Satya Nadella and other Sounders owners on how they’ve applied lessons from sports to business

Members of the new Sounders ownership group and their families at CenturyLink Field. (Sounders Photo)

The lessons from sports that can be applied to business and life are endless. Teamwork, grit, determination, leadership, planning, overcoming obstacles … the list goes on and on.

That’s why we wanted to catch up with the newest owners of the Seattle Sounders FC — an all-star roster of current and former technology executives such as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella — to get their take on lessons learned from the pitch that they’ve applied to work and life.

Read on to see their answers. If you’re excited about the intersection of sports, business, and tech, be sure to attend our Playbook event in Seattle tonight featuring Seattle Storm GM Alisha Valavanis. And check out our overview of how technology is impacting the Sounders, which will host Toronto FC this Sunday in Seattle at the MLS Cup.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO

(GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

“I’ve learned how sports and team sports in general are just such amazing things in terms of creating energy in communities. The joy it brings to people is what’s I think fantastic to see.”

S. “Soma” Somasegar, managing director at Madrona Venture Group

Madrona Managing Director S. “Soma” Somasegar speaks at the GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

“Whether it is soccer or any sport or for that matter — any life situation — we all make mistakes. We could use the mistake as an opportunity to blame others, to feel bad for ourselves, and to be in a funky state for too long. Or, using every mistake as a learning opportunity to think through what we could have done differently, how we can learn from experience, and how we can do better at what we do is a superb way to continuously learn and strive to be better. I am a fan of the latter.

Soccer is a team sport and like all team sports, teamwork and collaboration is a top priority. Different players have different roles and they all need to do their best but it is collectively what they are able to do best that differentiates them from the rest. Successes and championships all follow teams that display the highest level of teamwork and collaboration. It is the same in other life and business situations.”

What is your best soccer moment?

“2019 MLS Western Conference Finals. This happened last week when the Seattle Sounders played LAFC in Los Angeles. I had the opportunity to see the match in person. LAFC had the best season performance in the history of MLS. Here is a team that is playing superbly and is rated at the top of the league across both conferences. The Sounders are playing away from home where LAFC has the home field advantage. I thought the Sounders team performance was the best — right from the get-go, the Sounders stayed focused on doing their best and not getting bogged down by who they were playing against or where they were playing and giving their very best the entire game. As we all know, the Sounders won the Conference Finals championship against LAFC that day with a score of 3-1. That was a magical soccer experience and I was glad I had the opportunity to see that first-hand.”

The Chew family: Mira, Chee, and Christine. (Sounders Photo)

Chee Chew, chief product officer at Twilio

“There are so many things out of your control in a game. What you can control is making your own best effort in support of the team. Doing that gets us the best result.”

What’s your best soccer moment?

“Joining the Sounders family has been an incredible experience! I am very grateful for the opportunity. However, one of the most fun soccer experiences is playing keeper in indoor soccer and sliding in to swipe the ball from an attacker’s feet. :)”

Christine Chew, board president at Bellevue School District

“Even the best players have moments where their execution doesn’t come together. It is how the individual players respond to those moments and how the team collectively responds and the leaders build resilience to shore up the organization in those moments, that carries the entire team/organization forward successfully. When we are all accountable for our own actions and also for the collective results of the team, we will get results.”

What’s your best soccer moment?

“Playing all four years in college plus my son’s high school team winning state plus the Sounders’ recent Western Conference Finals win in L.A.! There is no one best moment in soccer…so many! :)”

Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president at Microsoft

Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president at Microsoft. (GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy)

“I’m pretty new to soccer, honestly, and still have a lot to learn. But one thing I have huge admiration for is a pretty basic thing — the level of superhuman skill these players develop in using their feet! I tried playing soccer as a kid and I was terrible … and these athletes are have developed an INSANE ability to control that ball — without their hands! I suspect everyone who’s been a longtime fan takes this for granted … but for me I find this level of ADAPTABILITY absolutely breathtaking. I try to remember this as I think about work and life … we can all adapt, we can all change, we can all grow.”

What’s your best soccer moment?

“Easy. It seems like each week at the end of this season has been my new personal soccer highlight! Sounders 3, LAFC 1 … in LA … with everything on the line. Talk about rising to the occasion! 😊”

Terry Myerson, venture partner at Madrona Venture Group

Terry Myerson, right, speaks at the GeekWire Summit 2019. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

“That last/extra 10 percent of effort can make a huge difference.”

What’s your best soccer moment?

“It’s going to be this Sunday when the Sounders win the championship!”

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