Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 24 hours, you’ll know that Leicester City won the Premier League last night. If you’re into football, you’ll know how incredible this is. If you’re not, you’ll know by hearing about it.
Looking deeper into how they’ve managed to do this, it seems truly unfathomable. It doesn’t actually make sense how they’ve won and that got me thinking about how we could learn from some of the things that brought them the title.
LESSON 1: PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS
Leicester’s entire squad had a value of £54million. That might sound like a lot, but that’s the exact amount that Manchester City paid for 1 player. In comparison, the total value of Manchester City’s squad is £418million.
There’s a general consensus that you can buy titles by spending money on the big players. What Leicester lacked in money and star power they made up for with work-rate. They ran more than any other team in the league and that showed. The other teams just weren’t prepared to run as much as Leicester were.
Running isn’t everything but it was all they had so they went full tilt and simply outran the other 19 teams.
LESSON 2: Tearing up the rule book
Possession. The late Johan Cruyff had a big hand in creating the greatest reign of any team in world football with his contribution to Barcelona. Their philosophy was based on two simple facts:
- If we have the ball, you can’t score.
- If we have the ball, we stand a better chance of scoring.
Over the years, nearly every club has tried to adopt this possession-based game and mostly failed. Leicester had the lowest possession of the entire league. Pundits everywhere couldn’t wrap their heads around how they were able to win games without the ball.
The lesson here is to sometimes do the total opposite of tradition or convention. If everyone is doing internet marketing, maybe do some direct mail. If everyone else is getting offices and hiring locally, maybe you work from home and hire remotely.
You don’t always need to do the thing that everyone else is doing in order to find successes.
LESSON 3: Focus
The big clubs usually make it pretty far in most competitions, so come crunch time in the last 8-10 games of the season when every point matters, there’s a bunch of mid-week games to consider in different competitions. This often means managers will rotate the squad to rest players.
You often hear things like “We can focus on the league now”. What that really means is we can just focus on one clear objective.
In business, it’s vital to have that same level of focus. Don’t try to have 4 or 5 divisions of your company when you’re still building things up. A single product or service company will almost always outperform one with multiple products and services in the early stages.
Keep the focus.
LESSON 4: Stick to what’s working
Barring the odd suspension, Claudio Ranieri picked pretty much the same 11 players every game. This allowed the players to gel. There was less doubt around the squad. Everyone knew their place.
As creatives, it’s easy to move onto the next thing because it’s more exciting but let this be a lesson to stick to what’s working.
LESSON 5: KEEP it fun
On the cusp of the biggest upset in sporting history, they’re only training 2 half days a week. My old Sunday league side trained more than that!
Their interviews were hilarious: “Surely you must now be accepting that you could win the league” “We’re just happy to get our 40 points and be safe from relegation”.
The whole thing was like a joke to them.
Don’t take yourself so seriously. It’s easy to relax when things are going well but it’s down to you to make the time to relax regardless. It clears your head, keeps you positive and take time for yourself. Get out the house, throw parties, see your friends, go on holidays. Keep it fun.
LESSON 6: DON’T give up
At so many different times, they could have bottled it and caved in, settled for a draw, accepted the loss and not bounced back. Pundits the world over kept saying things like “They’ll drop off after Christmas”, “They won’t be able to keep this up”.
Well, they did keep it up. I don’t know how. I’m not sure anyone does but there was some crazy belief in the squad that they could keep going. That never say die attitude earned them the odd point here and there which is the exact thing that wins you titles.
During a match with West Ham, they were 2-1 down with their star man Jamie Vardy getting sent off, they somehow equalised in the last kick of the game. Jamie Carragher during the TV analysis afterwards said “The dying seconds of that match are what will make them champions”.
There was no reason for them to keep trying. There were 15-seconds left but for some reason they had one last go and ended up getting a penalty which they scored. That point contributed to them winning the league because the title race would still be alive right now if they had lost that game.
You need to grind out your wins. Not everything you do is going to be a landslide victory. Learn to love that hustle and grind.
It’s those small moments in business that you have to work hardest for. Don’t give up.
Congratulations Leicester, you deserve it.