The sacking of Claudio Ranieri – the Leicester City manager who led them to their first ever top division title only 9 months ago – looks like it is only a football issue, a microcosm of a problem within the game itself. But Ranieri’s demise should send a warning to managers and leaders in all industries.
That’s because the sacking is neither completely unexpected, nor unique. Since the news broke, many people on Twitter have highlighted the unfortunate pattern in recent years in the Premier League of managers who have been sacked the season after winning a title: Ancelotti, Mancini, Mourinho, whilst Pellegrini at least had the reprieve of one more year. It puts the achievements of Sir Alex Ferguson – and Mourinho, in his early years – in an even more glowing perspective. It highlights just how hard it is to keep motivating people once they’ve achieved a set of goals.
Ferguson had two approaches to keeping his title winners motivated in consecutive seasons: psychology, and what would be termed elsewhere as ‘employee turnover’. At the end of title winning seasons, Ferguson would often hold up an envelope in the changing room, saying that it contained the names of two players who would “let us down” the following season. If he felt that this still wasn’t enough, he would break his teams up and rebuild.
Mourinho – although we haven’t heard it from the man himself – did it by maintaining a sense of tension and a siege mentality, as well as player acquisition. This approach worked well, although not winning consecutive league title since 2010 perhaps indicates that his powers are waning.
It is a stark warning to managers and leaders across all industries. There’s plenty written about motivating and driving employees to achieve targets and goals. You also need to find way to keep motivating them once those goals have been achieved. This may be more relevant today than ever before. There has been plenty of criticism of millennials for, apparently, always having “one foot out of the door”. Perhaps, though, for a generation with a notoriously short attention span, millennials just need to be continuously challenged. It means that, in the future, if you cannot keep inspiring and motivating your employees, you may find that they go looking for a fresh challenge elsewhere.
You need to keep finding ways to keep your team hungry, and if you detect that the hunger may have dissipated, then consider rebuilding. Or, you could meet the same fate as a growing list of unfortunate football managers.