Iceland, a country with more active volcano’s than pro footballers, ensured it was kveðjum Roy late on Monday evening. Perhaps the longest audition in performance history, Hodgson concluded his 4-year tenure immersed inglorious defeat, reputations tarnished, hopes and expectations extinct.

Viewers witnessed a lesson in teamwork from the land of ice and fire. Just like a volcanic eruption, Iceland’s combination of density and pressure truly paid off, leaving the England Manager’s career in ashes.

Teamwork is the ultimate competitive advantage for any collective. A productive, high-functioning team has lots of upsides:

Great teams make better, faster decisions.

They can tap into the skills and opinions of all members.

They avoid wasting time and energy on politics, confusion, and destructive conflict.

They don’t waste time talking about the wrong issues and revisiting the same topics over and over because of a lack of buy-in.

They’re more fun to be a part of.

They also, by the way, get the rewards for their hard work, in this case, a red-hot quarter final tie against the host nation of France.

What makes this all the more interesting is that this team has not one Manager, but two. Co-managers Lars Lagerbäck and Heimir Hallgrímsson have a philosophy that no matter the opposition, or what the score line is, they never change their priorities. Interviewed pre-tournament the Part Time Dentist Hallgrímsson stated. “We win on unity and hard work and organisation, and we have to be better than everyone else in these areas.”

The creation of these unifying qualities does not have to be complicated; in fact keeping it simple is the key to Iceland’s success.

The Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team by Patrick Lencioni has some striking parallels to this Nordic fairytale. Quite simply, a cohesive team needs to master the following five behaviours:

Building trust

Mastering conflict

Achieving commitment

Embracing accountability

and focusing on results.

Bear in mind that for a team to be successful each behaviour builds on the previous one, so the behaviours are not addressed in isolation of one another. Team members also need to have a meaningful understanding of themselves and their peers. A team that knows it failings and frailties has a greater chance of success whether it is on a football pitch or in a corporate environment.

Trust One Another

Confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group. In essence, teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another.

The fact that Iceland is small is seen as a quality. Everyone is small. Icelandic culture illustrates nobody is anything on his or her own. Central Defender Kari Arnason says he personally knows 50% of the fans at Euro 2012. When we get to know people at this close proximity we feel more comfortable and trusting in admitting our frailties as well as promoting our qualities.

Engage In Conflict Around Ideas

When there is trust, team members are able to engage in unfiltered, constructive debate. Enabling this healthy conflict focuses on concepts and ideas to produce the best possible solution.

Iceland has no real class system, little hierarchy. Authority is more collective and understated. This permeates through their team, the fact they are able to function so successfully with two managers illustrates this point perfectly.

Commit To Decisions

When team members are able to offer opinions and debate ideas, they will be more likely to commit to decisions. It’s not necessary to achieve consensus, but clarity and buy-in are keys to commitment.

Iceland plays the same system every game no matter the opposition. They have defeated many larger nations in qualifying for the tournament. Each player is bought in and is clear about the role they play. Take Ragnar Sigurdsson, as an example; he has played every minute of every game for both club and country this season. Whilst other teams are complaining of tired legs here is a man truly illustrative of the commitment required of this team.

Hold One Another Accountable

When everyone is committed to this clear plan of action, they are better able to hold one another accountable. Team members must be willing to call one another on behaviour or performance that isn’t up to agreed-on standards or that hurts the team.

Focus On Achieving Collective Results

The ultimate goal of building greater trust, healthy conflict, commitment, and accountability is the achievement of results.

Team members need to make collective results their top priority.

This team’s priority is not for themselves but for the greater good of the team. I’m pretty lucky I get to enable teams every day in my role to assist them in making the journey to this collective state, to question their possible. By working together, driven by passion and belief in each other, teams can overcome their greatest obstacles. That is the story of the Icelandic football team and can indeed be yours.

“Teamwork is the ultimate competitive advantage.”

Contact me about this blog post