First and last time I mention football, I promise……

What businesses can learn from Leicester City?

I blame my mate Barry. There I was leading my life, oblivious to the pull of football, until a group of us, including Barry, went away to France for the weekend in the closing weeks of this year’s season. Needless to say, Barry is a lifelong supporter of Leicester and as I traversed the roads of Normandy Barry told me about the epic and unexpected rise of the Foxes – which if course culminated a few weeks ago in their winning the League. At odds of 5000 – 1 – the same quoted for the likelihood of Elvis being found alive! After that trip, I watched the closing matches of the season with real interest.

And it got me to thinking – there are so many lessons to be learned here for business. So I thoughts I’d share those with you.

First look at Ranieri’s management – he’s a nice guy, more nurturing than bullying and he understands the importance of positivity.

Then look at their talent – not the most expensive – their team was £54m worth as opposed to Manchester City’s £418m for example. Some of their bargain acquisitions came from random places where other scouts weren’t even looking. They were often rough Diamonds that needed a bit of polishing, given the opportunity to shine and then look how valuable they became.

They also made up their perceived talent deficit by just working much harder. They ran more, more that all other 19 teams in the league. So a great lesson in competing with your well-funded competitors – you can – just sweat your assets more.

They broke some rules. Previously it was thought possession was everything in football. But Leicester’s stats prove this different. They broke the rules and did it differently. When you don’t have buying power you have to look out of the box for solutions.

Also, the new owner attached a spiritual element – with Buddhist monks blessing the changing rooms – now I am not suggesting you need to go all incense and Karma on me – however, the hippy in me believes in adding a spiritual element can only help.

Incentives for not conceding goals – one of Leicester’s habitual fails previously – were introduced – and now I bet you’re thinking a Bentley or a 5-figure bonus. Nope – it was pizza – Ranieri knew – as that great book Drive by Daniel Pink shows – team motivation is not always about money. That pizza for not conceding goals became an important motivator.

He understood the power of holidays – in March – unheard of in football – the team were allowed a week off – and came back rejuvenated. And he didn’t shift people around a lot – he kept much of the support team and let players play in the same position allowing them to be able to develop in those roles as the season grows. And they monitored performance stats like all teams do – but didn’t use them to browbeat the team – but used them to shore up performance issues for the next game – working with players to improve their weaker points.

And can I add another one – he made a point of making time for his family – in the final games of the season he was off visiting his Mum for her 90th birthday. Got to get your priorities right.

So in summary here’s what I took from Leicester City’s meteoric rise this year;

Nice guys can and do win
Look for hidden talent
Sweat your assets to make up investment deficits
Break rules
Add a dash of spirituality
Look for incentives other that money
Allow people time off AND KEEP IT FUN
Hold steady and allow people to develop in their roles
Use statistics and use them constructively to improve performance
Understand the importance of family

And of course football is a team sport – not just the stars on the pitch but the support crew, the fans, the manager – and it was the collective that won. Without a great collective we are all going nowhere in business so it’s our jobs as heads of our teams to learn from the greats like Ranieri and Leicester – and maybe, just maybe – next season will be your season to win your league!

Just one more things. They did not give up. I was utterly hooked at the end of the season and squealed when Vardy was sent off with that sense of dread filling my whole being. But they came back, scored again and, as we all know, went on to win the league regardless. So many inspirational lessons to learn.

Now if you tell ANYONE I am waxing lyrical about football I will deny it entirely!

Go have a great week.