Messi the sensation
Whether you are a fan of football, of Messi in particular or believe in the power of body language, there are definitely some insights that I’d like to share with you. Although I have been a total fan of Messi’s handsome looks ever since I can remember, I haven’t studied his game closely until very recently. Let us just say I wasn’t a fan of football. Now if you are reading this article because you are a huge fan of Messi, don’t curse me; I have already joined your gang now!
Lionel Andrés Messi also known as Leo Messi, is an Argentine professional footballer and the highest paid footballer in the world today. He is playing his last professional game tomorrow i.e. 18th Dec ‘22 where his team Argentina will take on the 2018 defending champions France for football’s most coveted trophy – the FIFA 2022.
Why study Messi
In a game that offers most footballers an average career of around 8 years, Messi has been at it for 16! Messi is very well known among his fans for being a team player and for his dribbling style that includes short bursts of speed, total control over the ball, great balance, turning the ball multiple times and fooling the opponent. Messi has long been the subject of study by footballers, mathematicians, physicists, neuroscientists and many more for using the least amount of effort and energy on the field making his game efficient, for his ability to make complex calculations in his mind about the field, the team formations and for utilising the space in front of him while playing to create pressure on his opponents.
Body feint – tricking the opponent
For me, as a person who studies body language closely, what is the most amazing is Messi’s ability to trick his opponents which, in football lingo, is popularly referred to as body feint. The idea is to indicate through your body language that you intend to push forward in one direction, quickly and swiftly understand your opponent’s move direction and then change your direction to another way. Imagine doing all this multiple times in the short milliseconds one would have on the playing field.
The idea of fooling your opponent as to your next move is not uncommon in sports – in fact I have been teaching this trick to my daughter ever since she was 6 and we played badminton together. The beauty about Messi’s game is how he is able to manipulate his opponents into being tricked and at the same time calculate the space he would keep from each of the defender that is tailing him so that his ball can remain equidistant from all of them. After comprehending this, he then calculates the speed with which each defender is moving so that he can time his kick in a way that would best utilise the gap between his defenders. Boy! Just thinking about this makes my head spin crazy.
So why write this article when I have only just begun to know Messi? Well, I work with clients day in and out who deal with multimillion dollar deals and there is one question most of them have been asking me – how is it humanly possible to understand their counterpart’s each body movement, adjust their own body language accordingly while at the same time thinking of what to say, which strategy to use, and do this while dealing with not one counterpart but an entire team of people. We are talking about high stake deals and negotiations where each move or countermove could make a difference between how win-win a deal you land or not. So if you too are a leader who negotiates for high stakes, or even otherwise, require to closely observe body language of people you deal with, below are a few ideas that you can get you inspired from Messi’s style of playing:
Messi’s football magic – Lessons on Body Language for Leaders
Messi closely observing his opponents
Six hacks that Messi can teach any negotiator
Read the Opponent:
Similar to how Messi studies his opponents’ movements and patterns to anticipate their next move, negotiators should analyze their counterparts to understand their motivations and priorities. In a leadership context, this could involve researching competitors, understanding their strategies, and predicting their potential responses. By gaining insights into the opponent’s goals and objectives, negotiators can adapt their approach and tailor proposals to suit their counterparts’ interests effectively.
Example: A business leader preparing for a crucial negotiation with a competitor might research their competitor’s recent product launches, market positioning, and pricing strategies. Armed with this knowledge, the leader can anticipate potential objections and develop counterarguments to address the competitor’s concerns effectively.
Master Your Skills:
Messi’s success is rooted in his relentless dedication to honing his skills. Likewise, negotiators must continuously refine their negotiation techniques to become more effective. Developing skills such as active listening, effective communication, and creative problem-solving can significantly impact negotiation outcomes.
Example: A leader participating in a high-stakes negotiation for a major contract might invest time and effort into improving their active listening skills. By attentively listening to the other party’s concerns, interests, and preferences, the leader can identify mutually beneficial solutions and craft persuasive arguments that resonate with the other party.
Messi’s ability to create opportunities out of seemingly impossible situations is awe-inspiring. Similarly, negotiators should be proactive in generating opportunities and exploring innovative solutions. By thinking outside the box and suggesting win-win scenarios, negotiators can unlock hidden potential and foster collaborative relationships.
Example: A leader negotiating a partnership agreement with a potential collaborator might propose a joint marketing campaign that combines their respective strengths. This innovative approach not only enhances the chances of securing the deal but also sets the foundation for future collaborations and mutual growth.
Adapt to Changing Circumstances:
Messi’s agility and adaptability enable him to thrive in different match situations. In negotiations, adaptability is key to navigating unexpected challenges and capitalizing on evolving circumstances. Being flexible in strategies, approaches, and concessions can help negotiators find common ground and achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
Example: A leader involved in a merger negotiation might encounter unexpected resistance from stakeholders regarding specific terms. In response, the leader must be prepared to adjust the negotiation strategy, explore alternative options, and find compromises that satisfy all parties involved.
Maintain Composure Under Pressure:
Messi’s ability to maintain composure during intense matches is crucial to his success. Similarly, negotiators must remain calm and composed, even in the face of challenging situations or adversarial tactics. By staying focused and composed, negotiators can think clearly, make sound decisions, and effectively navigate difficult negotiations.
Example: A leader negotiating a labor dispute with union representatives must remain composed and maintain a respectful tone, even in the midst of heated discussions. By staying calm and composed, the leader can diffuse tensions and foster an atmosphere of constructive dialogue, increasing the chances of reaching a favorable resolution.
6. Build Trust and Rapport:
Messi’s leadership qualities extend beyond his individual brilliance, as he fosters trust and camaraderie among his teammates. Similarly, negotiators should prioritize building trust and rapport with their counterparts. Trust forms the foundation for successful negotiations, enabling open communication, collaboration, and mutually beneficial agreements.
Example: A leader engaged in a negotiation with a potential strategic partner might initiate informal meetings or social events to create a sense of camaraderie. By fostering personal connections and building trust, the leader can lay the groundwork for a more productive and cooperative negotiation process.
Messi takes a fall while dribbling
How To Beat Messi
If you are on the receiving end of Messi’s tricks what can you possibly do? Well, practice, practice and more practice is the only thing that can get both your mind and your body to move quicker. Similarly, if you are a working professional looking to up your ante in the deals you handle, improving your body’s reflexes is a great way to be light on your feet, both literally and metaphorically. Practice a step at a time till you master the art of observing, understanding each minute movement that people make and what it signifies and then learn to adapt and adjust on the spot – your own body language as well as your ability to adapt the right strategy for the situation.
The only caveat I would put here is that while Messi’s game would be all about winning every goal he possibly can, if he did that hurting his opponents, we would not respect him as a player. Similarly, if while negotiating you do not have a win-win situation in mind, you will only end up with a short term victory and not a long term relationship. Use body language to ensure you manipulate only so that everyone benefits, not just you.
Messi – The Inspiration
In conclusion, Lionel Messi’s football prowess extends beyond the pitch and offers valuable insights into effective leadership. His exceptional skills, strategic thinking, and leadership qualities can inspire leaders in various domains. Messi’s ability to read the game and opponents translates into leaders understanding their competition, anticipating challenges, and adapting their strategies accordingly. Mastery of skills, relentless dedication, and continuous improvement resonate with leaders striving for excellence and personal growth. Messi’s knack for creating opportunities out of nothing teaches leaders to think outside the box, embrace innovation, and seek win-win solutions. Moreover, his composure under pressure serves as a reminder for leaders to stay calm, make rational decisions, and inspire confidence in their teams during challenging times. Lastly, Messi’s ability to build trust, foster camaraderie, and lead by example showcases the importance of nurturing positive relationships and creating a supportive environment within teams. By embodying Messi’s leadership qualities, leaders can unlock their full potential, motivate their teams, and achieve remarkable success in their respective endeavors.
- This is Football – series on Amazon Prime