Leadership Lessons From Gareth Southgate

Leadership Lessons From Gareth Southgate

It’s been a little while now and we’ve all had time to mourn the fact that it didn’t come home after all. England’s performance this year was historic and had millions of people on the edge of their seats – whether they liked football or not. Whilst there are huge congratulations due to the team from France, who put in a stellar performance and won the final, it’s the effect of the England team on the nation’s morale that I find myself reflecting on the most. I know I’m not alone in my observations that our England team showed courage and commitment. I know this because I could hear from my living room that I wasn’t alone in cheering at the TV at the top of my voice!

The success of the England team in this Football World Cup has a lot to do with their new manager, Gareth Southgate. So, what can we take from Gareth Southgate’s approach into our organisations, so we too can benefit from a higher than expected performance in our teams?

Build Strong Relationships

Being a good leader is all about building, developing and sustaining relationships and not just with senior level staff. A good leader gets to know the players well as people, as well as their skills. Gareth Southgate spent time on the psychology of the team to learn about them himself as well as making sure they knew each other well. That’s the work that allows the creativity and synergy to happen once the competition has begun. A team that knows each other well, can find a wavelength that means they know how to respond to each other to achieve their goals. Harry Kane’s hat-trick is a testament to how the team knew where to go and what to do to so he could score those amazing goals. They can feel confident in trusting each other when it counts, if they’re clear about how they each work.

To achieve this level of rapport, it takes a higher ratio of support and listening, to talking. It’s also about using judgement about when to push forward and when to relax. As England defender John Stones said: ‘There’s a fine line, where a manager has got to have his football brain in gear, talk about football, and know when he should relax. He balances that as well as anyone I’ve seen.’

Gareth Southgate invested in building relationships with his players and looking at both the ways in which he celebrated their incredible wins and in how he consoled them when they lost. It gave me the feeling they’d do anything for him.

Aligned to a Purpose, Connected in the Method

People aren’t manufactured – they grow organically, with their own strengths, weaknesses, and preferences – in their own time. They also do it when they have something they want to achieve for themselves and for each other. But that’s not enough on its own. Teams need to believe, understand the plan and have the skills to put the method in place as standard practice if they’re to stand a chance of achieving. Experience helps and our England team now have some to build on. What isn’t in any doubt is that they turned up with clarity about what they wanted to do, and how they were going to work together to achieve it. They didn’t get to the final this time but they did go further than many of their predecessors.

Gareth Southgate put together a very strong team, and a system to ensure they were playing in the right positions. So often we expect people to know what we want them to do without giving them the feedback they need to make changes, the praise they deserve so they keep going or the opportunity to practice. Food for thought for any leader who is disappointed with performance on any level and something any organisation can learn from.

Preparation and Mindset

England beat Colombia because they had practised and prepped for the possibility of taking penalties. They’ve been doing it for months. Jordan Pickford made the definitive save and he had not only been practising since March, he had also more recently been studying Colombian penalty kickers and what their tendencies are – he even had a water bottle cheat sheet. This year, England knew what they were up against, knew the challenges they faced, and they had trained hard to prepare for it. Then they held it together under pressure.

They had created the neurological pathways to act under pressure, individually through practice. They knew what to do and how to do it – that’s knowledge. The practice brought it into being. Then they focused, in that moment, only on that delivery. No blame, no excuses – just rehearsed execution.

Challenges in business are no different. It’s not just the big pitches or the make or break tenders for winning business that matters. It’s when we’ve done everything we can, and something still goes wrong, where we face losing that big contract or customer because of a missed opportunity or a mistake that we need to rely on our mindsets. England practised how to play the game and then how to come back from being behind. There were no expressed misgivings for missed opportunities displayed. How many organisations really train their teams to do that?

I could talk all day about leadership and teams, it fascinates me, and I love helping teams find their high-performance space. At Organic P&O Solutions, we work closely with teams of all shapes and sizes to help them understand each other, communicate effectively and work together as a well-oiled machine with a common goal and a successful mindset. If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch with us today.

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