It was solid, it was good (Man City 4, Tottenham 1)

Have we reached peak Guardiola?

The opening question is one no Premier League manager has ever been asked.

“Congratulations on your 16th win in a row, how would you describe the performance?”

“It was solid, it was good.”

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He focuses on the strengths of Tottenham.

“A team so demanding to be intense without the ball, because they play so good. Dele Ali, Eriksson, Dembele, Winks – they have good quality.”

“I am satisfied we beat one of the best teams in the Premier League.”

Given the opportunity to talk about the character of his team, Guardiola focuses on their work rate.

“Without the ball we are a so, so humble team.”

“You see the performance of Kevin De Bruyne. You cannot imagine how good he is with the ball, but you see how he runs.”

“If one of the best players runs like a player in the Conference then it is easier for the manager and the club.”

After 16 wins in a row, everything is easier for the manager and the club.

Leadership communication lesson

Any effective leader  knows  it is the behaviours of their team that determines their relative success. In their communications it should always be clear what the audience is being asked to do. By using Kevin De Bruyne as an example, Guardiola is clear on the behaviour he expects from all his players and it is a behaviour accessible to all his players. De Bruyne’s appreciation of space and movement may be inimitable, but any player can copy his work rate out of possession.

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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.”

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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.

 

We played so good (Watford 0, Man City 6)

Fifteen goals, in three games, with none conceded, means City are having a moment.

Against Watford Guardiola believes, “We played so good, we played so good.”

He amplifies the result by placing it in a frame of his choosing.

“Last season Arsenal, Manchester United were beaten here, Liverpool did not win here and it is hard, especially after being away in the Champions League three days before.”

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The result is a consequence of the performance.

“We build up, a lot of players close to the ball, we are able to make short passes, we have a lot of energy with our full backs to be able to go up and down, the players who come from the bench give us something new, so it is good.”

“We make a good performance. That is the most important thing, because when you make a good performance, after that you always win.”

Questioned as to whether the staff and players were now a more relaxed team, Guardiola brings it back to basics.

“Winning games gives you more confidence so the staff are happier.”

“The reason we are here is to win games.”

Leadership communication lesson

Success is an opportunity to build the belief of your team in the work they are doing and the decisions you have taken. Within any team there will be individuals who doubt and are critical of the leader. Framing your success in an argument of your choosing – as Guardiola does here in stressing the strategic elements of the performance – is a powerful tool for a leader to push these voices to the margin.

 

 

 

Guardiola – One of the proudest days of my life (Man City 1, Everton 1)

Guardiola’s post-match interview added to the fun of a lively match that was either spoilt or made by the referee depending on your taste.

For Guardiola, “We played a good performance. We created chances. Important to create chances – OK we didn’t finish, but important to create chances.”

Pressed to describe the mistakes of his own team in contributing to the goal, Guardiola only recognises Everton before turning it back to praise his own players.

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“They [Everton] made a good action. We have done everything. I don’t know how many chances we create. We play with 10 men, similar to Burnley for 70 minutes – then we were able to win, today we draw.”

Does he want to discuss the refereeing decisions?

“Next question”

Asked about his tactical change, he deflects any praise onto the players. “Tactics depend on the players. We put more players in the middle to gain more control – we create enough chances.”

He ends, as he started, by praising his players.

“We are here for the results, but at the end we have to analyse the performance. It’s one of the proudest days of my life – 10 against 11 for 65-70 minutes against a top quality team is not easy.”

Leadership communication lesson

Creating an environment of trust and respect is often critical for any leader.  The team’s perception of the willingness of the leader to defend their performance in public can often dramatically influence this environment. In not criticising any player, Guardiola can build that sense of trust within his group. As Guardiola points out – we are here for the results – but the best way to achieve those results is with a team who trusts their leader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

So so so happy (B’Mouth 0, Man City 2)

Was it for nights like these that Sheik Mansour funnelled the oil wealth of Abu Dhabi into Man City?

To shock and awe the 11,464 capacity crowd in the smallest ever Premier League stadium?

Probably not, just as you probably don’t employ Guardiola in order to “have a good battle to qualify for the Champions League”.

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Having replaced Joe Hart with the false number one that was Claudio Bravo, Aguero is perceived to be next in the firing line.

Invited to underline how important Aguero is to the team, Guardiola instead stressed “when you play in big competitions, champions league, you need all the players”.

Does Guardiola think City can win the title?

No. “The gap is too, too, big”.

The focus for City in on their own game, “Game by game to  improve our performance”.

Tonight Guardiola felt this happened and was “so so so happy with the performance”.

Leadership communication lesson

Past success buys you time and credibility as a leader. Fighting for a Champions League spot was not the expectation for City. Guardiola is drawing on credibility established elsewhere to reset these expectations. If City were to now challenge Chelsea this may be perceived to be a success. As  a leader you can reset expectations if results are poor and it can be useful tactic in managing your stakeholders, it is not however a card you want to play more than once.