This past week has been somewhat of a renaissance for fans of Manchester United.
The club’s modern history is dominated by the towering achievements of Sir Alex Ferguson. He led the club for 26 years and won every club competition around; and some, on multiple occasions.
All good things come to an end, and he retired in 2013.
Since then the club, which has the deepest pockets in world club football, has lumbered tediously along. Three managers have come and gone since his departure.
Some trophies were won. But yet, for many supporters, and football analysts, this wasn’t enough. The club had a swagger and cavalier way of playing football during the era of Sir Alex. And, this was missing.
The third, of the post Sir Alex managers at the club, was Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho was a class on to his own. He had already won over twenty major trophies before being appointed manager of this club. And, he was widely regarded as a gifted football manager and coach.
He had even gone a step or two better than the legendary Sir Alex because his success came in multiple leagues. He had won the football leagues in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain. He had also won the biggest prize in world club football, the Champions League, with two clubs, Porto and Inter Milan.
His appointment as manager of Manchester United in May 2016 was greeted with much pomp and fanfare, but in that instant a great weight of expectation also descended upon him.
Mourinho’s journey as the manager of this iconic football club saw the team winning a couple of minor domestic trophies. And, he won the Europa League for the first time in its history.
While its historic significance was certainly overplayed by his supporters, the Europa League remains, at best, a second tier trophy.
José Mourinho’s tenure at Manchester United came to a brusque and unceremonious end last week.
Why did this highly coveted football manager fail at what he called his “dream job”? What lessons can we learn for our work-life from Mourinho being shown the door at the biggest football club in the world?
I reckon it came down to just this, finally. Mourinho was sacked for his overwhelming and constant arrogance. It was just plain hubris!
If you look over his career, there are trophies and accolades that he won from a relatively young age. This success led Mourinho to even make the self-proclaimed declaration that he was a ‘Special One.’
But it is exactly this attitude that led to the demise of a manager with so much pedigree.
Some ardent Mourinho fans continue to argue after his sacking, that firing him was just a scapegoating exercise for the failings of the board of director and the players.
They say Manchester United owners are only interested in the finances of the club.
Contractually, getting rid of a football manager can be a pricey exercise. It cost Manchester United over £22.5 million to show Mourinho the door. 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.
Mourinho chose not to understand, and respect this. He lost the goodwill of the fans, and the support of his players.
This comes down to hubris; a feeling of superiority in that he knew better than everyone else.
This is the first lesson from Mourinho’s sacking. Your understanding of the company’s image and how your colleagues feel about you, determine if you get promoted, or get the sack.
The next thing to learn is that you must take responsibility.
Mourinho is famous for bouncing blame and taking credit which is directly opposite of what it takes to be a good manager.
Renowned sports commentator Jim Beglin said when commenting about the sacking, “…slagging your players off in public makes no managerial sense… a recipe for the growth of contempt… Mourinho continued to deflect blame rather than accept some of the responsibility.”
Remember, if you want to be successful at work, learn to take responsibility.
Another lesson is that success is always relative to expectations. Manchester United stakeholders and fans expect their team to pose a strong and credible challenge for the league title, every season.
When challenged about this, Mourinho’s hubris made him retort in a press conference that he had won more Premier League titles than the division’s 19 other managers combined, and that he deserved “respect”.
His dismissal shows 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. You need ongoing victories.
So, learn from Mourinho’s sacking! If you want to be promoted, understand your company’s philosophy, and act accordingly. Next, take responsibility and do not bask in past glories.
But, most importantly, drop the hubris and arrogance for success at work!
Shankar R. Santhiram is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”