Occasionally, I get invited as a guest on the Football Show, on BFM89.9, the business radio station.
While I have strong opinions on the game, my knowledge of world football is primarily confined to the English Premier League. Therefore, when I am in the company of the other experts, I limit myself to commenting on things that I understand.
Last Friday, in the segment of the show where guests make predictions on the weekend’s games, I suggested that Everton will beat Arsenal, to keep their manager in his job.
Everton lost, and their manager of 16 months, Ronald Koeman got the sack.
In itself, my forecast that his job was perilous was not that remarkable. Many football analysts expected Koeman to be sacked if his team lost. And, they lost in spectacular fashion.
While I don’t intend to discuss the intricacies of football here, I do however want share what you can learn for your work-life from the way the football managers lose their jobs.
I did some research, and discovered a book called, ‘Leadership in Compelling Contexts’. The book investigates how standard business models fit into non-standard contexts, like the military, sports, religious organisations, and so on.
The first interesting factoid I read was that between 2005 and 2015, there were 107 managerial changes in England’s Premier League. This rate of turnover is high, considering that there only 20 clubs in the league.
Perhaps the corporate needs of big football clubs are somewhat unique, but at the end of the day, they are businesses that have owners, and shareholders. Therefore parallels can be drawn.
This season is 3 months old, with only 9 games played so far. Yet 3 out of the 20 managers in the league have already been given the boot.
From an organisational perspective, firing a manager can be argued as being a scapegoating exercise. Many factors determine success or failure of any endeavour. While the manager is at the helm of a club, surely a single person cannot be held responsible for the failure of an entire football club.
Contractually, getting rid of a football manager can be a costly exercise. It usually includes payouts for uncompleted contracts, and the hiring of a new manager, often, at a higher salary. But the hierarchy of these clubs seem to have a rather gung-ho attitude in pulling the trigger.
Therefore, it seems that financial considerations are not the sole measure of success. The image that the club portrays to its supporters is crucial. The style of football being played by the team has to resonate with the club’s history, and its traditions.
Managers who do not understand, or choose not to respect this, quickly lose the support of the fans, and the players. This leads to their swift dismissals.
This is applicable at your work-place, too. You might feel like a victim when the failure of a particular project is attributed to you. But, nonetheless, your company might send you a warning letter or worse, dismiss you.
This is the first lesson from football management that can be translated to your work-life.
Your understanding of the company’s image, or how your colleagues feel about you, are huge factors in getting you promoted, or alternatively, getting you sidelined or the sack.
The next thing I gathered from trying to understand the firing of football managers, and its relevance to our work-life is that success is always relative to expectations.
Some experts say that large clubs like Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United, etc. just buy success. The owners inject huge amounts of money into the club to buy top notch players, and managers. Consequently, they expect their team to pose a strong and credible challenge for the title, every season. Alternatively, smaller clubs adjust their expectations in accordance with the available funds.
If a manager does not exhibit an understanding of this, he will get terminated. An example of this is the former Manchester United manager, Louis van Gaal. He got canned just days after winning the FA Cup, one of the most prestigious competitions around. It simply wasn’t enough.
Likewise, you can learn from the example of former Leicester City manager, Claudio Ranieri. He unexpectedly led his team to winning the title in 2016. He was hailed as a hero, and even won the Manager of the Year award. But expectations rose exponentially. The next season, when it looked like he was not able to replicate similar success, he was unceremoniously dumped.
The message in football is that no one cares about what you did last season. Similarly at work, your bosses often only have short-term memories.
It is futile to argue that they should remember the good work you did from 3 or 5 years ago. The reality of the competitive world of modern business is that you need ongoing victories, to survive its onslaught.
So, learn from football management. If you want to be promoted, understand your company’s philosophy, and act accordingly. Most importantly, do not bask in past glories, but focus only on creating new ones.