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. ”

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

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.

It wasn’t easy (Chelsea 3, Arsenal 1)

“We want you to stay, we want you to sta-aa-aayyy, Arsene Wenger, we want you to stay.”

Sang the Chelsea fans.

For Conte; a position of great strength. A humbling of a rival and the opportunity to reinforce any messages of his choosing.

His choice was to emphasise the qualities of his own team through praise of the opposition.

Arsenal are a “very good team, for me they are a good team, a lot of good players, technically and physically.”

This frame allows him to then praise his own players, “I am pleased for the players.”

He is pleased because they “deserved” the win and they deserved the win “as during the week and in every training session I see their desire and attitude.”

Given his own central role in training, he is not only attempting to manipulate the behaviours he wants to see from his players, but also reinforcing the security of his own position.

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Success also allows him to focus on the negatives of the game.

He is led by a question, but close to half of the interview is then focused on his disappointment at conceding a goal. “It is a pity” and it demonstrates the need to “keep your concentration from the start to the end”.

The tone is in fact so critical that the interviewer feels he needs to remind and congratulate him on the win!

Leadership communication lesson

Success gives you a position of strength that should never be wasted. It can be wasted if you do not link success to the behaviours you have asked of your team or the strategy you have chosen to follow. Do not be coy, subtle or vague. Link success directly and it will help you build followership within your organisation.