When the odds are stacked against you at 5,000 to one that you won’t be successful and you pull it off so effectively that you earn a prize worth $120 million, there are lessons to be learned.
You don’t even have to be a fan of English football, or soccer as it’s known in Australia, to appreciate when a group of people achieves such an extraordinary feat. The great news for you is that this fairy tale contains some insights that you can apply to your business to help you achieve more of your own goals.
Bear with me if you do know the story, but for those who don’t, I’ll just give you the background first.
For almost three decades the English Premier League has been dominated by a small group of long-established and wealthy clubs, with only a few of the elite having a real shot at winning the title. The so-called big four of Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea (two from Manchester and two from London) have overwhelmed the lesser teams owing to their resources and spending power.
In the mid-1990’s a steel magnate named Jack Walker from the North of England funded the rise of Blackburn Rovers from the second tier, whereupon they stole the title on the last day of the season from Manchester United in 1995. Since then only two other teams outside of the quartet have finished as high as runners-up in the premier league of 20 teams. That was Newcastle United and Liverpool, a team whose fall from grace since their domination of the 1980’s was catastrophic.
Leicester City had been a reasonably successful team in bygone days when under an Irish coach named Martin O’Neil, they had won the lesser trophy called the League cup in 1997 and 2000. Since then they had declined, dropping as far as the third tier in 2008/9, until Nigel Pearson brought them back to the top flight after a ten-year absence, winning the second tier league in 2013-14. In 2015 however, he had been fired over a player’s sex scandal, involving three players that included his son, and the club were battling to avoid relegation back down to the lower tier.
Most pundits during pre-season in fact tipped Leicester City to be relegated this year, yet the ‘Foxes’ as they were nicknamed confounded everybody involved with the game to become champions of England.
So here are five of my insights to share with you:
- They hired a great coach (of course there’s a parallel here – I’m unashamedly plugging my own services as a business and life coach). Claudio Ranieri, an Italian had plied his trade in the top tier as Chelsea Manager. He had been fired however by the ruthless Russian Billionaire Owner, Roman Abramovich for filing to win the title, only finishing as runners-up in 2004, despite having massive resources. Interestingly though, the core of players that he had bought went on to win the title in subsequent seasons. Claudio’s recent efforts had hardly bathed him in glory though – as Coach of the Greek national team, he had even lost a game to the Faroe Islands.
Nevertheless, Claudio had a calm air of unostentatious authority and confidence, with an impressive CV, though sadly finishing as runner-up with four different teams in three different countries, but he knew how to manage people. The Board went with their gut feelings that Claudio could deliver and they backed him.
- They hired for enthusiasm and trained for skill – Leicester recruited a team of seemingly average or unknown players. Many of them had been rejected by the bigger clubs, so they had a point to prove. Their only established name was an Italian called Esteban Cambiassa.
Captain Wes Morgan hadn’t played in the top flight until he was 30. Kante was in the lower French division before joining Leicester, yet he was ranked by none less than the most decorated coach in the game, Sir Alex Ferguson as the best player of the season. Striker Jamie Vardy had been playing non-league football for Fleetwood Town until 2011 and signed for Leicester in May 2011. His transformation saw him score 13 goals in 11 games from August to November, breaking long-held EPL records. The squad had seemingly no big egos and they worked for each other.
They also recruited frugally and wisely, spending only 48.2 million pounds on wages, fourth-least in the English Premier League. Manchester United for example, spent more money on new players in the past two years than Leicester had spent in 132 years since inception!
- They developed a common purpose or mission – establishing this, despite having the most unlikely mix of nationalities in their playing staff with the English supplemented with players from Denmark, Germany, Wales, Ghana, Jamaica, France, Japan, Poland, Algeria, Switzerland and Australia. That is not so uncommon these days in the football world, but it still presented the manager with some communication challenges!
- They set SMART goals – Claudio initially gave them a points accumulation goal that would ensure the team’s safety in the top flight. I doubt even he had expectations of glory in the early stages. As they progressed he kept on shifting the target, keeping it realistic and achievable and the players responded in kind. As they pulled off shock results, they grew in confidence. They worked towards the next game and the next game again until they became champions.
- They focused on the basics – Everyone knew their jobs as part of a team and they lived up to their motto of ‘Foxes never quit’. They worked very hard on fitness and on teamwork. It’s been said that the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little bit extra, so that’s what these players always gave. The fitness meant they suffered very few injuries and were able to field a consistent team, only rotating to maintain freshness.
If you want to be successful, you could only improve your chances if you followed the examples of Leicester City Football Club and their coach, Claudio Ranieri. Their achievement has been labelled as ‘the most unlikely feat in sporting history’ with the English League’s Executive Chairman summarising it thus, “If this was a once in every 5,000-year event, then we’ve effectively got another 5,000 years of hope ahead of us”.
If Leicester City can do what they did, imagine what you could do by following their principles.