Heard on the Hill

Former Staffer Says Soccer Can Teach You Management

Don’t stay in your lane, Peter Loge advises in his new book

Peter Loge, former Capitol Hill staffer, wrote a book that will be released on July 27. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call)

It’s fast-paced, decentralized and occasionally sweaty. Working in D.C. is a lot like playing soccer, according to author Peter Loge.

The former congressional staffer drew on his careers on and off the Hill to write “Soccer Thinking for Management Success: Lessons for Organizations From the World’s Game.”

“On the best teams, and you’ll see this in the World Cup, there is a clear system where everybody knows their world in the system, everybody knows what’s expected of them, they know what position they’re going to play and they know where everybody else is going to be,” Loge said.

Capitol Hill offices should operate the same way, he said.

“One of the phrases I hate the most as a manager is ‘Stay in your lane.’ My LD and my press secretary are not racing against each other to see who gets to the finish line first. They have to work together to advance the boss’ priorities and get the boss re-elected,” Loge said. “Don’t stay in your lane; get in my lane. Push me when I need to be pushed.”

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Loge spent decades working for congressional Democrats. He started out as director of constituent services for Arizona Rep. Sam Coppersmith in 1993 and soon moved to Washington to join the office of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, where he became deputy to the chief of staff. Later he served as press secretary and chief of staff for California Rep. Brad Sherman and worked on health care policy for Wisconsin Rep. Steve Kagen.

In 2013, Loge became the first vice president for external relations at the U.S. Institute of Peace, a position he held for two years.

He got the idea for his book at that time through conversations with his friend, D.C. United’s Head Coach Ben Olsen.

“He took over coaching D.C. United at roughly the same time I took over at the U.S. Institute of Peace, and we would get together … and inevitably talk about management,” Loge said. “It turns out that a lot of the management things he was facing as a brand-new coach were a lot of the management challenges I was facing trying to unify these divisions.”

As a lifelong soccer fan, Loge found that how players interact on the field closely mirrors how staffers should collaborate in an office.

“In soccer, you got to have a clear goal, but everybody is always doing everything. It doesn’t stop. It’s 45 minutes with a break, and then 45 minutes. There are no timeouts,” he said. “You have to figure it out on the fly. You only get three substitutions. Everybody has to be a specialist.”

In 2016, the White House appointed Loge to be a senior adviser to the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Now he is a professor at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs.

From working on Capitol Hill and around D.C. in different roles, he knows that flexibility is key.

“If all you as a policy person are thinking about is ‘OK, what’s the best thing to do?’ and all I’m thinking about as a comms person is ‘How do I get the boss re-elected?’ we’re doing everybody a disservice,” he said. “You cannot afford to not work as a unit.”

His book will be out July 27. 

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