Football, Kitchen Sinks and What They All Have To Do With Discipline…

Before we start, what may seem to be a long-winded, heart-felt lesson about discipline, let’s just define the word so that we are all on the same page.

The good-old Oxford Dictionary defines ‘discipline’ as the following; ‘the practice of training people to obey rules and orders and punishing them if they do not; the controlled behaviour or situation that results from this training’.

Questionable Wikipedia describes the word as; ‘the suppression of base desires, and is usually understood to be synonymous with restraint and self-control. Self-discipline is to some extent a substitute for motivation.’

But I believe that our casual friends at Urban Dictionary have nailed the definition of discipline; ‘what makes you WIN at the game of life’ and ‘the price of discipline is always less than the pain of regret.’  

The topic, or word, popped into my head while I eagerly (nervously) watched the recent ‘Valentine’s Day battle of the top of the table’ between Arsenal football club and Leicester City football club. At one point, Arsenal were loading the kitchen sink into their cannon as they were 1-0 down against a tenacious, emotionally-powered skulk of foxes when ‘discipline’ quickly became the word hanging off everyone’s lips. Danny Simpson (Leicester City player), who was already on a yellow card, was found wanting when he pulled back on an Arsenal shirt, ultimately pulling the player to the ground while the ball was in an area that was not threatening in anyway. The referee calmly blew on his whistle, loosely flashed a second yellow card that quickly transformed into a red card.

Quite simply, this handed Danny Simpson the chance to catch an early shower, but more importantly, this changed the strategy for table-topping, league leaders Leicester City. They had to move from a ‘Joe Frazier’ all fists-firing attack to an ‘Ali’, defend, defend, defend, strategy.

Spoiler alert, Leicester City lost 2-1 in what was a tightly-fought game of skill, emotion and character. After a celebratory run around the apartment, I sat down and had that burning ‘what-if’ question. What if Danny Simpson just waited until the end of the game so he could visit the gift shop and buy his very own Arsenal shirt, instead of trying to pull it off Giroud’s back? What if he didn’t receive the second yellow card, which could have been avoided? The sending off might not have been the reason that the Foxes lost, but it was the tipping-point in the game. (Read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping-Point; good book). It was the point that changed the strategy of the game and applied immense pressure to the team. And not the kind of pressure that makes you perform, but the kind of pressure that super-charges the other team, the kind of pressure that changes real-time booking odds.

This got me thinking, football/sports teams share common characteristics with organisations and companies. Most companies are involved in a year-long battle for profit, growth or overall quality of life enhancement for others.

To achieve this goal, each person within the company or team, needs to perform a specific task. These can usually be separated into short and long-term tasks. Both in my mind, are equally important! As more often than not short-term tasks often build and complete long-term tasks.

With each task comes equal responsibility and, ultimately, equal discipline. Discipline to deliver the work you were employed to do. Discipline to communicate with your team. Discipline to take accountability for any mishaps. Discipline to accept recognition of great work that you have produced and lastly discipline to keep the end goal in mind.

These are all internal disciplines, but what about external examples? Brands and clients ask agencies to represent them online. Create content, engage with audiences and generally look for brand growth within social communities. In my opinion, this is the same as asking a specific football player to pull on a shirt, form part of a team and represent that club or country. We know how much pressure a lack of discipline can affect a team, but how does that affect the club overall? Employees need to understand that as they are part of a digital team, there needs to a level of discipline on your personal social media networks. The same way that Simpson could have avoided an early shower, employees’ actions online can affect the relationship with their agency and more specifically, the brand.

I believe that the last point is the most important as your efforts or changes will affect the rest of your team and push the end goal just that little bit out of reach. Which brings me to the image attached. My favourite definition of discipline.

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