account once it has expired.
Believe in and value staff
When discussing the success of the England team, Beth Mead and Keira Walsh (both players on the winning England squad) noted how Sarina Wiegman valued and believed in them, and everyone who came onto the pitch. Leaders who have the ability to demonstrate this to their staff will tell you what a difference this makes: employees who are valued are more engaged, committed and loyal to the business. When employees can also see that others are treated the same way, no one is being singled (or left) out, they respond to this in positive ways.
This can and should be demonstrated day in, day out, and not just in a monthly “employee of the month” award. This can be through formal encounters with staff, such as meetings or in appraisals, or more informally, during email interactions or passing conversations, where the individual is celebrated for what they do, and their ideas and opinions welcomed and encouraged.
Lucy Bronze, another of the “Lionesses”, credited Sarina Wiegman’s calm leadership to their success in the run up to the European Championship final. Driving processes forward for team members whilst remaining calm and in control, and encouraging others to do the same and stay focused on the next step is one way great leaders can get the best from their employees. Whilst big successes at work should be celebrated, keeping a calm, steady hand through both the ups and the downs will give team members a consistent point of focus, and model behaviour for them that will encourage focused performance.
Leadership and management development
Sarina Wiegman is an inspiring leader, and the lessons we can learn from her can be easily translated into a business context. Incorporating these principles, along with the real-life example of putting them into action, into management and leadership training will help embed them into the organisational culture and management styles of leaders within the business.
Organisations inspired by the success of England’s lionesses should think about organising training sessions to boost soft skills, such as communication and collaboration, as they are just as important as technical training in the workplace. This is not just for leaders — everyone in the business can benefit. Similarly, taking time to applaud hard work and determination helps develop positive relationships and improve satisfaction and motivation.