Take some business lessons from... the Eurovision Song Contest?

Iain McMath
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Eurovision Song Contest 2015 - Unser Song fuer Oesterreich Finals
Source: Getty

This Saturday, our screens will once again be graced with the Eurovision Song Contest, a celebration of talent, diversity, gaiety, passion, creativity, innovation and individualism.

But beyond the glitz and glamour, what serious lessons should our business leaders be watching for?


The contest has long been perceived as a safe haven for artists of any background, race, religion, gender or sexuality, and that remains true to this day. Thankfully, other competitions – and even some businesses – are finally catching up.

However, there is a long road ahead; the ever-growing generational differences, the lack of ethnic representation at senior level, and the challenges that working parents still face are as true as ever.

The artists taking part in Eurovision come from a wide spectrum of different backgrounds, but their purpose to entertain the masses remains the same.

In business, why is it different? Surely this same combination of innovation, experience, energy, wisdom, and a fresh perspective will help businesses to be more successful.

Inclusivity and acceptance

In 2014, Conchita Wurst won the Eurovision Song Contest and captured the headlines as “the bearded woman”.

As a Eurovision artist, she was embraced by her fellow contestants who led the charge for her public acceptance as a gay icon. As a leader, Conchita has raised awareness of LGBT issues across the world and has helped to change gender stereotypes along the way.

Without a doubt, role models like these will not only attract more diversity, but will also help to quash any unconscious bias or stereotyping. The same is true for the workplace; businesses must instil a culture of acceptance, inquisitiveness and equality in order to get the best out of their people.

Finland's Lordi performs the song 'Hard
Inclusivity is key (Source: Getty)


This year, contestants from around the world will be coming together to showcase a level of unified creativity.

For each contestant, there is an understanding that their own act is part of a wider purpose: to create a truly spectacular show. This spirit of collaboration is surprisingly rare in business; teams may work well on a small scale, but can often be siloed or out of sync with corporate objectives and values.

Are today’s managers really instilling a strong sense of purpose in their teams, or could more be done to unite the business?

Having a great time

Okay, sure, the winner will probably have the best time – but let’s be honest, those of us that have watched even a snippet of the show know that everyone is having fun.

No amount of lights, camera, action will set the show alight unless the contestants are enjoying the experience too.

Without this kind of passion, it’s impossible to get the best results out of your people. Whether it’s having fun as a team, enjoying a day out with family (on the company), or just having some well-deserved downtime, embracing “fun” is a simple way to keep people motivated.

The group Scooch of Britain perform thei...
There's a reason we never win (Source: Getty)

Really great clothes

Can you write about Eurovision without mentioning the clothes?

Besides the fact that the outfits range from animalistic to outrageous, glamorous to garish, there’s one more lesson here: appearances can be deceiving. Every one of these artists has a talent (not always singing), yet despite this, when the lights go up, every viewer makes a snap judgement – animal outfit equals terrible music. But does it? Are we right? Of course not. Whether it’s a first impression in an interview or assuming the best way to reward a high achiever, if you can’t get over appearances or fail to take the time to really know your staff, you’ll almost certainly miss out on their full potential.

Iain McMath is chief executive of Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services

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