Want to Improve Your Performance at Work? Watch the Women’s World Cup

improve performance at work

The seventh FIFA Women’s World Cup is currently being held in six Canadian host cities. And the United States team — ranked second behind Germany at the start of the competition — has performed well so far. These women have dedicated years to training, fostering a team mentality and developing their skills. 

Doesn’t sound too different from the steps you’ve taken to get ahead in your own career, does it? Believe it or not, watching the World Cup games can help you improve your performance at work. (Just don’t use us as an excuse if you want to take off early to catch your favorite team on TV.)

Here are four career lessons you can take away from the Women’s World Cup that can help you step up your own game at work.

1. Push yourself beyond what’s expected

Early on in the competition, Colombia — ranked 28 at the outset — upset France, the third-ranked team, to win its first match. Colombia’s team members didn’t let the expectations of others dictate their success, and neither should you.

Every office has its star players. If you’re not currently one of them, it doesn’t mean you never will be. One characteristic of office superstars is their proactivity. Think about projects that lack an owner or skills gaps that exist on the team. Are you willing to raise your hand and solve the need? If so, you could carve out a nice name for yourself as an expert in a certain area and a go-getter problem-solver.  

2. But know your limits

Some star players, including U.S. striker Alex Morgan, have seen limited playing time this World Cup. In Morgan’s case, it’s been due to injury. Both she and her coaches don’t want to exceed her capabilities and risk greater harm.

It’s key to push yourself in order to improve your performance at work. But you must be smart about it. Go too far, and you may not meet expectations or damage your professional reputation.

If you’re already feeling overburdened, for example, don’t volunteer to take on one more assignment because you think doing so will make you look good. Miss key deadlines, and your efforts will backfire. Instead, let your boss know you’re interested in helping out but aren’t sure how to squeeze in the extra work given existing projects. He or she can help you prioritize or delegate your workload or, at the very least, alert you to a future opportunity to lend a hand.

3. Play through less than ideal conditions

A major point of discussion this year is the pitch, which is covered in artificial turf rather than grass. The synthetic surface increases the chance of injury, changes how the ball reacts and has reached temperatures of 120° Fahrenheit.

Just as teams have adjusted their pacing and strategies to the turf, you’ll sometimes have to adapt so your performance at work isn’t impacted by imperfect conditions. You may be teamed up with an annoying coworker on a project, for example. Rather than looking at the situation as a setback, think of it as an opportunity to polish your conflict management and soft skills.  

4. Let failure motivate you

U.S. defensive player Julie Johnston didn’t originally qualify for the team. But she didn’t let failure defeat her. She trained harder, made the squad and is now a rising star.

Everyone experiences failure at work on occasion, and if you let that hold you back, you’ll never go anywhere but down. There is an upside of failure. Improve your performance at work by looking at missteps as lessons. And don’t let the fear of failure keep you from trying new things or suggesting creative solutions to lingering problems. After all, getting ahead often requires you to take a risk from time to time.

It’s easy to get swept up in the fun and excitement of any major sporting competition. Take some time to think about what the World Cup can teach you about team development and working under pressure. You may be surprised at how following your favorite team can help you improve your performance at work.

What lessons from the 2015 Women’s World Cup can you apply to your career? Let us know in the comments.