Breaking through that Glass Ceiling – A cunning plan…
A popular leadership fable trawled out time and time again is of the domino effect that Roger Banister had in the field of distance running.
To quickly recount the story; in 1954 Roger Banister was the first person EVER to run a mile under 4 minutes in competition conditions, yes I am sure lots of people claimed it beforehand. So, the key fact being nobody since time began had run it under 4 minutes.
I think one of the main reasons for this was that the ‘experts’, we all know them don’t we, had made statements such as ‘the human body was simply not capable of a 4 minute mile’ and of course when an expert says so it must be true eh? and as such a glass ceiling was created.
Well, we all now know that to be wrong, as over the following 6 years twenty more people had ran that ‘impossible’ mile. Yes, a lot of motivational gurus will tell you it was twenty-four in 6 months, but that is just for the impact of their story and self-limiting beliefs.
So as soon as the fiction became the fact, the glass ceiling was broken.
I have shied away from this story myself due to so many inaccuracies, plus 1954 was a long time ago, so for some people the relevance is not even there!
If only there was another example that we could hold onto that breaks the glass ceiling…
And this is where a cunning plan comes into play, or as Edmund Black Adder says:
‘a plan as cunning as a fox who’s just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University?’
The fox of course that I am referring to is Leicester City Football Club (nicknamed the Foxes).
And so on Monday 2nd May 2016 the nation (world) witnessed a miraculous sporting outcome that makes David beating Goliath pale into insignificance: Leicester Football Club winning the ‘elite’ trophy of the English Premiership. I say ‘elite’ as all experts once again said it could never happen. Even the bookies had Leicester down as the biggest outsiders at 5000-1. We actually know of someone who put £100 on them to win. Happy days…
You may ask why this was such a monumental achievement and what has it got to do with business Norbury?
Well here are some facts to show you why it was impossible.
Leicester had spent less on player’s wages in their TOTAL existence (founded in 1884 – that’s 132 years ago) than Manchester Utd have in the last few seasons (sorry JT, had to get that in).
Leicester were rock bottom of the Premier League last year, 7 points adrift with 9 games to go. They went on to win 7 out of the 9 remaining games – 22 points out of 27! Championship winning form as one punter joked.
You can see why the so called experts were not even entertaining a Premiership win for Leicester, most pundits actually thought they would be relegated this year with their manager Claudio Ranieri first to be sacked.
To put it into context you can get better odds for Dean Gaffney (that dog-loving spotty EastEnders actor) winning an Oscar, or HRH being top of the UK music charts this Christmas, or even Simon Cowell becoming the next UK Prime Minister – just think about that.
Anyway enough of the comparisons. The Leicester success and the breaking of the football glass ceiling that will forever remain in history, reinforces the opportunity we all have in our business.
Based on every improbability above, the reality is they did win and with 2 games to play. The lessons we should study for our business is HOW?!?!?
Well here are some clues that I have observed over the year (I told you it was all business research, Jacki).
Leicester played to THEIR strengths. Most teams are in search of the pass and move style of football, where they look to have maximum possession. Not Leicester, they let all the other teams have the possession and then when they nicked the ball they made it count, playing a counter attacking game. FACTS tell you this as they had the lowest possession of the top 5 teams (42%), the lowest passes (12,500) and the lowest accuracy of around 70%.
Despite their manager being dubbed the Tinker Man, they mostly stuck with the same team and made just twenty-seven changes to the starting 11. The average for the rest of the Premiership clubs was 95.4. Think about the consistency and routine this created.
They were humble in their approach; no mind games played out with opponents over the remaining games. In reality they had very simple goals. Goal 1: survival in the league (40 points). Goal 2: get into Europe. Goal 3: get into Champions League. Finally, goals 4: WIN the title.
With each small but significant goal, their confidence grew as the team performed and achieved their target. Of course it helps massively that everybody else fully expected them to drop lots of points and lose. What was really happening is that they were getting used to the routine of winning; it had become a habit.
Team Spirit. I am sure that sticking with the same squad and not rotating it helped massively, but the key was that everybody worked for each other. Leicester did not have any world class players in their side (some would say differently now) they all worked together in unity to achieve their single simple aims.
I am sure that over the next few days, weeks and months, more will emerge from inside the club about what they did and how they did it. But for me it reinforces a lot of what scaling a business is about:
- Having a clear, simple and easily communicated goal that EVERYBODY is focused on.
- Complete alignment from top to bottom with clear structure of roles, what to do and how to do it.
- A consistent strategy playing to the strengths of the the team and not trying to be something that they were not. The ‘conventional’ stats show they were the worst performers. But there is only one real true stat and that is Premiership Champions!
- Execution, Execution and more Execution on the basics. I personally believe this is one of the biggest ‘magic bullets’ for entrepreneurs out there. But most of you ignore it. You can have the top/fancy players, the big stadium, the most expensive sponsorship deal, but if you don’t execute on the basics it does not matter. Leicester defined their rules of the game (counter attack) and executed it at an expert level and the traditional focused teams just could not cope. We have all heard of Nigel’s 1 -4 -15- 60 – 20. Ranieri looked at the rest and decided there was a better way more matched for his team and just executed on that. He did not do what everybody else was doing.
So there you have it; a small (in comparison) football club with an impossible chance of winning the league doing that and proving EVERYBODY wrong
Now it is your turn. Somewhere out there is the next Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey with a glass ceiling that was stopping them from changing people’s lives. Leicester FC has proved that glass ceilings can be broken, so break yours and claim that space.