Featured

Listen more closely

There are management books talking about how leaders should communicate in an abstract way.

But what better way to learn about real leadership communication skills than by listening closely to Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Jürgen Klopp and other elite managers.

This blog will help you listen more closely.

Advertisements

I’m sorry for Michael Oliver (Man Utd 1, Man City 2)

You cannot win the title before Christmas, but it appears others are happy to concede defeat before Christmas.

Mourinho is the only manager not to and ‘happy’ is not a word to associate with him.

Invited to answer where the match was lost, his answer is,

“Clear penalty.”

JSM

“I’m sorry for us, I’m sorry for Michael Oliver – I think he had a good game, but clear penalty.”

“Last season we had a similar situation with Mark Clattenburg against Man City.”

“I’m sorry for Michael Oliver. The referee is a human being – he tries his best.”

“They (Man City) scored two very bad goals – unbelievable to concede. What they are good at, they were not good at –  rebounds.”

How would he analyse his own team’s performance?

“We did good things, we did bad things.”

A Match of the Day pundit could not have put it better.

Leadership communication lesson

Few leaders will have the charisma or platform to be able to completely ignore a question as Mourinho does at the start of this interview. The ability though to use a question to deliver the messages you want your audience to focus on can be the difference between a good communicator and a great communicator. Mourinho’s refereeing argument may only be appreciated by the most one-eyed of Man Utd fans, but it suits his immediate purpose in re-directing attention from the limitations of his own side.

 

Whatever is best for the football club (Sot’n 4, Eve 1)

Everton continued to plumb new depths of despair away to Southampton at the weekend.

How they can be the only Premier League club to have taken points from Man City is one of the great mysteries of the 17/18 season.

David Unsworth’s continued presence as manager is less of a mystery, explainable through a panicked sacking and shambolic recruitment process.

His post-match interview is as confused as his team’s performance.

unsworth

In being led by the first question, he starts with a defence of the team, highlighting the positives and excuses.

“We came back into the game – it was a fantastic srike by Gylfie.”

“We missed Niasse – in my opinion he should be on the field. Injuries are absolutely killing us at the moment.”

Then it is as if he suddenly remembers the score and its implication.

” I can’t stand here and defend the players. It was completely unacceptable. Everton fans are rightly furious and so am I.”

“I’ll take my responsibility, but players have to come with the football club also – if they don’t, I’ll get players who do.”

One can only imagine the new players will need to be found within the club as it is difficult to see Unsworth  being given responsibility for a transfer budget.

Leadership communication lesson

Consistently reading and reflecting the mood of an audience is fundamental to the success of any leader. In Unsworth’s situation the mood is one of anger and with such a powerful emotion he had to start his interview in this place. If your mood misses its mark at the start, it is very hard to play catch up, so invest as much time as you can in understanding your audience before any significant communications.

 

 

 

We have 22 points

Arsenal had much to celebrate over the weekend as they stayed above Burnley on goal difference.

The first question is on the importance of Sanchez, Ozil and Lacazette  with Wenger arguing that “they could work properly, as we had the luck that in the International break Sanchez did not play and Lacazette played only one game.”

Questioned on Ozil’s work rate, Wenger describes him as an “Intelligent player an intelligent man” who can “add a defensive side to his game, he is not a specialist, but he can do that job.”

Wengert

Were Arsenal lucky with the refereeing decisions in the match?

“I did not see that. I did see that the foul was a foul. In a lot of games we have not had the luck.”

Can Arsenal continue at this level?

“People always want definite opinions, nothing is permanent in our job. All we can do is focus on our performance in the next game. Let’s continue to move forward.”

“We have 22 points, Tottenham have 23 points – no-one has made a present to us.”

Wenger resists making any comparison with Burnley.

Leadership communication lesson

Arsene Wenger’s refusal to see advantageous refereeing decisions may raise a wry smile, but they also demonstrate his strategic approach to communications. Wenger uses his post-match interview to positively frame any performance and to praise or defend his players. An incorrect decision in his team’s favour helps him achieve neither objective, so he pays it no attention.

 

Another good performance (West Brom 2, Man City 3)

Thirty-five goals scored in only ten games suggests it is all going rather well for Guardiola and Man City.

Guardiola’s challenge is to manage expectations.

Hence, while recognising “another good performance”, he also draws attention to “conceding three chances and West Brom scored two goals.”

GudiolaWB

There is a warning about the risk of complacency.

“It is not easy to win a lot of games. It can confuse you in the head and you can think you are what you are not. It was a good performance in a humble way.”

“We are only five points ahead of the second-place team and nothing like where we need to be at the end of the season.”

If you are a team chasing Man City, you must already be worrying where they may be at the end of the season.

Leadership communication lesson

The post-match interview forces a manager to communicate after a game, but Guardiola also provides an example of how leaders are always communicating. Enjoying great success may be more pleasurable than failure, but all teams will need to be reminded of the dangers of hubris and the importance of staying close to the processes that have brought them success.

 

731 minutes (Crystal Palace 2, Chelsea 1)

A goal via two defenders is still a goal and for Palace it contributed to a victory against last season’s champions.

Conte opens his interview answering a question on the  impact of injuries and the international break and whether this was the cause of defeat.

” I don’t know for sure – to play without three important players is not simple, the game was not simple.”

” We need to try to understand this situation, to work to put it right despite these issues. ”

Capture

He declines to share what we he said at half-time to the players.

“I prefer always to keep private what I tell in the first-half and in the second-half.”

Instead he throws the conversation forward.

“Now we have to prepare for the next game in the Champions League and try to do our best.”

And he refuses to answer a question on the gap developing at the top of the Premier League.

“At the end of the season we will see what happens.”

Instead he draws on the rhetorical technique of Epizeuxis to stress what he needs his team to do next.

“In these circumstances we must work, work, work, work, work, work to try to do our best.”

Leadership communication lesson

A loss as much as a victory is an opportunity for a leader to reinforce the behaviours he expects and demands from his team. Conte may not make the specifics visible in his post-match interview, but you can be in no doubt as to the approach he wants from his players. Repetition is a powerful and underused communication tool for many leaders. An audience will always remember much less than you imagine, so repeat and repeat again the messages you want to land.

 

 

 

Every day is tough (Everton 0, Burnley 1)

Nowhere is the current gap between expectation and results greater in the Premier League than at Everton.

A net spend in excess of £50 million to be 2 points from the relegation zone.

For Koeman, “We started well. We played aggressive. Over the total game we were the better team.”.

“The first shot on target is a goal for Burnley and if you analyse Burnley you know it is then very difficult.”.

koeman

Did the confidence drain from his players subsequently?

“Always there is a reaction. This is normal in the situation, there is an impact on the players, the team and the fans.”.

“I can’t complain about the attitude and commitment of my players. We will go on, we will continue, what I saw today is how we need to be to come out of this difficult situation.”

Were his selection decisions correct?

“In life you don’t get a second opportunity – I am not unhappy with what I saw from the team.”

It is confident and polished interview and one that suggests Koeman believes he still has time to turn the situation around.

Leadership communication lesson

Most leaders will never have to defend their team from criticism as publicly as in football, but the decisions leaders take on this issue can define their success or otherwise. A sense of loyalty is built one grain of sand at a time and can be washed away in an instant. This does not mean a leader will never criticise a team publicly. Control and judgement must however be the watchwords before public criticism is aired.

We fought hard, we fought hard (Southampton 0, Man Utd 1)

All three points for United in a performance in which for Mourinho, “we fought hard, we fought hard.”

Defensive solidity was the most important element.

“We did for 20 minutes what many Premier League teams do for 90 minutes with five at the back and defend with a very low block.”.

mourinhosot

Pressed to praise Lukaku, Mourinho is qualified in his response.

“He is a striker who is scoring goals. His work is important for us.”

“He could score a second goal and kill the game. He did not, but his work is important like anyone else.”.

In contrast – given the opportunity to comment on the performance of his wide-men – Mourinho picks out Rashford as being “phenomenal”.

This contrast in approach to two of his strikers is likely influenced by their relative confidence.

Lukaku’s goal return in comparison to Rashford’s this season means Mourinho is knowingly directing his praise where he feels it can have most impact on the player and more importantly on his team.

Leadership communication lesson

The ability to publicly – and privately –  praise members of a team is an important tool for many leaders. As with any tool, however, it needs to be used knowingly. What should matter most to a leader is the objective they are pursuing and the decision on how to use praise should flow from this. Fairness is important and it is clearly a fine line to tread, but if praise can have more impact on the performance of one individual over another then it should be used in this way.