Now you might think that a struggling football team would be a poor place to find a role model leader but Burnley FC’s Sean Dyche is not your typical football manager. Before the start of the Premier League season all the so-called experts had Burnley as nailed-on certainties to be relegated. The chances are they may still go down but if they do they’ll go down fighting. Their character is a reflection of their relatively inexperienced boss who has enhanced his reputation in the face of severe challenges. If your business is struggling against fierce competition here are 7 lessons any leader could learn from the Premier League rookie:
It has been said of Dyche that if he’d been on the Titanic he’d have seen it as an opportunity to go for a swim. Even after Burnley went winless in their first 10 matches, Dyche maintained a relentlessly optimistic outlook without turning into a naïve Pollyanna. His refusal to buy into any of the negativity and criticism of his team has been as refreshing as it is unusual.
Be clear on core values
Here’s what the Burnley manager had to say when he took the reins at Turf Moor: “It’s very difficult to be successful without key core values. They are called old-fashioned values but they have never been more modern: respect, good manners, good time keeping, pride, passion, hard work, belief, integrity. They are the glue that holds everything together.”
Towards the end of last season, with Burnley pushing for promotion, Dyche was in frequent contact with Sir Alex Ferguson who advised him to keep talking up the energy levels within his group of players. Ferguson maintained that if the players heard it often enough they would start to believe it and wouldn’t tire at the crucial stage of the season. The ploy worked and Burnley finished strongly. This season Dyche has constantly talked about ‘growth’ and ‘learning’, insisting his players are getting better with every game.
Talking up your team and giving them self-belief is a crucial element of any successful leader’s approach to man-management.
When any leader comes to a role from outside he needs to understand the culture of the organisation he is joining and ideally empathise with that culture. Dyche immediately endeared himself to the Burnley stakeholders (and especially the fans) when he talked about the importance of the club to the town and how no one in Burnley jumps on a bus to Manchester to watch football. With a nod to the work ethic of the local community he talked about how, as a minimum, he expected his players to come off the pitch “with sweat on the shirt”.
Make the most of limited resources
All businesses and organisations are resource constrained at some level, and relatively speaking Burnley FC more than most. Last season Burnley had one of the lowest budgets of all 24 Championship teams and was amongst the favourites to be relegated from the second tier. The unexpected promotion was achieved using the fewest number of players and after selling their star striker to one of their closest rivals before the season had even begun.
Dyche and his assistants did an outstanding job in identifying affordable talent and maximising the output from a tight knit group whist operating within severe financial constraints. Manchester United this season spent more on one player (Angel Di Maria) than Burnley have spent in their entire 133-year existence but still could only draw against the Clarets when they met in August.
Getting more from less marks Dyche out as a truly outstanding manager and differentiates his approach from the open chequebook one of many of his peers.
Being a Premier League manager means being subjected to incessant media scrutiny. Lesser characters have been known to crack under the strain and even the fabled Jose Mourinho has started to show signs of a persecution complex.
Dyche, by contrast, handles the media expertly with his disarming frankness and authenticity. Equally important is his body language. To see him striding across the pitch in his trademark white shirt and tie and black raincoat is to witness a man who looks like he means business. There is no tentativeness or lack of confidence in any of Dyche’s communication, verbal or non-verbal.
In the ultra-competitive world of elite sport small details can make a big difference. Dyche has studied the training techniques of Great Britain’s top rowers and has invested in leading-edge medical support to ensure that he gives his small squad of players the best chance of keeping fit. Being a ‘challenger-brand’ to the market leaders of London and Manchester means Dyche has had to be creative in finding ways to compete.
By Paul Kaye from PFK Partners – www.pfkpartners.com