Lessons in Management from Football

Posted in Human Resources Articles, Total Reads: 1374 , Published on 06 October 2014

What does the manager at a Premier League football club have in common with the CEO of an FMCG company?

Both have the same objective, beat the competition and deliver results. Both rely on a pool of talented individuals to do this. And as the manager of a football club would be answerable to millions of fans around the world, the CEO is under pressure from the many shareholders of the company.

Image COurtesy: freedigitalphotos.net, Ohmega1982

Invest in young talent

When it comes to recruitment, it is important for companies to realize the importance of bringing in, training and holding on to awkward and inexperienced graduates. Sports outfits invest millions into their youth academies for a one-in-hundred chance of finding that one star player. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Xavi and Iniesta, Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and David Beckham, are all result of these clubs having invested in training potential talent. Organisations should understand the importance of having a sizeable outlay for talent acquisition and training. Employees who grow into the culture of the organization may have a better chance at success than those who are inducted at a later stage.

Hold on to Talent

In the 2011-12 English Premier League season, the Dutch player Robin Van Persie, playing for the Arsenal Football Club scored 30 goals in 38 games. He was the clearly the best striker in the league. In the months preceding the 2012-13 season, Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager at Manchester United, easily Arsenal’s biggest rivals in the league, convinced Van Persie to join him. United went on to win the trophy that season. Van Persie again emerged as the leading scorer with 26 goals, this time for United. The lesson in this is that it is extremely important to hold on to talent, especially your top talent. Predatory hiring by a close competitor means that your employees might just take the years of training, experience and trade secrets to your arch enemy.

It’s not always about the Money

Most Premier League clubs have posted losses year after year, but have still remained endearing brands. In fact, Arsenal FC, who have tried to remain financially positive over the last few years, has tasted relatively less success. Businesses can learn something from this. Sometimes, a loss making product should be allowed to continue in the market if your entire brand can piggy-back on the popularity of the product.

Think Global

Manchester United Football Club has almost as many supporters in Malaysia as in the entire United Kingdom. A company’s product may be loved by the locals but it may actually strike a chord with people on the other side of the globe. As an example, Kit Kat, first created in England and currently owned by the Swiss Nestle, is insanely popular in Japan where it sells close to fifty variants.

It’s about the Team, not the Individuals

World Championships, 2006: The USA basketball team, with a super successful coaching staff and a team full of NBA stars (12 to be exact), finished third in the world games, losing to Greece, a team with not one NBA player. The English football team, on paper always one of the strongest teams, never fails to disappoint on the pitch. All-star teams are usually built from top performers who bring along enormous egos, which may translate into a lack of trust. Without trust and respect, the team lacks a solid foundation. An example of this was Enron. Enron had employees with exceptional professional and academic track records. But, when it went down, the star employees pulled it down even faster.

This article has been authored by Pulkit Gupta from XLRI, Jamshedpur


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