EPL’s lessons for Singapore Managers

August 28, 2019 - 12:26:00 PM
EPL’s lessons for Singapore Managers

I just had a drink with a local friend in a pub. He lamented that as a boss, he took so good care of a female employee to the extent that his wife who worked in the same company suspected that the female staff might be his mistress. Yet, the “mistress” recently jumped ship to a competitor and in the off boarding process, badmouthed the company and even tried to poach another staff away. Knowing that he is a fan of Arsenal Football Club, I comforted him that he was not alone as in the world of English football, there are many such cases including Robin Van Persie last season. Arsenal stood by RVP for more than 4 seasons when he was injured more than over of each seasons but the moment he had one successful injury-free season, he departed in an ugly disrespectful manner to join Manchester United.

Indeed, the experiences from the world of English Premier League can have many lessons for Singapore managers and bosses. Here are some of the lessons from the pitch:

  1. You do not need to be a footballer to manage a football team

There is no relationship whatsoever between functional expertise and managerial ability. Jose Mourinho tried playing football as a young man, but soon realized his shortcomings. From Chelsea to Real Madrid, he has achieved outstanding success as a manager. In fact, the same logic can be applied to rank-and-file roles as well. Our best recruiters are previously insurance agents, property agents and air steward!

  1. Know your Talent

Steven Gerrard excelled at Liverpool but at the country level, due to the presence of Frank Lampard, he is often played out of his natural position and as a result, his performance at national level is inconsistent and mixed. At the World Cup, you may see appalling performances from players who consistently excel for their club teams when fulfilling very different duties. Talent is meaningless unless it’s deployed in its most fitting context. So, knowing the strengths of your talents and aligning it to the right roles will extract the optimal potential from the talents. Henry was an ordinary player until Arsene Wenger converted him from a winger to a striker. Under Henry’s era, Arsenal was the “Invincible” club to beat.


  1. Hammer cannot be your only tool

Managers must act quickly to gauge the people they’re working with. If you surveyed those who played under Brian Clough, arguably the greatest ever English manager, reveal conflicting narratives. Some say Clough was avuncular and caring, others that he was an intimidating tyrant. Neither was true — he had just simply worked out how to press the buttons of very different characters. Indeed, the modern boss must be versatile with a flexible toolkit to bring the best out of each talent. Hammer cannot be your only tool.

  1. Managers promote self-belief

If we look at our own careers as employees, most of us will say that the most productive and enjoyable period has been when we worked for a manager who had the confidence to push us to our limit. Arsene Wenger, Arsenal’s manager, summarized the galvanizing effect this relationship has: “All great successes, all great lives, have involved the coincidence of aptitude, talent, but also the luck of meeting people who have believed in you. At some point in your life, you need someone who will tap you on your shoulder and say, ‘I believe in you’.” As a manager, if you genuinely see your company succeed, you have to learn to take a leaf from football’s playbook.

  1.  Managers must not see talents as friends

Coming back to where I began. The problem about my friend was that he treated his departed staff as a friend and the friendship was close hence the pain was deep. But problem is your talents will always draw the line even if you do not. To them, you are just a boss and the company a place for them to earn income and build their career. Whoever can offer them more cash and/or better career prospects, off they go. So, treat them not as friends but as talents. To retain talents, my company has successfully used two different approaches concurrently: Award Incentives and Award Challenges. Using this twin approach, my top performer is super-charged. He just broke two records last quarter, one monthly record and one quarterly record. He is now on track to break his own records for both! He is on track to break the record for the year too!

Victor, the Deputy Managing Director of RecruitPlus Consulting Pte Ltd, had under his belt more than 10 years of experience as a corporate Finance and HR senior executive and another 10 years as a corporate banker and a management consultant.

His treasure chest of corporate experiences came from a career journey that spans a diversified spectrum of MNCs and SMEs from home-grown DBS to CIT Group, a Fortune 500 company.