How Europe succeeded over the USA and what we can learn from it.
As Phil Mickleson’s tee shot on the 16th went wildly off course, Thomas Bjorn and his sensational 12-man strong golf team knew the Ryder Cup title was theirs. After a 2 year break, the trophy was back in the European cabinet and the sense of elation could be felt by all. As summarised by captain Thomas Bjorn,“we got it right this week.”
Italian Molinari made history by being the first European to win all 5 matches at a Ryder Cup. Mickelson also made the record books, unfortunately though for the most losses in a Ryder Cup competition. But how did the somewhat inexperienced Team Europe triumph over the star studded American line-up? And what valuable lessons can be learnt from this astonishing victory?
Playing on home turf, in front of a home crowd was the first advantage the Europeans had. With excitable spectators cheering every European shot and ignoring any glimpse of US brilliance, we could feel the excitement in the air even from the sofa.
Being the home team enabled the Europeans to choose a course, and a course set-up, that suited their style and strengths. Narrow fairways and thick rough called upon pin-point accurate tee shots – not playing to the Americans familiarity with wide fairways.
Lesson. It’s important to set your environment up for success. Knowing what your strengths are and what, or who, you need around you to play to them can be the key ingredient for you and your team to thrive. Surrounding yourself with supportive, positive people who believe in you can give you the boost you need, even during those times when you may doubt yourself.
Establishing a climate of real attention to detail, there’s no doubt Thomas Bjorn meticulously prepared his team for the event. He researched the course in considerable depth and made sure that he and his players visited the course multiple times in advance. Bjorn was brave in his selection decisions, choosing wild card players who, whilst not on current form, were able to thrive under his leadership. In my view though, what had the biggest impact was how he brought the Europeans together, creating an atmosphere of family, comradery and desire all at once. Allowing Tommy Fleetwood to leave the team’s base to attend his son’s birthday party showed that along with rules and expectations, leaders can make heartfelt decisions based on what’s right for the individual and therefore the team.
Lesson. Spending time and energy developing ways to bring your team together will have unquestionable rewards. Think about what kind of team you’re trying to create and establish ways of supporting it. But don’t forget, sometimes treating people as individuals helps them to feel understood, cared for and more connected to the leader and the team as a result.
It’s not something you might have picked up on when watching, but if you get the chance try and re-watch some of the event. This time, look closely at the body language displayed by members of each team. The Americans, often tense and aloof did not fill each other (or the viewers) with confidence. Tiger Woods amongst others looked dejected throughout. In contrast, the Europeans’ energetic and dynamic body language lifted the crowds and each other to great heights. Body language like this is contagious and can travel almost as quickly as one of McIlroy’s five irons.
Lesson. Positive, ambitious actions are great drivers of career success, even when you may be uncertain of the outcome. To see performance results spread around your team, try to adopt an air of being in control. Go into work with an uplifted body language and watch how it boosts those around you.
An exciting feature of the Ryder Cup tournament is the unpredictability – whereby the team at the rear can often gain one or two victories which swing the momentum and allow them to overtake. Miraculous momentum certainly didn’t disappoint in the 2018 competition. Although the Americans won the first 3 games on Friday morning, the foursomes format which suited the Europeans, led to the blues winning the next 5 points in a row. Hence, the driving force began. Even with a potentially threatening challenge by the Americans on the final morning (who won 3.5 of the first 4 points available), the Europeans found what it takes to resist a potential change in momentum by winning the next five points. Unified and passionate, they were able to ride the wave of momentum right until the end.
Lesson. Stay resilient – even in times of defeat or hardship, your luck can change and good times may well be just around the corner. Keep your work-ethic high, perform in a united and supportive manner with those around you and never lose belief that your time will come.
Whilst there were undoubtedly other factors playing a part in this weekend’s European victory, I was fascinated to watch as a home advantage, strong leadership, positive body language and building momentum led to the Europeans securing a thrilling victory and providing us at home with a weekend of fantastic drama. As I turn to my next client project, I’ll certainly have some of these in the back of my mind.