Many of us will be delighted to see the new Premier League season get underway this weekend.

With many clubs spending big to bring in new talent, this season, the 26th in Premier League history, promises to be no less exciting.

Only six clubs having won the title since the Premier League era began in 1992. Being a fan certainly has its ups and down, but the stress you often feel when watching your beloved club is nothing compared to the pressure Premier League managers are under.

Key challenges

Football managers face many challenges, including the great expectation from fans that their teams not only win, but also play well and ultimately win silverware. Managers’ team selections and tactics must be right every game, while having to deal with club owners, directors, officials and agents, and face constant media scrutiny and criticism.

But probably their greatest challenge is managing players (for business managers too, managing staff is up there with cash flow management as a key test). Most Premier League players are very well paid, but balancing various personalities requires skill and can bring additional management challenges. So, if you employ people, what can you learn from the Premier League’s top managers?

 

Team talk

Well, firstly, every manager must get their recruitment right. Bringing in the wrong player, whether they lack ability or don’t fit into the team, can prove disastrous. Top football managers work hard every day in training to improve players’ skills, contribution to the team and understanding of the game. It’s the same for employers, of course, where providing the right training and guidance can also pay off. It takes investment, and all managers have to create the right working culture and environment.

Top football managers understand team dynamics. They focus on getting the right blend of personalities, skills and knowledge, with players played in their best positions. Managers understand that some players develop or improve faster than others, so patience is required. Progress takes time and success requires hard work and commitment. Where there are skills gaps, top managers are active in the transfer windows, while letting go players who fail to deliver.

 

Motivation and praise

Good discipline is essential in football and business. Managers must take swift, decisive action where discipline problems arise. If performance falls short, a softer approach might prove effective, where a manager will literally put their arm around a player and have a quiet word of encouragement.

Other footballers receive a public rollicking when they play badly.

Being a good manager also requires showing players and employees appreciation when they work hard and achieve great things. Knowing that your contribution is valued, recognized and appreciated boosts player and employee motivation. Good managers are also inspiring leaders who can convey their vision and get others onboard. They’re normally good communicators who let their people know exactly what’s expected of them.

So, is it important for your staff to like you? What does professional football teach us? Sir Alex Ferguson writes in his 2015 book Leading (Hodder & Stoughton): “As a leader you don’t need to be loved, though it is useful, on occasion, to be feared. But most of all, you need to be respected.”

 

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