4 management tips from England football manager Gareth Southgate
These four practices inspired by the England football team could improve your management style and results
By Jermaine Haughton
England football team manager Gareth Southgate has changed the team culture and boosted performance. Here are the management tips you need:
1. Southgate starts with mental preparation
Penalty shootouts? No problem. Mental preparation is a core asset of the England team.
Players completed psychometric tests to show how well they could handle pressure before flying out to Russia. They revealed nervy English players tend to rush their penalties so Southgate used the results to draw up a shortlist of penalty takers.
“Life is always about opportunity presenting itself and taking control of it, taking charge of it,” the England manager has said. “We said we didn’t want this tournament to take hold of us and push us around. We wanted to attack it and make sure we were in charge of our destiny.”
Dr Pippa Grange is England’s head of people and team development. Grange has worked on a one-to-one basis with the players. She encourages the players to be more open with one another, share personal stories and gather in groups to shed any inhibitions they may have.
Former England cricketer Jeremy Snape, now a sports psychologist and founder of high performance consultancy Sporting Edge, rates the approach. He says:
“Gareth’s personal experience of missing a penalty in Euro 96 has helped him to prepare his team better. This vulnerability and willingness to discuss setbacks and pressure is a new concept in football and has liberated the players and staff to enjoy the challenge of competition rather than the fear of failure. The players are now approaching games with the excitement of showing off their skills to the world rather than being fearful about what the media will say if they fail – a sense we got from the game against Iceland a few years back. This courage is central to their winning mind-set.
2. Gareth Southgate built a network of previous players for advice
In the spirit of Rugby Union’s successful New Zealand All Blacks team, Southgate began a ritual whereby debutants are presented with their shirt by a former England player before their first match: Former England goal scorer Ian Wright presented goalkeeper Jordan Pickford with his shirt before the friendly match against Germany last year.
The process allows the current cohort a chance to the pick the brains of former stars and pick up tips on how to manage nerves and pressure, and avoid mistakes. A professional network can provide support and encouragement in every professional sector. CMI Insights has previously highlighted ways for managers to get involved with the Chartered Management Institute and common networking mistakes, as well as how to be a charismatic and engaging leader.
3. Southgate ditched micromanagement
Southgate has a clear philosophy for his team: every player is given the freedom to express their creative and technical skills.
“Adaptability in the modern game is critical,” Gareth Southgate explained. “Always as a coach you have to be thinking not to flood the players with information. You have to think what's key for the player, for that team and how to deliver it in a way that it might stick and have an effect.”
Matt Weston, managing director at recruitment consultancy Robert Half UK, says Southgate’s flexible framework can work for all managers.
“Gareth Southgate’s tenure as England Manager can be summed up in three words – freedom, flexibility and openness,” Weston said. “Qualities he’s seemingly managed to instil both on and off the pitch. Like a good manager in any field, he’s grasped the importance of trust, handing responsibility to the players and has subsequently seen an improvement in morale, performances and results.”
4. Gareth Southgate values diversity
Weeks before the tournament, the England squad also spent 48 hours in woods near the Royal Marines’ base. They were put through an intense team-bonding exercise, in which they had to co-operate and support each other.
“You have to put club rivalries to one side,” Lingard said. “We have been like family. We all get along with each other and that’s why we have done so well. There is no squabbling. There are no cliques.”
Dr Simon Hayward, CEO of Cirrus and author of Connected Leadership and The Agile Leader, explained: "Southgate is a team player with a driven determination to succeed. He emphasises the importance of the team working together, that no one is bigger than the team, and that mutual respect and respect for the shirt is paramount. He is melding a talented group of players into a tightknit community who all take responsibility.
He added: “Gareth works hard, I believe, to communicate with different players in different ways, suited to their personalities and needs, but with a core consistency that makes his communication fair and trustworthy and has inspired confidence among the players.”
Want to promote diversity within your organisation? Read the Delivering Diversity report