The shops are full of England whistles and flags; living rooms are adorned with wall charts and fans are decked out in wigs and face-paint: the 2014 World Cup is upon us. Whether you love or hate football; support or deride the England team; or are just plain ambivalent, there are plenty of lessons we can learn from Roy Hodgson and his coaches, regardless of the team's performance.
In the wake of the last World Cup, many supporters questioned England's return to top form. However, Hodgson has led the team to Brazil, knocking the boys into shape, while at the same time rebuilding morale following their rather dreary performance in South Africa. How has he done it and are his tactics enough to get them past the group stages?
The importance of trust
First and foremost, trust is vital in any team situation. Compared to Fabio Capello, Hodgson seems to have put a great deal of effort into building trust with and among his players. He wants to give team members the opportunity to play to their strengths, and he trusts that they will perform, even if some, like Stirling and Jones have been publically criticised. As managers, we all feel responsible for the end result. It can be hard to let go and trust your team-mates, but building trust within teams remains one of the best ways to maximise abilities - let's hope Hodgson has done enough of this.
It is widely acknowledged that clear communication is crucial for good team management. It may seem that Wayne Rooney and his fellow footballing superstars do not require any great eloquence from their managers, but football boots thrown across the room and tapping on heads are unlikely to suffice when it comes to inspiring down-hearted teams. With his multi-lingual skills and reputation as a pretty good 'talker', Hodgson seems to have a better approach to communication than Capello and possibly even Sven. The next few days will show whether he can maintain this when under the tournament pressure.
Talking it up
Every team - be it in football, business, or any other walk of life - needs a regular 'pep talk'. As well as communicating on a daily basis with his players, Hodgson has focused on giving them regular insights on the tactics he was planning to use. This approach is highly beneficial in terms of keeping your team engaged and in synch with your objectives. There is another lesson here that we can learn from Hodgson. He has reportedly been singling out 'newbies' like Ross Barkley in team talks. Focus your attention on less experienced squad members and it will build their confidence in front of the team.
The power of authority
The last World Cup provided a lesson in how an inflexible approach can unravel. Faced with unmoving authority, Capello's players became nervous and unable to perform to the best of their abilities, resulting in unnecessary mistakes. When dealing with difficult situations, as Capello had to following the Algeria match drinks fiasco, it is important to remember that your team is looking to you for guidance. Instead of simply piling on the pressure, managers should remember that their team is made up of human beings who excel when they feel confident.
Listen...and feed back
Communications is a two-way street and therefore listening to feedback is essential. As well as keeping in touch with your team's moral through regular communication, providing feedback is essential. In 2014, Capello closed the door on dialogue with the players, who felt unheard, leading to the Cape Town mutiny by Terry and other senior players. This example could happen to any manager. Only by listening to your team and providing tangible feedback can you avoid it. Whether it is through concrete actions or simply an acknowledgment of a difficult situation, letting your team know you care about their opinions will build loyalty and avoid frustrations.
It is important to be realistic but still have a dream. England's chances of winning this World Cup maybe slim, but there are countless examples of when an 'against the odds spirit' resulting in surprise victories, like North Korea's over Italy in the '66 World Cup that enabled them to qualify for the quarter finals. If the English team wins, fans will not only celebrate the players, but Hodgson as well - rewarding him for his great management skills.
However, with opponents like Italy, England is not going to have an easy time in the group stages. Equally in the business world, life is rarely 'plain sailing' for managers, but in my experience challenges are often the most satisfying part of the job. Regardless of the team's performance or your feelings towards them, this World Cup is sure to provide a valuable insight into winning and losing management tactics.