Soccer and Software

Devlin Liles // July 1, 2019


There is a dominance inherent to the United States Women’s National Soccer Team that seems impossible. Since 1991, there have been a total of seven Women’s World Cups, of which the U.S. National Team has won three times. In the four tournaments where they failed to make it to the top, they never finished lower than 3rd place. 

Global dominance since 1991. How many organizations can claim that? 

My day job happens to be president of Improving-Houston, but just as important is the fact that for most of my life I have lived and breathed soccer. I’m a team guy and my life has often been defined by those teams, whether they’re software or sports related. The soccer competition 24 countries are fighting in right now might be more dramatic than what most of us goes through. However, both personally and professionally, we all know what sweet satisfaction it is to complete a successful project and the crushing and lingering disappointment that failure brings.

In my life I have played on both great and terrible teams alike. Surprisingly, the talent of the players rarely proves to be the differentiating factor. More often than not, our successes depended on the team members’ ability to give and accept critical feedback and understanding that feedback is vital and crucial for the betterment of the group. A unity in common purpose and dedication is also essential. Think of your answer to this simple question: Do you like to win? Most would give a resounding yes. Now answer this question: Would you practice three hours, twice a day, for a month straight to ensure that you truly can overcome whatever your opponent throws at you? Does your entire team agree? Will every team member be on time every day and ready to work? A great individual contributor can help, but one person has never won a team championship.

Another massive differentiator of the U.S. National Team is their stellar coaching staff. The program has a history of pushing and challenging their players to new heights while shaping their competitive approach to fit the unique skillsets of the people on the field. In my role, conscious, effective leadership is something I think about often. As a leader, there are many situations where I’m actively developing skills in my fellow Improvers. There are also (many) times when I realize that I just need to get out of the way so they can work their magic. 

United under the common purposes of Trust, Dedication, Involvement, and Excellence, I have seen Improvers go above and beyond for our clients and each other.

At Improving, we have great—and I honestly mean great—players. United under the common purposes of Trust, Dedication, Involvement, and Excellence, I have seen Improvers go above and beyond for our clients and each other. I have also seen failure happen, at all levels, and trust rebuilt painstakingly. For 13 years, Improving has built its values to be pervasive and self-defending. This is where that critical feedback is an absolute necessity. When someone doesn’t live up to a set of expectations, they are held accountable, regardless of their role and regardless of their level. Whether we’re on a soccer pitch or at a desk, we all need to know where we can get better and grow stronger.

Fundamentally Improving is a business that provides services and receives compensation in return, there’s no denying that. There’s never been 20,000 fans cheering as I empty my inbox or when new software launches perfectly. Some of my professional tasks rank high in the mundane category, and that’s ok. Championships in business are not trophies, gold medals, or ticker tape parades. It is sitting down after hitting a milestone with those you love and trust knowing that WE did it. Knowing that without each of the people sitting around that table we would not be successful, and in fact life would be less than full.


So here’s to our National Team showing their mastery on the field and to each of you achieving great things each and every day.

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