Knowing your Position in a Team and How Leadership determines “Formation”

By Michael Carson, Group Commercial Director

In our companies we might call it organisational structure; on the football field, it’s a ‘formation’. We have a ‘job role’ in our work team; a position in a football team. Whatever the terminology, the importance of having clarity on your position and the formation in both business and team sports are essential.

It would very quickly become evident if a football team entered the field of play as eleven individuals with no agreed structure or roles. Similarly, if a production leader took the reigns of a financial controller in your office, the equivalent chaos would undoubtedly reign.

However, occasionally we all have to play out of position – we support a different shift or department to normal due to absence or help a neighbouring team when in need.  Yet in order to perform at our best, these situations are the exception and not the rule – the novelty of something different eventually dissipates and the lack of experience required to truly do the ‘temporary role’ justice starts to cause a level of anxiety with performance eventually suffering … it’s not your natural position; the role you’re trained for.

We all love seeing an outfield player put on the ‘keepers gloves for the last 20 minutes when all the subs have been used, however only the opposing fans would want to see John O’Shea or John Terry starting between the posts!

So where does leadership come into this?

Again, leadership in the football context is relatively easy to spot in this regard – whether it’s the manager shouting instructions to players to adjust their position during the match; teammates giving advice to one another to improve their defensive shape; or tactical changes made at half time to change the formation to better counteract the opposition – the impact of a leader or leaders is evident.

In business, it is essential for leadership teams to do the same. Everyone is keen to help out their colleagues and ensure that ‘the job gets done’ and quite often this can lead to people working outside their ‘position’. As a leader, it is important to recognise individuals who may be going above and beyond. However, it is also important to ensure that the ‘formation’ is maintained and everyone is playing in their ‘position’ in order to succeed both as a team and as individuals.

What position do you play in your formation?

Do you need to make that half-time team talk to make some tactical tweaks?

To discuss training courses in leadership and management that will help to develop your team and formation, contact Frances Ball (


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