Conte the hired help (Chelsea 2, Burnley 3)

Week 1 and to Conte for the surprise result of the weekend.

The first sending-off is the “key moment of the game – to play the rest of the game with 10 men, and then 9 men, is not easy.”

The obvious next step would be to criticise the referee, but Conte is seldom obvious.

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“I do not want to comment on the referee.”

Instead he reframes an argument, by redefining it – what the Ancient Greeks would call Syncrisis.

“But in the last 3 official games we finish with 10 or 9 men, I think I need to adapt a new system to play with 10 or 9 men to anticipate this situation.”

The joke may be weak, but the frame around this new argument is interesting.

By joining the seasons together, he can apply pressure to Chelsea’s next referee. A sending-off in the next game becomes a bigger decision than it would otherwise be.

Referees are not the only audience a manager can communicate with after the match.

With the transfer window still open,  managers at this time of year can use their post-match interview to influence the transfer decisions still to be made.

Conte, however, turns down the opportunity to criticise the recruitment decisions,

“I think at this moment the focus is to continue to work very hard with these players, for the transfer market the club is trying to do its best. I am not worried, I am ready to fight with these players.”

“It is important for us to concentrate on our work and to be focused every day during the training session and do our work in the best way. No hiding places, no excuses.”

The words are fine, but the tone is surprisingly downbeat. This does not come across as the aggressive, confident Conte from last season and this is reflected in his choice of clothes.

In place of the sharp suits of last season, we have a shapeless, formless tracksuit.

It is a troubling start to the season.

One match in and Conte is communicating a separation between himself in the owners in tone and dress.

Conte may feel that – with a title-winning season behind him – a separation will hurt Chelsea more than it hurts himself.

Leadership communication lesson

Understanding the importance of tone and even dress, is a lesson many leaders need to learn. Words are important, but we communicate through emotion and visually. Consistency must be the aim for any leader. How you say it and how you are seen to say it, must align with your aim. For more formal communication opportunities – a speech for example – you need to both practice and seek feedback on these specific areas. Get this wrong and your speech will fail.

 

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I will love my club my whole life (Arsenal 3, Everton 1)

Only one significant story line was still alive on the final day and even this concluded as everyone had expected.

For Wenger it was “A sad day, the first time in 20 years we have not qualified for the Champions League.”

He could not bring himself to say the words “Europa League” and instead praised his players.

In the last 2 months his players had “responded in a strong way”, “they have learned” and “it is important to keep them together.”

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Pressed on his own commitment to the club, Wenger said “I will love my club my whole life, even if I wanted I will not be capable to change that.”

His use of a tricolon adds rhetorical weight to his passion.

“My commitment. my loyalty and my love for the club cannot be questioned.”

The speculation about his future “was a big handicap for the team”. The team “played in a very hostile environment and more than ever we needed to stick together and be very strong together – that is why I tell you this group of people are remarkable and they deserve to be supported in a different way”.

Arsenal fans have only the cup final left to show they can support these remarkable people in a different way .

Leadership communication lesson

Pathos is the appeal to emotion and is the most powerful of the persuasive arts. To work its magic however it must be a shared emotion with the audience. Laughter, for example, is so powerful as it is the audience sharing an emotion together. Wenger, though,  is too far down the road with many Arsenal fans for pathos to have much impact and this is likely to become clear after the cup final.

 

One more game, one more time (West Ham 0, Liverpool 4)

A convincing win for Liverpool in a game they could not afford to lose.

For Klopp the game was “Fantastic, but difficult.”

“The start was not that good – we gave away easy balls.”

Klopp gives a tactical reason for the challenges of the first half.

“With our new system, we played the diamond, so our second post was completely free.”

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Half-time provides Klopp with the opportunity to show the players “video analysis of 2 to 3 things” so they can understand the need to fill up the centre when playing with two wide strikers.

Klopp does though deflect praise for the impact of this decision, “It is not about the system, it is how the players use it.”

The rest of his interview is dedicated to managing expectation for the Middlesbrough game.

It is “One more game, one more time. We have a normal week. Recovery, preparation, we go against Middlesborough,”

Klopp uses Antithesis, putting together two opposite ideas in a sentence to achieve a contrasting effect:

“Middlesborough have nothing to lose, but we have everything to win”

Klopp’s focus is only on Liverpool.

“Counting points before you have them is really silly.”

“We will prepare ourselves and try to do our best.”

Leadership communication lesson

When to publicly take credit for a result is a challenge for many leaders. Take no credit and you may be unpleasantly surprised that others will take the same view. Take credit too publicly and you risk alienating the team you are dependent on. Klopp’s approach can be usefully adopted. When talking about success, look for a narrative that places your decisions at its heart, but focus on the excellence of your people. This will reassure your stakeholders and flatter your people.

The game was totally under control (Arsenal 2, Man Utd 0)

So this is how the 25 game unbeaten run ended.

A run that had seen the club move from the depths of despair in sixth to the dizzying heights of fifth.

In his post-match interview Mourinho wants to focus our attention on two aspects, the performance and the limitations on his squad.

He does this through braggadocio – elevating his praise for his players.

“I like individual performances and I also like the collective performance.”

“I cannot ask more from players who play not one second of football in the last seven weeks.”

“Jones, Smalling, Mata – amazing.”

“The kid the same – amazing job.”

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“We were good, well organised, played well, deserved to win and Arsenal were not better than us.”

“The game was totally under control.”

He ends with a joke at Arsenal’s expense and one that reminds every listener of his success as a manager.

“Finally, I leave the stadium with the Arsenal fans happy. It is the first time I see them smile and see them enjoy.”

Leadership communication lesson

Humour is a powerful communication tool. It stimulates emotions and builds on a common set of assumptions or knowledge between you and your audience – in this case Mourinho’s record against Wenger. Get your joke wrong, however, and you will lose the audience. If you are preparing for a speech or presentation and want to use humour, make sure you have tested it in advance. Ask a colleague the question, “Is it funny?” and, if not, cull it.

 

 

It is my fault (Man U 2, Chelsea 0)

Do we now have a title race?

Probably not.

As Souness explained, title-winning teams react to bad defeats.

Indeed, to win the title you need to win many more matches than you lose. Who knew?

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Conte knows, however, the reason for this latest defeat.

Man U have “shown more desire than us, more motivation.”

And the fault is his own. “I wasn’t able to transfer the right desire & motivation.”

What Chelsea need from now until the end of the season is “great enthusiasm, great passion, great ambition and great ambition.”

It is stirring stuff and if you think Conte struggles with his English (G. Neville) you are wrong.

He achieves this rhetorical effect though the use of Anaphora – the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses.

We even have a wonderful use of Occultatio in the interview – the calling attention to material while pretending you’re not going to talk about it.

Invited to comment on a handball Conte replies, “It is the same at Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Stoke City. I don’t want to talk about this situation – but it happens frequently.”

Whatever else Chelsea have to worry about this season, their managers command of the English language will not be one of their concerns.

Leadership communication lesson

When to acknowledge mistakes as a leader is a constant challenge. Taking responsibility for a mistake can strengthen trust within your team and is expected from a leader. As Conte demonstrates, however, timing is everything. Chelsea are top of the league. This allows him to be publicly critical of his own decisions. A leader should acknowledge mistakes from a position of strength. If you are not yet in that position of strength, discretion is likely to be the better course.

The Top 4 is a Trophy (Arsenal 2, Man City 2)

“I will not stop because retirement equals death.”

If you thought Wenger was already under pressure then this quote in the build up to the match caused a double-take.

The failure of the referee to spot an infringement means Wenger dodges the grim-reaper for the moment.

Mental strength is the theme of Wenger’s post-match interview.

The team was “ready for a fight”, “on the mental front it was a very strong performance.” and “for us the test was mental”. “Mentally it has a positive impact on our team”.

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This mental victory is the counter-balance for the fact that “mathematically you could say it is not good for them (City) or for us (Arsenal).”

Indeed. League tables can be frustratingly mathematical.

How tough will it be to make the top 4?

For Wenger it will be tough.

He illustrates this by quoting a young manager who has said that in England to be in the top 4 is a trophy because it is so difficult.

The stick that has been used to beat Wenger mercilessly during the 13 years since they last won the title is  effortlessly broken across his knee with this comment.

The young manager in question?

Guardiola.

Leadership communication lesson

The  Enthymeme is a logic sandwich any leader needs to get to grips with to win their arguments. It takes a belief of the audience and uses it to help convince them. If your assumption is that Guardiola is a great manager, then if he thinks a top 4 finish is a trophy, you are logically forced to recognise Wenger’s achievements.  A leader needs to find and understand the assumptions of their audience. Basing your arguments on these assumptions is the strongest way to win any argument.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guardiola and the happiest day of his life (Man City 1, Liverpool 1)

Two UEFA Champions League, three La Liga, three Bundesliga, two Copa  del Rey, two DFB-Pokal, three UEFA Super Cups and three FIFA Club World Cups.

Guardiola has had some good days.

His happiest day?

A 1-1 draw at home that marginally increases City’s chances of finishing in the top 4.

It is “one of the days in my career I am proud of the most” and the “happiest day of my life as a manager”.

Why is he so proud?

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The performance.

And his use of an ascending tricolon – a set of three terms, increasing in force – gives rhetorical weight to his assessment of the performance, “How we fight, how we run, how we put our spirit out”.

But it is the context of the performance that is everything for Pep.

“It is the conditions we play that game, out of the Champions league, Liverpool are one of the best teams and how we played them”.

Of course defeat to Monaco in mid-week had not been a happy day.

Anyone listening to a radio was invited to call in and express their doubts and reservations about Guardiola.

No qualifications, experience or insight needed to criticise one of the most successful managers in the history of the game.

Given this criticism, Pep uses this performance as an opportunity to commit himself and the team to “want to do something good in the next 2-3 years, we always play to win, to counter-attack, to respect our spectators.”

Leadership communication lesson

Every leader will face setbacks in any enterprise. One communication response it to control the narrative through your choice of time-frame. By looking to the years ahead, you can shift people’s focus from the setback – and the attendant seeking of blame – to an assumed positive future. By extending the time frame you also make any setback appear smaller in scale. It’s a smart response to a difficult communication challenge.