What the German Soccer Team Can Teach You about Productivity

by Lucas Kleinschmitt on June 15, 2011

“Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win”.[1]

While this quote by English striker Gary Lineker is a blatant exaggeration, there is little doubt that the German soccer teams — both male and female — are among the best in the world.

But the German squads aren’t known for their amazing dribbling skills or fantastic artistic performance. They’re not famous for superstars like Brazil’s Ronaldo or Argentina’s Maradona.

Instead, Germany has been presenting world class soccer for decades by sticking to one core principle — efficient game play.

Here are some productivity lessons we can learn from the German soccer teams:

1. Plan Carefully

Joachim Löw, coach of Germany’s men’s national soccer team, is a planning animal. He places huge importance on thinking up elaborate tactics for every game and practicing these strategies in advance with the team. Before the 2010 world cup, he claimed to have a “script” written out for the whole championship.[2]

At the same time, what I’ve heard him say most frequently in TV interviews is that he won’t disclose his tactics before the game.[3] For Löw, tactics make or break the game, so he is guarding them fiercely.

Of course, carefully planning isn’t just the key to good soccer; it is vital to any endeavour you are pursuing. Sit down, write a great plan, and your actions will be far more successful.

2. Proceed Step-By-Step

When you watch Germany play, you’ll seldom see one player out-dribble five opponents, then lift the ball up and shoot a goal from a stunning pirouette jump.

Instead, your eyes will go crazy trying to follow a non-stop succession of quick, low passes. The German teams don’t rely on one single action to lead to success. They proceed step-by-step, steadily improving their tactical position until they are able to score.

Break your own plan down into small steps, and you too will find it easy to reach your goals.

3. Employ Teamwork

By observing this style of play, we can see another success principle in action — teamwork. Germany doesn’t win because of individual players. They succeed as a team. “I’ve never experienced such a great team spirit,” said defense player Arne Friedrichs during the World Cup in 2010.[4]

You should strive for the same. Find great people to work with. Pass the ball to others, and let them complement your skills.

4. Stay Organised

“There must be order on the playing field. This is the prerequisite for good soccer,” determines national trainer Joachim Löw.[5] He divides the field into 18 equally sized rectangles to determine where the players need to position themselves in different situations.[6]

Chaos is indeed detrimental to productivity. Make sure to keep your surroundings tidy and your schedule organized. That way, you will experience fewer distractions and be able to focus on getting things done.

5. Keep Your Energy Levels High

The German training regimen has a huge focus on fitness. In the last men’s world cup, Germany was the team that showed the strongest running performance while maintaining ball contact.[7] The ability to stay energetic even after 80 minutes of brutal effort is an important success driver.

The same is true for office workers like us. We need to keep our energy levels high at all times if we want to work productively in today’s high-pressure environment. Do you often feel tired and exhausted? Then perhaps it is time to increase your energy levels.

But of course the German soccer squads aren’t the only successful ones in the world, and I’m sure that there are many more lessons to draw from teams all over the globe. I’d love to hear your suggestions on what we can learn from professional sports. Please share your ideas with me!

Lucas Kleinschmitt

[6] Ibid.


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