Another update from the Jungle…
Imagine that you are invited to join a company where virtually all your colleagues are misfits. Imagine also that the old boss is fired for exhibiting poor judgment and your new boss has been fired multiple times for poor results. When you are asked to join, the company has just escaped rock bottom and is expected to fail within the next year.
That’s the Leicester City Football Club (LCFC) story.
LCFC spent most of the prior season in last place and barely escaped relegation (demotion) to the second tier of English football (what we call soccer). Then… their manager was fired.
In came Claudio Ranieri as the new manager. He had been fired by five of his last six teams due to poor results. He resigned from the sixth team. He was expected to lose games and get fired by Christmas. Analysts said the players weren’t good enough for the league because most of them had been dropped by more prestigious teams. They entered the 2015 – 2016 season with a 5000 – 1 chance of winning the title.
But something truly magical happened. LCFC was top of the league by Christmas and never looked back. On May 2, they were confirmed as the champions two weeks before the season ended. How did they win the 2015 -2016 English Premier League title?
The Leicester players had been through so many hard times together that they were a tight-knit group. During games, every player knew that if he missed a tackle, a teammate would be there to cover for him. Half a dozen players could be counted on to score goals needed to win games.
Ranieri also created an environment that supported the players’ togetherness. During games, he encouraged his players to stay calm and focused. He created incentives, such as promising them a pizza party if they kept a clean sheet, not allowing the other team to score. (They took over a local pizzeria for a day.) He sent them on a mini-vacation halfway through the season to keep them fresh. It all worked.
What are the HR lessons from the Leicester City FC story?
- Money doesn’t guarantee results. Leicester’s starting squad cost about $30 million and they beat teams that spent over $100 million for their starting lineups.
- Team spirit matters. Each player could count on his teammates for help.
- The right manager is critical. Claudio Ranieri proved he has great people skills by getting the best from each player.
The Leicester City FC story is inspiring because it demonstrates what the right corporate culture can achieve for an employer.
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