If Your Company Were A Football Team Would You Be In The Starting 11 Or On The Bench?

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By Strive Masiyiwa, Econet Wireless founder and Zimbabwe’s richest man.

Whenever someone describes themselves, as a “worker”, it really grates on my teeth. It is really a word, that does not suit the “current best practice”. I’m also uncomfortable with the word “employee”. Can you imagine Cristiano Ronaldo, describing himself as an “employee of Real Madrid football club, or Lebron James, describing himself, as a “worker” of Cleveland Cavaliers. People would just laugh at you.

Technically it might be correct, that they are contracted as any employee or worker, because they don’t own the clubs, but we all know they are much more than that. They are the “heart and soul” of the organization. Yes, there are directors, and CEOs behind the scenes, but a club is what it is because of these stars.
In this next series, I’m going to talk about why talent matters, in the work place, and that ultimately it is the battle for talent and skills that will decide whether your organization will be a success, and ultimately whether your country will succeed, to deliver prosperity for you, in the 21st century.

There is no problem, that will arise in your business, that cannot be solved, if you have access to the right talent and skills… Nothing, absolutely nothing!
The days of employees, and workers are over, in future when you meet someone, you will not say to them, “where do you work?”, but “who do you play for?”
There will be no such thing, as an “Human Resource” Manager or “Personnel” Manager. These are archaic concepts belonging to a bye gone age, when (mostly) men, were employed to use their hands. We will instead talk of “Talent Managers”.
Just as every fan of a good sports team, frets about the recruitment of talented players to a team, so will those associated with businesses.
It’s all about “talent and skills” now.
Let’s talk.

We had been negotiating with our partners all day. The situation was desperate, and tempers were frayed. I don’t like to raise my voice, but these guys were driving me crazy, with their unreasonableness. We were getting nowhere.
Then one of my team members, a young lawyer, whispered in my ear: “Why don’t we ask for time out for 20 minutes.”
I looked at him, quite surprised.
“I have an idea, which can help break the log jam.”
Almost irritated, by his impertinent interjection, I agreed to take a short break.
“What is your idea?” I asked him.
“Can we take a walk outside?”
I agreed, more out of the need for fresh air, than the fact that this youngster could have an idea, that could change this difficult situation.
We stepped out, the two of us, into the humid African night.
“My suggestion is that you step out of the negotiations, and allow me to take over.”
I was stunned, by his proposal, but I listened.
Twenty minutes later, I appointed him “Lead Negotiator”, and left the room. I put everything in his hands, and pulled all the other top executives out.
Through the night, and most of the following day, he continued with the negotiations. In the evening he brought me a final draft for signing. I signed.
It remains to this day one of the most important agreements I have ever signed. It is worth hundreds of millions of dollars to our group. Over the years, there have been attempts to overturn it, in international courts, and arbitrations, but it has stood, solid.
The young man is now a near “twenty year veteran”, in our group, running one of our most important companies. If you went to Bill Gates, or any other great entrepreneur, they will have similar stories of people in their organizations.
We need to move away from the notion of “workers”, and “employers”. We need to embrace passionately that successful businesses, can be just like successful professional sports clubs.
So, let me ask a personal question:
“If your company were a soccer team, where would you be; in the starting eleven, or on the bench?”
A player does not beg anyone for a job – It’s up to you.
Make the decisions, today that make you a “player”, that can change the direction of the game, and the destiny of the team.


This post first appeared on the Facebook group page of Strive Masiyiwa.


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