How Do We Emotionally Connect Everyone To The Mission?

I have a dream…

With those four words Martin Luther King focused a movement on a dream they could all commit to. Campaigners could unite around the idea of all being equal. It was the core premise they all agreed and identified with.

Whether our team is a sports team, social movement or corporate team… we need a vision.

It is the vision that frames every interaction. Every relationship. And it is what guides their decisions.

Done right, it connects to something inside each team member feels and how they see themself.

This link between the vision of the collective and the identity of the individual is the core thread. The strength of the team bond comes from this thread.

In this episode… Thomas Courts Tony Walmsley …and I discussed vision and identity.

With examples ranging from football tribalism to national patriotism.

How do we engage and emotionally connect everyone to the mission?



Thomas: [00:00:00] Football clubs actually really hinder themselves with some thoughtless content that they put out for perceived engagement. 

Tony: Yeah, definitely. There’s probably opportunity in there to help organizations reshape that if anybody’s listening. You know what I mean?

Tony: That it does happen. More than you think it would, in a world that’s evolving so quickly, and so sensitive to, public backlash. It just makes sense to make it a priority. And of course some managers. Not, if you’re a young head coach or manager who is purely driven by the technical tactical aspects of the game and haven’t got a rounded media persona or understand how to leverage engagement and those types of things.

Tony: That’s an opportunity in itself to help, as an organization. You appoint somebody because they’re great on the pitch. let’s help them develop themselves as part of this partnership that we’ve entered into. Without that, unless it is addressed, there’s a fine line that the organizations are [00:01:00] treading, just waiting for it to go wrong when it inevitably will, because it hasn’t been thought through.

Rob: How much do you think it’s down to like a paralysis of the fear of getting it wrong? And how much to a lack of a compelling vision

Tony: Where I go immediately with that is horses for courses. So for each person, I think they’d all fall somewhere different on those spectra. For any individual, the fear of getting it wrong or the fear of losing credibility is going to be present. And then it’s to what degree is it enough.

Tony: Is it paralytic? Does it stop you moving forward? Then it’s something that needs to be dealt with, or is it something that makes you uncomfortable, but you able to navigate your way through it, which is what you want. Am I on that cusp of this is a bit challenging. I can grow through that.

Tony: That I think that’s where we actually want to be. I think the compelling vision is what pulls everybody towards it in the first place. So without that, you leave individuals prone to paralysis. Because they’re left to their own [00:02:00] device. They don’t have the vision to pursue. So they’re left to their own devices to deal with their own insecurities around, or what do I do here?

Tony: What do I say? Who do I put in front of the media? So I would say it’s both things working in tandem, if there’s no vision and you’ve got the fear of getting it wrong, it’s as bad as it could be.

Thomas: Yes, it’s a really interesting take that. And I think where my mind went to Tony is that as head coaches, we naturally want to protect IP, we want to protect everything that we’re doing. But I think in this day and age, I think it’s actually about understanding how much you can actually share. And in my experience, Rob, what I’ve found is that the more you can actually look at, the collateral and the IP that you have, even on a week to week basis.

Thomas: So for example, if a striker is scoring lots of goals in training, I would be keen because the training’s film to actually share that with the social media team and actually get that out there because it’s good for the confidence and the PR of the player. [00:03:00] It creates a feel good, the fans can get connected to it, we’re working on shooting, we’re working on attacking, you’ll obviously get some, snide comments, that’s always going to happen, but I think the point I’m trying to make is that I think the modern head coach now actually has to look and understand about what they can actually release to the multidisciplinary teams within the football club in order to actually Create engagement, to actually give the fans and the external, partners an insight into to what’s happening.

Thomas: So this kind of central cog in the wheel, as opposed to the ivory tower that we’ve spoken about before, I think is really important from that perspective. Because from the moment that you actually do your debrief after a game with your staff, right towards the, the final training session, I think you have to be actually thinking about, What can I share with the different departments, whether it’s in the academy to create alignment, whether it’s the comms and the media team, whether it’s hospitality, whatever it is, I actually think that within the first team now, we [00:04:00] almost have to be a force for good to actually create that engagement.

Rob: That was going to be my next question as a head coach or manager, how much do you share? How transparent are you? So clearly you are on the edge of transparency. 

Thomas: I I think so. I think particularly in the modern day where everything, that’s a trend, a theme is repeatable.

Thomas: The opposition have, data analysts, they’ve got scouts they’ve got people that can identify. So there’s very few secrets in football just now, in fact there’s an oversaturation of information. So I think once you actually get over yourself. And you actually think how can we actually weaponize what we’re doing on a day to day basis in order to create more energy, more interaction, more insight, more engagement?

Thomas: Because I always feel in football, you’re always looking to build stock, Tony, because you know that there are going to be periods, whether it’s injuries, suspensions, poor form, where you’re going to be reliant on that stock externally. So I think it’s about [00:05:00] consistency. Authenticity and actually caring about, sharing to the public so that they have an insight.

Tony: Yeah. Yeah, a hundred percent. I think the more transparent you are, the more, at risk you are in a way. So if you are strategically transparent so that, so you are engaging the fans with the content and the vision, and the upside of everything that’s going on. I think. That’s really good.

Tony: It’s helping everybody, really understand what’s going on behind the scenes and what the intent, cause we’re looking for shared intention. We talked about this before. If the fans can share that intention, you can afford to lose a game because they know we’re all on the same page.

Tony: We could see what we were trying to do. We just came up against a better team today, whatever. There are obviously some lines that you can’t cross. There are some, some things that, that don’t belong in the public domain, what you’ve got within a dressing room or within a senior leadership team is sacrosanct.

Tony: In a way, there are certain things that, that I think will always stay true just to that core group. So I think there’s a fine line between. It’s about [00:06:00] being as transparent as possible, but you can’t give everything to everyone because especially as the manager, you really are out on a limb if you do that.

Tony: It doesn’t take much for something to be thrown back at you. 

Rob: It’s almost like you’re damned what, if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. 

Tony: Exactly, in the face of that, are you still prepared to go there?

Tony: That’s the reality of it and the uncertainty of it. You want to have enough discomfort and uncertainty that It really propels and drives you. That’s eustress. That’s the optimum amount of stress that you want. I’m on the edge here.

Tony: It’s I love it. I want to go for it, but the consequences are significant. I’ve still got to make some big decisions in the face of that. And I think that’s the, that the pursuit of those objectives in the face of that uncertainty is where the game is where you’re alive as a manager, I think.

Thomas: I suppose winning games is the leverage for everything. Really, we started to talk about, appointments and profiles of appointments, but ultimately fans want to see the team [00:07:00] winning. Secondly, they’d like to see their team playing well. And I think Jürgen Klopp actually said this when he was appointed at Liverpool, because there was probably a few raised eyebrows.

Thomas: It wouldn’t have been a unanimously positive opinion on his appointment, even though there was positivity. But I think he said something along the lines of, I’d rather leave with positivity than arrive with positivity. And I think that there’s something really quite powerful in that because from my perception of leadership appointments in the football industry, there’ll be the typical fan opinion to start with.

Thomas: But then there comes a point where they cross a bit of a threshold where it’s like, And I need to get back to support and the team trying to help the team one. And if that means supporting the people at the football club, then so be it. And it’s probably what I experienced at Dundee United as well, where there’s obviously that initial impact.

Thomas: But then after a period, it’s we’re supporters. And if we don’t support the team, then naturally we’re at a huge disadvantage. So let’s actually pull together and see if we can try something [00:08:00] with this new head coach. 

Rob: What comes to mind there is when England appointed Sven Goran Eriksson, and that hatred so many people had, I’m never supporting England again. It, because it was, it’s such a culture change, people had these deep ingrained beliefs. But then it changes. And sometimes it does take time, but it’s, it does change with time.

Rob: But something that comes to mind aligned with this is how many football clubs are you aware of that? Like how many of them have a compelling vision? 

Rob: Because many of them are, if you’re. I don’t know, Crystal Palace or Burnley or Bournemouth or something. You’re probably never going to, once in a lifetime, you might get into Europe.

Rob: Where would be like, do they have a vision within? 

Rob: Cause you can see Brighton, they’ve come from nowhere. They do have a vision and at times, where a club, Blackburn maybe were a standard example where they have a clear vision, Newcastle came up, they had [00:09:00] a clear vision and they’ve stayed up.

Rob: But a lot of the, lower clubs as they come up, then they’re not going to be winning, they up and I look at them, has an identity of being up and down. Do they have a clear vision? Do you think in your experience? 

Tony: My first response is that where there’s money, it’s easy to put a vision around finishing somewhere in the league, qualifying for Europe, winning the Champions League, whatever. I think in terms of the commercial and corporate side of football clubs, I’m pretty sure, a lot of clubs, even from the lower leagues, but certainly in the Premier League, they would have fairly strategic visions and missions around, identity, who they want to be, are they a family club, are they a community club, all of those types of things.

Tony: Things I think that lots of corporate organizations have, I think they would have those. I think the challenge is the performance on the pitch ultimately drives a lot of what the club’s trying to do regardless. So all of the corporate vision and mission and all of that sort of stuff is [00:10:00] nice to have, but unless it’s fully aligned to the technical objectives and the technical objectives are fully aligned to the commercial objectives It’s always going to be at odds with each other, I don’t know what it’s like now, Thomas, in saying the Scottish Premier League, which you’re very close to, historically, they’re almost siloed by design.

Tony: The technical group don’t mix with the office. It’s like lockdown here. Nobody’s allowed in here. So that transparency we talked about before, even internally for a long time, the administration of a football club and the technical side of the football club were two very distant cousins.

Tony: And of course, nowadays, the realization is no, there’s got to be alignment here. But I think some clubs will struggle to do that. I think immediately of Nottingham Forest, for example, who’ve got quite a maverick owner, who’s got bags of cash, probably got a vision and an urgency to get there.

Tony: somewhere to make this money turn itself into some sort of result, but that’s not how it works. I think it needs to be strategic. I think it [00:11:00] needs to be. You’ve got massive assets that they’re dealing with, both independently as in individual players, but functions within the business and the business itself, mistreated, it’s just money falling through the cracks.

Thomas: I think particularly in this era as well, where we’re seeing football clubs, increase, headcount quite astronomically actually. Where when you see a football club at the start of the season, with a club portrait and upwards of 80, 90 people, it’s super important that there is that vision for alignment because as a head coach, I can only speak in my experience and the three clubs that I’ve worked for have had varying degrees of vision, documented, onward journey and Dundee United was quite a good example because I was appointed from within the academy because we wanted to develop young players.

Thomas: We wanted to trade. We wanted to be successful on the pitch. We wanted to implement a playing style, but we also wanted [00:12:00] to identify African players and we wanted to do multiple things that probably we didn’t actually have the bandwidth for as well. So I think actually having the vision is great, but then actually assessing the resources and the expertise and really making some discriminatory choices around what the priorities are.

Thomas: Because ultimately, for a club of the United Sizes, as one example, once you start spreading yourself very thin, and then a few results start to go, amiss naturally everybody in the football club will actually go back to their home base of we need to win, we need to close short, we need to pull ranks.

Thomas: The great thing about having a vision and having that clarity of what the objectives and the priorities are is that you can actually stay the course. You can measure properly. You can start to predict, you can plan for things. But when you start to talk about some of the technical elements, Tony, you’re totally right.

Thomas: A passion of ours is strategic recruitment, aligning The markets that you tap into, [00:13:00] with the league that you play in, with the positional profiles, linking it to the data and the visuals, and actually pulling all that together, because ultimately, if you have clarity on the vision of how you want the product to look on the pitch, then that is a real enabler for all the commercial stuff and all the peripheral, commercial things that the clubs want to dabble in as well.

Tony: Yeah, 

Rob: 100%. It’s interesting you mentioned Nottingham Forest because they bought like 23 different players wasn’t it, in a summer window and and there’s a lot of evidence like Chelsea have spent a billion, completely new squad, and although they’re playing well now it hasn’t worked out up till now, so the jewellery is still out.

Rob: So it isn’t just about spending money, but when you look at Roman Abramovich, Chelsea were a team on the up, but they weren’t at the level of, they were never going to win a title. Everyone said it was the money he spent, but there was obviously an intelligence behind that, because he spent well and he lifted them up and he kept them up during his ownership.

Rob: And then [00:14:00] suddenly, when he’s gone and they took away all the backroom, Structure that he’d put in, it’s crumbled. So it’s not about the money but it’s about the wise use of money, which I guess comes down to having someone who aligns all of that with the strategy was just to win at any cost.

Rob: Whereas Nottingham Forest, maybe because they’re starting behind or why hasn’t it worked for Chelsea? Is it, since he’s gone because they were a top team. They’ve spent a billion. Enough to build a top team. And yet I suppose, I don’t know, maybe the backroom, but misalignment or what would your thoughts be on that?

Rob: I’ve got

Tony: a few different thoughts springing to mind about Chelsea. It wasn’t that long ago when Tuchel was there that they won the Champions League, although in the league they didn’t. 

Rob: Wasn’t that the year before they took over.

Tony: I can’t remember when the takeover was, but yeah, he didn’t last much beyond that.

Tony: Did he? Possibly, but then if you think about the, like you say, the billion pounds spent On what from the outside appears to be insane recruitment. You [00:15:00] can see the potential. These are young players like to expect that to immediately come to fruition with a new coach and a whole squad of new players just makes no sense, people with no knowledge of how teams are built and how success is developed over time at the highest end, the pointy end of the game in the world.

Tony: Just makes no sense to think that. That’s going to work straight away. And I feel for Graham Potter in that way, because he was at the very front end of that, took that on and was prepared to run with it. Seems like the kind of guy very composed and would have bought into the evolution of that over time.

Tony: And wind that forward to today when obviously the rumors are that he turned down the Ajax job, that he’s possibly in contention for Man United job. But you get the pundits coming out saying, how could he possibly be up for these big jobs if he couldn’t even succeed at Chelsea? It’s hang on a sec.

Tony: He was there for like next to no time. Under the spotlight with the most complex dynamic [00:16:00] challenge that anybody could possibly have to deal with in order to get results at that level right now, makes no sense. So to be judging somebody on that really narrow view, it’s just mind boggling. It’s nonsense.

Tony: It wasn’t that long ago that they would say Pochettino’s not going to last either. It’s only in the last month that they’ve started to show glimmers of the potential that’s clearly there, they’ve got bags of raw talent and they’ve spent a lot of money to get it. But it’s going to take time.

Tony: So I think somebody like Graham Potter, who’s clearly, what I would call a well rounded modern day manager. He gets all of the stuff that we’re talking about this morning. He gets it. He’s somebody that I’d want in my organization for all those reasons. That review that he couldn’t do it at Chelsea.

Tony: He couldn’t manage the big name. It’s give me a break. I know. 

Thomas: It frustrates me. No it’s totally interesting. I agree with everything you’ve said there. The Roman Abramovich one for me is an interesting one that, that Rob brings up because he’s a less is more guy. We actually know very little about this guy.

Thomas: To all intents and purposes, [00:17:00] he’s a guy who Leads with consequences so that there’s clearly an objective and objectives and if they’re not met there’s consequences. I think at Chelsea at the time there was almost a perfect storm because there was a core group of players who still had a big ceiling to grow and to develop and Aspire to be world class players And then with some really intelligent recruitment of coaching staff and players to supplement that, and the players were really impressionable as well.

Thomas: And then they employed this charismatic leader who would feed, the impressionable part of their personalities. And the whole thing just garnered and gathered momentum. But when you listen to John Terry speak, this is quite a shy leader. And in football, when players hear less, they’re actually able to connect the dots and almost intrinsically find the motivation.

Thomas: But when I was growing up, I would probably see a leader as, [00:18:00] charismatic, engaged the people, rapturous, talks. Whereas. I think in Mourinho they absolutely had that with a lot of quality on the training pitch, but I think in Abramovich it was just quiet leadership, high level of consequence, high level of resource and reward and incentivization.

Thomas: But this is a guy who just spoke about just steely determination. And for me, I still think there’s a massive place for those types of leaders because the leaders that are still revered in the modern game are. custodians of football clubs. And if I’m being quite honest, I think something that you said, Tony, about transparency, I think fan bases only look for transparency when they’re uncertain. Where they see when they’ve got a figurehead, somebody who’s in control, somebody who’s making logical decisions that people can actually understand, that are speaking about the game in a way that they can actually, link their brains to.

Thomas: I actually don’t think they want as much engagement. I think they just want to know that the club is in safe [00:19:00] hands. And if we don’t actually meet the objectives, then there will be consequences. 

Tony: Yeah, that makes sense.

Tony: And what literally you saw of Abramovich, you saw the pain of defeat in him. Whenever things weren’t going well, he wore that publicly, not verbally, just. You could see the, the consequences welling up inside it. 

Thomas: It’s something I don’t know too much about the billionaire mindset, but I’ve heard people talk about billionaires before.

Thomas: And I think sometimes normal people like us probably struggle to get our heads around the mindset of a billionaire, and just what actually makes them tick, what’s got them to this point in their professional and personal lives. And how have they dealt with failure in the past and how are they going to deal with failure in the future?

Thomas: I think if you, again, if you watch some of these documentaries on, Amazon Prime and Netflix, the Newcastle one for me is a really interesting one because Dan Ashworth is clearly a top operator as a sporting director. [00:20:00] But see when you actually observe the Saudis, how their disposition and their calmness and their clarity, and there’s almost like an expectation that we’re actually going to do this.

Thomas: This is like it’s a foregone conclusion because everything that I’ve actually done in my life up until this point has been, super successful. There has been some failures as well, which I’ve learned from, but I know how to win big. They just exude confidence. And I think in a football club, if you can have as many senior leaders, and even multidisciplinary staff exuding confidence, exuding expertise, comfort in the face of adversity. I think in a football club, you’ve got a really good chance of being successful. 

Rob: Yeah, agreed. When you look at, when you look at the Gulf basically It’s an area that, as I understand, it was underdeveloped and then suddenly they’ve hit paydirt and they’ve had I don’t know if it’s precedented to have that much wealth, because normally in any other time. previous centuries For us, the British [00:21:00] went and colonized them and we took most of the wealth from other countries and the Spanish and the Portuguese and the French did the same.

Rob: So I’m not sure it’s, there is a precedented example, but they have such an overwhelming amount of money and and they’re I can imagine if you’ve grown up in that, that you know that you’ve got money to support basically a nation for however, Yet it seems like they’re being very astute with it.

Rob: It seems that they have a real clear vision of, okay, we have this period in time when we can make ourselves a power. You can see it in everything that they’ve got, boxing, going there, football’s there. Formula One I think is there horse racing, but they’re imposing themselves to become a player in the world stage so that they become a world force. 

Rob: You imagine with that much going on and this isn’t just some rich maverick billionaire at Newcastle or Man City or Paris Saint Germain. These are nation states, where it’s part of [00:22:00] their, orchestrated Grand plan, but you would think they would have to be achieving huge success and we can see it with Man City.

Rob: What will be interesting is when Guardiola goes, how able they are to perpetuate that and whether. whether Newcastle can do it. Cause you look at Paris Saint Germain and they’ve bought everyone, Messi, Mbappe, Neymar, you’ve got a team filled with that kind of level of stars and yet they still couldn’t win the Champions League.

Rob: The challenge in football is there is only one winner. There’s one league winner, one Champions League winner. And when you have that kind of force of Man City versus Newcastle plus the others, it makes it. incredibly difficult. And I suppose when you look at the ownership, Abramovich, it clearly was a passion for him.

Rob: But when you see Man United, it’s definitely not a passion. When you see Chelsea, I’m not sure. Is it it’s an investment. I think Liverpool’s an investment. So it’s going to be interesting to see all that play out. But [00:23:00] obviously the Gulf, the Arab Emirates and the Saudi and that they, they have is, it’s almost like money is not the object time and success is the object.

Tony: Yeah, I’m doing a fair bit of work over there at the moment. And you can see this in all walks of life, this, so the Saudi Vision 2030 is driving this huge growth in every, so the most recent gig I did was for a country that had no shipping industry before. They’ve now got the biggest shipyards in, in the world, not yet populated.

Tony: They’re about to build 10 oil rigs, and will partner with multiple multinational clients to populate this enormous shipyard. So they’re caught between. For a long period of time, the lot of kids growing up in Saudi didn’t have to work. They’re great studies. They get well educated academically.

Tony: They didn’t have to go to work. But part of the Saudi. 2030 vision is to mobilize the domestic [00:24:00] workforce. So you get this clash of need for competence and capability in an industry like shipbuilding that they’ve never been in and a need to bring up local people to do the work that’s required to do here.

Tony: So at the moment, they’ve got hundreds of apprentices getting paid for work that is not yet there to be done. So they have this enormous capacity to. do whatever it is that they put their hand to, which is phenomenal. And I think the opportunity around that for sport, obviously sport again, at the top end it serves itself.

Tony: They can afford to pay beyond what people are worth in order to try and make this league, a significant player in world football. China did it, but government, the government in China has changed. So now. They’ve withdrawn and started to diminish the funds that they previously put into that.

Tony: Saudi’s completely different in that regard. Will they succeed or not? There’s a reality to playing football in Saudi that, and living in Saudi, that will not be for everyone. And [00:25:00] I’m really interested to see how it plays out. It will make the players and staff that go there wealthy beyond their wildest imaginations.

Tony: Whether that is enough to build a league, a sustainable league that, that can be held up against the best leagues in the world, it’s going to take a long time. But whether it’s feasible or possible, it’s really hard to say. There’s certainly money’s no object. I think with snooker or boxing, golf, it’s relatively straightforward.

Tony: You can be in a golf buggy, protected from the sun, get out, play a shot and protect from the sun again. There’s all sorts of, there’s all sorts of challenges to football that don’t exist with some of the other sports that they’ve been able to take a hold of. I 

Thomas: think what’s quite interesting to me about the region is that whatever they decide to get involved in, there’s a level of innovation, that they’re pioneering, they’re looking to break down barriers and push boundaries.

Thomas: And that’s quite alluring for me, my personality, [00:26:00] because I think the majority of us like to be surrounded by people that want to make a difference, that actually want to do things differently. For me, from the outside looking in, it is quite alluring, because anything that they seem to put their minds to, they seem to be able to achieve.

Thomas: And again, the snapshot that you’ve got with Man City and Newcastle, leaders from that region who understand leadership, who are compassionate, who are considerate, who are educated, who are direct and authoritative when they need to be. And they’re super high achievers. And again, I find myself gravitating towards that.

Thomas: Also, Tony, I think at a granular level, they’re having really intelligent conversations. They’re asking pointed questions, things that I know, From a football and a competitive sporting perspective, actually make a difference. When I watch a Newcastle documentary and I see them at this countryside retreat, [00:27:00] and they’ve got the presentation up, and the head of finance is talking, and the sporting director’s talking, and the owner is talking, it’s wow, that was a really intricate conversation with quality information, quality questions, quality answers.

Thomas: And naturally, if you start to multiply that and replicate that across the organization, you start to see it on the pitch. And I think that’s what we’re actually seeing in Newcastle just now. 

Tony: Yeah, definitely. And I think because they can recruit top quality people, that they’re an incredibly well educated nation.

Tony: Academically, the number of people that I’ve worked directly with, who’ve lived in multiple countries, studying at some of the top universities to get multiple degrees and masters and doctorates in various fields is absolutely phenomenal because they’ve had time and resource to be able to do that, which is fantastic.

Tony: They bring two things, to the table. One is that, that strategic thinking, the ability to be [00:28:00] analytical, the ability to ask the right questions. And the second thing is their sense of community. As a people, they possibly the most hospitable, warm, it’s part of their culture.

Tony: Dining together is a big deal and they, if you were ever a visitor into their house, you will be warmly received. It’s two sides of the same coin. You’ve got this critical thinking, analytical, high powered leadership, top level thinking at one end underpinned by this great humility and, nurturing sense of community. And I think that’s a real powerful thing. Then like they’re doing in in the financial sector or in shipbuilding as I said before, they can cherry pick talent from those sectors, whether it be football, sport or maritime.

Tony: To come in and help bring applied methodology, learning competence to, this already they’ve got this. This bubble, this framework and all the resources to [00:29:00] support. Let’s bring some competence in let’s upskill our own people. I think it’s a recipe for enormous success.

Rob: When I look at when I look at football, when you look at football teams and you look at nations, when you look at the great nations, world superpowers, it’s like the first great civilization was, Egypt.

Rob: And that was based on the strength of the Nile. It was fertile land. They could grow things. So they were able to build strength. When you look at Everywhere from there, like Romans they had fertile land, lots of sun. So there’s an infrastructure that puts certain nations above others.

Rob: When Britain was a world superpower, we were strong because we had a fertile land. We’d had lots of invasions. So we had a mix, but we were an island race. So we won the wars on the Navy. And that’s how we were able to build an empire. But when you look at the Gulf region, Saudi Arabia and Arab Emirates, it doesn’t have the infrastructure, to be a world power.

Rob: It’s the fact that they’ve had this resource and so they’re [00:30:00] building it artificially. And I think there’s an analogy to when you look at the, there’s typically great clubs, and when you look at England, it’s going to be Liverpool, it’s going to be Man United, it’s going to be Arsenal, it’s going to be Tottenham.

Rob: Even Chelsea is a bit of a outlier because I remember being at school when they were second division. In Scotland, it’s going to be Rangers, it’s going to be Celtic, Herbernian Hearts and the two Dundee clubs really, I think are the big ones, but it’s because they’re in big cities, it’s because they have a support.

Rob: Wimbledon had their moment, but they don’t have a natural support so it’s very difficult to grow a club new because if you don’t have that existing support even if arsenal have been Lost for a while, but they still had the support. Tottenham haven’t won something For a long time and yet they still have that native support so i’m thinking Can the arab emirates become a world superpower without that infrastructure in the same way that it’s very difficult newcastle have always had support but it’s a low income area.

Rob: So they tend to have a bigger gate, but a [00:31:00] less commercial income so You Is it possible for those clubs and for those nations to become superpowers?

Thomas: I don’t want to oversimplify it, but I think what the English game always had to its advantage was its ability to transmit the game globally. Even back in the 70s and 80s, it might be once a week, it might be once a month, but the English game seems to have capitalized on its ability to make the English Premier League the global game.

Thomas: So I think for me, It’s like the MLS, which has made unbelievable strides. The A League in Australia, which is on a real journey, and Tony knows better than me. So any emerging league for me, if it actually wants to be a globally recognized league, has to create interest With the paying fan base and other countries.

Thomas: Otherwise, I think that the point that you’re making Rob is that the clubs that you mentioned, they’ve got history, [00:32:00] they’ve got traditions they’re anchored. And yes, they may actually have a downturn, but they’ll always come back. Whereas the Saudi league and the Middle East. really is at the start of its journey, very resource rich, attracting some big names there and doing some quite exciting things.

Thomas: But until it actually packages itself and is able to brand itself globally, I think it will always be very difficult.

Tony: Yeah, I agree. I agree. It’s hard. To fill big stadia take takes time, doesn’t it? Takes time. In this day and age when there’s so many other things to do and you’re in a country that’s got everything you could ever wish for, why would I go and watch a football match? I might go and watch Christiano Ronaldo once or twice because why wouldn’t you?

Tony: He now plays in our region. But to be a hardcore, and by the way, there are some hardcore fans. I remember going back to my time in the A League. I think it was Western Sydney Wanderers were in the Asian Champions League final against Al Etihad. So home and away, East, West [00:33:00] Asian teams, Australia in the East Asian division and Saudi teams in the West Asian division.

Tony: Very strong teams on that, on a continental basis. So they came together. And, shows their capacity. Al Ittihad flew the supporters to Sydney for the game, so they had a really strong, and West Sydney Wonders had a great home support, so they were close to filling Paramount Stadium. But one end was chockers full of green and white, hardcore Al Ittihad fans.

Tony: Who would have been supported by the club to get them there. Not that they probably needed it, but, it’s that show of, something unique to me. But there are two or three or four clubs that have that existing fan base that make them, ahead of the game and a credible start point, but the other clubs, more regional clubs or clubs that haven’t had the same amount of success.

Tony: They’re using this approach of outreach. Let’s go and get some talented, let’s see what, let’s see who gets Mo Salah. Let’s say Mo Salah is going to leave Liverpool. Where does he go next? Could be a huge paradigm [00:34:00] shift for that league because he’s the most revered West Asian, Middle Eastern footballer in the world.

Tony: So that, that could well be a game changing move. Yeah. 

Thomas: Yeah, quite interesting because if we actually had somebody sitting on this forum just now that was an avid football fan that, travels like a Carlisle fan as an example, right? I’ve traveled recently. Imagine being a Carlisle fan. You’re traveling the length and breadth of the country.

Thomas: Imagine the stress that puts on your finances your relationship, your ability to socialize. Your career ambitions, but for some people, and I’m sure that could be said of any football club that has a big demand on their fan bases to travel. But the one notable thing I noticed when I went to Hungary is that the actual volume of fans is lower, but the actual sound within the stadiums was higher.

Thomas: There was still a an ultras biased fan base. So naturally that puts off families and maybe puts off a certain demographic of fan, [00:35:00] but they also have free to air games in the country. So really if you’re actually looking, which is a really nice initiative by the way, but if you’re actually looking to grow the fan base and actually grow the fan experience, that free to air TV would actually need to be, it would need to be removed.

Thomas: So that people would actually still want to get their football fix. But I think in this country, what’s different to maybe the Middle East just now is that football is almost a religion for some people, and it’s a pilgrimage. If you watch, again, the Sunderland documentary on Netflix, these people are handcuffed to their football club.

Thomas: There’s a love hate relationship, and they actually say often that the stadium of light is their church, it’s their temple. So I think in the Middle East, they’re able to spread The things that they’re interested in, like you said, Tony, where here, there’s a fixation on football, it’s tribal, it’s an indoctrination that we’re actually born into, [00:36:00] so for me, football still is really woven into the fabric of our society.

Tony: And for a long time, over a century, so it’s deeply embedded culturally. What was interesting, I found fascinating yesterday, was in the Spurs Man City game, this premise, anecdotally at least, that the Spurs fans didn’t want their team to win. Yeah. Because that would mean Arsenal got the chance to win the league.

Tony: I was a Man United fan growing up, and always used to feel the disappointment for two or three days after a defeat. But I didn’t ever have the, and that’s probably my nature, didn’t ever have the hatred for Liverpool or hatred for Leeds that, that comes with the hardcore Man United fan, as it does Tottenham Arsenal, for example.

Tony: So I find it difficult to come to terms with that, just the idea that I’m going to go watch my team play, playing possibly the best team in the world, or close to it right now in Man City, and I’d be happy for them to get beat. And it did change the dynamics in the stadium. And you’ve got the head coach Ange Postecoglou coming [00:37:00] out saying he gets rivalry, but he doesn’t believe that’s possible that anybody could think like that, which is counterintuitive to what a large majority of his fan base are saying.

Tony: I found the whole dynamic fascinating yesterday.

Rob: It’s Really interesting what you touched on there, Thomas, when you talked about, it being a kind of religion, because for me, the key to relationships and the key to teams is about a change of identity is there’s the self, but you have to be able to switch to being self, part of a couple, part of a team.

Rob: And that is a shift of identity. 

Rob: We started talking about vision. And the purpose of the vision is to, for people to identify with. Football is something that has such a deep tribal identity. It’s the success of a team is going to be driven by how many people can identify with that.

Rob: It’s about identity that there’s a tie in that vision to the identity and [00:38:00] yeah, I’ve noticed also, Tony, I’m a Liverpool fan. But I’m a Liverpool fan. I don’t particularly hate Man United. I don’t hate, Everton. Obviously not being from Merseyside.

Rob: I’m a Liverpool fan from growing up in London, 

Tony: and maybe they’re characteristics that we have, Rob, that we just don’t go there. It’s not that for me, football’s not that, it’s not about, the contest is, for me, the contest is more important than, I’m not,

Tony: It’s not an identity thing for me in that regard. It’s not us against them. It’s how do we navigate this contest, and in the style that we do it in is important to me. If we had got Conti in as a manager, for example, and he was going to play backs to the wall, back five, low block, a bit boring I’d, I would be at odds with that.

Tony: I wouldn’t be inspired to go watch them play. But I think when you, I do love what you’ve said about identity and vision, because I think a vision is a projection of a future state that we all want to get. We all want to, if we get there, this is almost [00:39:00] like resonance theory.

Tony: What’s it going to feel like if we get there, it’s going to feel fantastic. Therefore it’s worth pursuing that. Let’s, agree what that vision is because we all want to get what it feels like when we get there. That’s pretty powerful stuff. Then we have to wind it back to strategically, what are the objectives we need to really embed and agree to that are going to help us get there. Then we have to wind it back further right down to the granular detail of when the ball gets played from there to there. Your job is to press there and your job is to support that. And your job is to go in there. So it’s that big vision.

Tony: Is our ability to identify. Do we want that? And do I want to belong to that? Can I attach myself to that? And the consequences of not getting there can be painful. They can be real, like for some people, it’s the end of the world. For Arsenal to win the league, oh, it would be devastating.

Tony: And I get it. I do understand it. On that level, but I don’t understand it because there’s other, maybe because I think there’s other more important things in life than [00:40:00] that, but there aren’t, if that’s your religion, if that’s your passion, if that’s your identity, there aren’t, there 

Thomas: is nothing bigger than that.

Thomas: Yeah. And that was something that triggered me when Rob was talking because, and I think you articulated really well there, Tony, is that we actually apply rationale in context and we try to be considerate. Yes, we feel a sense of pain, but I think there’s an element of a fan base where the football club is absolutely everything, and the pain that is felt after a defeat or a poor performance or, the bragging rights getting shared elsewhere is something that maybe in the modern football club We don’t actually tap into, see when I was in Hungary at Honved. The history of the country is really rich and quite diverse and quite difficult to understand in the short space of time that I was there.

Thomas: But everything that we actually put out into the public domain was actually really a really polished, it was really slick and I actually felt like it was quite at odds [00:41:00] with the fanbase that I seen on a Saturday, because there was still a lot of, casuals and ultras, and I just felt like we were actually going in two totally different directions.

Thomas: And Honved actually has a massive fanbase. But there’s, when I say only, four or five thousand at a game, and I just think that what we’re pitching as a club, as an external face to our fans, is not what they recognize. And I think there’s this underlying resentment and frustration and this sense that they’ve lost their club.

Thomas: And when I actually switch on my rational kind of fan head, Even though they’re quite extreme in the way that they support their club, there’s something in me that can actually understand why there might be frustration. 

Tony: Yeah. Yeah, I think for any leader in a sporting organisation, the inability to empathise with that would be terminal.

Tony: I think genuine empathy is essential in any culture, in any, walk a life and some people are naturally predisposed to having empathy and others are not. So [00:42:00] I think going back to your comments, Rob, about self identifying that for yourself, what, if I do have the ability to put myself in the shoes of these fans, this fan base.

Tony: And if you do great, because you can share their pain, you can share their joy and, or at least understand it. And if you don’t, Then, just purely from a self awareness point of view, you have to find a way to understand it and work out what questions you need to ask in order to understand it, so that they feel heard, they feel like you’re pulling them towards you.

Tony: Because without genuine empathy, we’re just trying to appease people. We’re just paying lip service to it. And there’ll be immediate disconnection from that.

Rob: Football is very tribal, it’s a very primitive tribalism. It’s deeply felt and there’s a couple of players, like Jamie Carraher was an Everton fan. And Steven Gerrard was put up a Liverpool fan and then wore a Everton shirt and his dad beat him [00:43:00] for it.

Rob: And he was like, no, you are Liverpool. So when I think of the level of, investment, some fans have that hatred. I say I’m a Liverpool fan, but I wouldn’t go down and see him every week. That’s too much of an investment. I’ll follow their results and watch them when I can.

Rob: I have a lot of identities that come before being a Liverpool fan. But for many, the roots of football, like tribalism go back. It was a very working class. I’m thinking maybe the heyday was really built from shipyards, from factories from those kinds of communities, that’s where the power of football has grown from.

Rob: When you’re looking back at that time. It was a time when men weren’t able to be expressive of emotions. It was where they were, it was either like go home and bash the family and whatever, or go down the pub and have a fight or the other outlet is football. And maybe, especially when there isn’t so much opportunity, your only hope of winning [00:44:00] is by tying yourself to a team. And when it feels like you failed, when you feel, maybe don’t feel so good about yourself, you put your faith in something else. And I think it’s got links to going back to the champion who used to fight in wars that rather than actual fight wars, they would send out a champion to each other.

Rob: And it’s, we’re rooting for that. So it’s this deep primitive, identity, but the more emotionally aware we become, the more self aware I think we become. Is that going to reduce the impact of football? Because now we have a lot of football is very different than it was 20, 50 years ago.

Rob: Is that identity going to be weakened the more it’s a commercial? Things get diluted don’t they? But the identity perhaps is less. 

Tony: I think so. It’s quite profound, Rob, what you’ve said there. The way I have experienced that in recent years is having gone down the leagues to watch teams play has felt like a more organic, more [00:45:00] connected, more community identified experience for me.

Tony: Going to Old Trafford for a mid week European game, I felt like a consumer. I felt like most of the people there were consumers, apart from that hardcore following that have been there forever and a day. So I do feel that on a daily basis. I’ve been doing a lot of research recently about dopamine, serotonin and the impact of stress on all of those things.

Tony: If you think of dopamine as a, in this context, so I’m a fan, I’m looking for a hit, I’m looking for the win that gives me an instant personal gratification. I want it today. I want it now. I want us to score in the next five minutes. All of those things. And if you attach chronic stress to that people that may be going through hardship, it becomes addictive.

Tony: I have to go back. I have to keep going. You experience dopamine independently. Serotonin you experience collectively. It’s where happiness lives. It’s where satisfaction lives. [00:46:00] And if you mix chronic stress with that, you end up with. especially if there’s a drop in serotonin, a drop in connection, a drop in happiness, you start to get depression.

Tony: So you’ve got addiction on one side, you’ve got depression on the other. So we all need a reason to get up and pursue something in the morning. So for the fan who’s under stress, their neurobiology is either predisposing him to Feeling really bad when collectively we’re not doing it, but also on a weekly basis and in the off season, just craving the season to start again.

Tony: And it becomes a deeply rooted need rather than just a cognitive, I want my team to win. So I’m only just starting to explore that. And I’m not by any means an expert in neurobiology, but I am interested in what drives me and I can relate what I’ve been learning recently to this, I think.

Thomas: Yeah, it was, it’s really interesting that you’ve actually went there because I actually had a question after, like a rhetorical [00:47:00] question in my head when Rob just finished speaking there around, where is that primitive, Tribal energy redirected to now because the game is much more inclusive now, much more open, much more welcoming, which is absolutely the game that we want.

Thomas: And I think in my mind, where that energy has now been transferred to is probably social media. So back in the eighties, it was a man sanctuary, pub before, pub after game. That, that’s where we go. Whereas now it’s much more inclusive. It’s, you’re right, Tony, as a consumers game now, that’s the way, the top level, the, that the game has developed.

Thomas: But if I actually look at the behavior of your general fan within a stadium now. It’s much more controlled, but you can tell that even just like after a game as a head coach, when I’m walking back down the tunnel, I can see that maybe people are actually holding their frustration because there’s an expectation on how to behave in modern stadiums.

Thomas: In fact, [00:48:00] clubs have got policies on it now, whereas social media is still largely unregulated. So that’s where the stones can be thrown. It’s where we can be quite tribal and often even, faceless and nameless. So it’s still a battlefield to behave quite primitively. And that was that question I had in my head as Rob was actually speaking there about where is that energy redirected?

Thomas: Because if you’re talking about, the neurological complexity that’s going on in the brain then the energy has to be redirected somewhere because all the same feelings are still attached to the club. 

Tony: I’ve got a good friend of mine, Australian, he visited probably a couple of years back now, took him to Huddersfield town game.

Tony: And, we talk a lot about self determination and resonance and all of that kind of stuff. We’re always talking around these great things that matter. So we’re sitting there in the crowd and of course the game starts and the home fans are upbeat, they’re [00:49:00] singing and five minutes in you can see it’s a sluggish start and you hear the murmurings, then the opposition score and within an instant, you can hear apart from the crowd itself, it’s Feeling a bit flat. You start to hear, probably, those who have got less ability to regulate their emotions, start to share what they think about what’s going on.

Tony: Of course, in this pursuit, they’re desperate to win the game. They’ve just been punched in the face, that this is hurting them, and that out comes this, intolerable language that’s just not fit for human consumption. They start to verbally destroy their own people and they don’t care who hears it.

Tony: They’re not consciously thinking of it. It’s just coming out and it’s horrible. So you go a shift from this upbeat, we’re pursuing, we’re going for the win. I’m addicted to it. And then five minutes later, only a few, it starts with a few outcomes. And then you see, games watching on TV last week.

Tony: I can’t remember which game in [00:50:00] particular. Maybe Sheffield United. The stadium’s half empty by half time. People just, that’s it. Toys have gone out of the pram, I’m out. I’m gone. And then on social media, I’m not buying a season ticket until all this rabble are out. All of that sort of stuff.

Tony: It’s just fascinating to see. But they care. 

Rob: When you’re sitting in a game, there’s always someone as you know, that is the most like inane, Oh, that someone’s lost a pass or whatever it is, this frustration out and it mirrors what we see on social media of, I’ll just get them out.

Rob: It’s knee jerk reactions. 

Thomas: It’s funny because at Dundee United, when I actually reflect on my kind of time period there, the club was definitely trying to move in a different direction where it was trying to be very strategic about creating space for young players at a very early age to be thrust into the first team. But I think when you don’t actually engage the fan base, and we spoke at times about, vision, when you don’t engage the fan base on that, [00:51:00] you’ve got this disconnect.

Thomas: As a fan, I’m delighted that young players are getting opportunity. I’m actually happy to stay on the journey. But what I can’t handle is that you may be prepared to sell this young player after 20 games, which actually at times was the case for us at Dundee United. So we’re getting our cake and eating it as a club because we’re asking the fans and the senior players to absorb young players and might create some inconsistency.

Thomas: And essentially what you’re saying is we may jeopardize your fun on a Saturday afternoon that you’re paying for. And just as you’re starting to actually get an affinity with this young player and establishing a connection and building excitement, we’re actually going to pull that young player. and we’re actually going to sell him to the highest bidder and he’ll then just become a figment of your imagination because quite frankly he’s never going to be revered in the way that they’ll talk about your Dave Neri’s and your Billy Dodds and your Riley’s [00:52:00] and Sturrocks and all these types of players who actually won the league for Dundee United.

Thomas: So there’s a complete disconnect in the vision.

Thomas: And even if there was a disconnect, but it was actually communicated in a way that was palatable for the fans to understand well, If we actually sell a young player after 20 games, we can actually push that back into the playing budget. We can push it back into season ticket savings. We can push it into, infrastructure developments.

Thomas: Fans are actually like okay, I actually get that now. But our inability to actually convey that message or at least have the message land and stick with the fan base, it naturally creates this fragmented relationship that quite frankly became irreparable. 

Tony: Their expectations don’t change, do they?

Tony: You’ve got to bring someone else in immediately and got to perform because we want to win today. Rob, I went to visit Thomas when he was at Dundee United and I went to watch Celtic play in Dundee. So bearing in mind, I’d come out of the A League, the league is a franchise league that was [00:53:00] built At the cost of the organic football culture that had grown up in Australia.

Tony: So all the expats, they had Greek communities, Croatian communities, they built massive national league clubs. And at some point in time, the Australian Football Federation said, no more ethnicity, no more national flags. We’re stopping football at the top level and we’re going to reinvent it.

Tony: And it came up with the A League and then they were trying to build this inclusive franchise based league. The reason for saying that is, It was a far more family oriented, less hostile, less embedded. Cultural existence for me. So because my team wasn’t winning, I got off quite lightly, basically as a consequence.

Tony: That’s my backdrop for the story, I land in Dundee . I’m walking to the hotel to meet Thomas. This was pregame. There was some Celtic players walking. Just out for a coffee or something walking in front. And this was my first experience of Dundee and Scottish football.

Tony: These fans just in the face of the Celtic players with the most horrendous abuse that just [00:54:00] wouldn’t be tolerated, if you were just the normal, as a footballer, you can’t react or respond to that because you’re going to get into trouble. If it was a normal altercation in the street, you might be having to do something about it.

Tony: I couldn’t believe the, that would never have happened in, in, in Australia. But this contrast, for me, this stark contrast of, alright, this is a different beast here. This is deep seated. This is real beyond rivalry. This is nasty. And I was like hats off to the players if that’s their start point.

Tony: The game’s hours away. 

Rob: That must have been incredible pressure to work under, Thomas. 

Thomas: Yeah, and I know it sounds quite cliched, but I think when you actually see the pressure as a privilege, because when you’re aspirational and ambitious, And particularly where you consider my starting point to have been the opportunity to be the Dundee United head coach at 38 years old didn’t actually seem plausible.

Thomas: I actually went into the academy because I felt like from a [00:55:00] career perspective, I had some skills gaps around working with young players. So I wanted to close that over. I wanted to take a quite a kind of holistic long term approach to my career. So when the opportunity presented itself, to be the head coach.

Thomas: There, there was a furore. There, there was some, toxic opinion about my suitability for the role. And indirectly, that actually probably helped me, Rob, because when I went into the role romantically you think I’m the same nationality as these supporters. I’ve came up the hard way from like junior semi professional football.

Thomas: I’ve worked in the academy on a diminished salary for the last couple of years. I’ve given absolutely everything to that role. Now I’m almost the kind of homegrown, academy coaches who’s come good. They’ll rally around me. So when you experience that sense of, Rejection, and there’s rationale for the rejection to start with, it very quickly gives you that, that strong sense of reality that the pressure’s [00:56:00] real here.

Thomas: I am going to have to hit the ground running. I’m going to have to surround myself with people that I can trust, that can support me, can, apply critical thinking around me, and I am going to have to absorb some serious scrutiny. And I think that, that was actually helpful because the scrutiny was intense the sheer volume of opinion, but it was because it was different, it was because it was unique, and it was on the back of COVID times as well.

Thomas: Fans had been disconnected from the club. They were now just starting to, get back connected, get back into stadiums. And then they’ve got this, what they thought was going to be a novice manager. And the club had also been in the championship for four or five seasons previous to that. So again, it was like a perfect storm of reaction, but I grew to enjoy the pressure.

Thomas: I grew to feel secure in that. I grew to enjoy being surrounded by trusted people and even having people like Tony close by who’s experienced it and give feedback, [00:57:00] you then actually started to see it as a necessary part of operating at that level. 

Rob: So Tony from being being an advisor, being able to watch what kind of messages were you sending and what would you say to any, manager that’s under that kind of intense pressure? And I guess there’s, we’re on a spectrum and I think in football, and you’re looking at somewhere where there’s so much passionate support as against a normal team.

Rob: But what would the messages you be that you would send someone in that position? I 

Tony: don’t see myself as a sender of messages, Rob, to be honest. I see myself as a confidant as somebody that can ask questions that help the individual, think perhaps differently about the situation that they’re in. And the start point is always what position are you in, tell me about how it is, whatever the topic you might be talking to them about, but everything for me starts with, You yourself first, how aware are they of their own persona, their [00:58:00] own sense of self within the environment that they’re in.

Tony: And then through that, you’ve got to build rapport with people. And Thomas and I were lucky that we know each other really well. If I’m starting with a new client, we have to build trust and rapport, and that comes from, I can never put myself in any situation in somebody else’s scenario and start to offer advice because they live in the consequences of the decisions that they make. So it’s my job to understand it. And through understanding it, we can then start to identify, all the stuff we talked about today. If you think about the vision and we start to help, I start to understand what their vision is or what the vision of the organization is, that they are engaged within, and then what are the complexities of the task that they’re challenged with.

Tony: It’s all about exploring that. So I start with that, start with the identity piece. I start with the, how much do they really know about the people that they’re charged to mobilize? Because the objective is to mobilize people towards this [00:59:00] vision. So they’ve got to identify for themselves how challenged they are by that capacity to mobilize people towards that vision.

Tony: And sometimes they don’t know how challenged they are. Sometimes because they’ve gone into a situation in with a certain frame of reference and a certain way of working that’s perhaps worked for them before, or it’s got them to the point through competence that they’ve been promoted to a, so they’ve gone from highly competent performer to like a player coming to the end of his career that steps straight into a managerial role.

Tony: Think about that, for example, so highly competent sales guy gets bumped into the Director’s role because he’s been a high performer for the last few years. So they take with them that competence. It’s not the set of competencies that’s going to be successful to help a group of 30 people navigate their way to be successful in this environment.

Tony: Same as a football manager. So identity. Then vision at one end, identity at the other, which is what we’ve talked about today. The [01:00:00] bits in the middle are, how do you motivate people? How, not how do I motivate people? How intrinsically motivated are your people? Do you know that? How do you source that?

Tony: How do you identify it? I can help them to do that. I can help them to face down challenges when they’ve got that sense of trepidation about facing down challenges. just by reframing things. I don’t advise people. The name it’s the leader’s advisory.

Tony: It’s not about advice unless someone asks for it. I can only give it if I’ve been in exactly the same scenario, but it’s all of the things that, that we’ve talked to. I probably haven’t articulated it really well, but who are they? Where are they going? And then all the gaps live in between those two things.

Tony: I’ve had 40 odd years of experience and within that experience in terms of applied learning, there’s also the constant love of learning and pursuit of knowledge and all of it applied to myself first to understand how the mistakes I’ve made could have been managed differently.

Tony: [01:01:00] How the core themes of what I do, like intrinsic motivation, for example, how did that apply to successes that I had in the past? And how does it relate to situation that I’m engaged with at the moment? So if I think about things like classic things, like we talked about genuine empathy today, if you’ve got a purpose, you’ve got genuine empathy and you measure the quality of your interactions, then you’re not going to go far wrong in any set of circumstances, right?

Tony: So you’ve got clear sense of purpose. You’ve got genuine empathy, or you learn how to step into other people’s shoes to understand these nuances that we’re talking about. And you work on and develop the quality of your interactions because it all falls down there. You can have a great purpose and a great sense of how to do things.

Tony: But if every time you open your mouth, you cause trouble or you create conflict, that’s not constructive, you haven’t orchestrated conflict. You’re just causing. problems for people, then you’re diminishing all the good work that you’ve done. So really simple [01:02:00] stuff, most of it starts with asking better questions.

Thomas: Yeah. To be fair, all I was going to say there, Rob, if you don’t mind how that, that landed with me on the other side of the table, if you like, is coming out of complexity, chaos, scrutiny, into a relationship that I have with Tony and I’ve seen how he operates with different people in a similar situation.

Thomas: It’s actually the disposition of the person, the kindness, the clarity the support, the ability to reinforce, to provoke to just stimulate a little bit of different thinking. And at times it might actually just be listening, so that, that’s perhaps why it’s difficult to articulate for you, Tony, because I don’t think any two conversations, particularly the ones that, that we’ve had linked to football, no two conversations are the same.

Thomas: You as a support mechanism could come in with a theory or an idea. But the reality is that the conversation might just go in a completely different direction. [01:03:00] And I think when you look at football managers, who they are at the start of the season, when they’ve just been on their family holiday, sunkissed, and then who they are at the end of the season, and Tony, I’ve shared a couple of pictures of managers, and to actually see externally what must be happening to them internally, To actually have that support mechanism whereby someone has actually walked a mile in your shoes, which I don’t think is essential, but it’s been helpful in my engagement with Tony.

Thomas: And then the disposition of coming out of the complex and the chaos. And to the consistent and the reliable and the intelligent, that’s, that, that’s a world that you’d love to operate in with football, but it’s not the reality. So sometimes it gives you that, that reassurance. And at times it also, provokes you to try and think differently.

Rob: That makes sense to me. Because for me, I’ve never been a leader. For me, it’s too much. I’m more of a thinker than a leader, so being able to be [01:04:00] detached, helps me to analyze and to help other people think better. So what it seems there’s a shift in your identity from leader to, advisor counselor, and the way I, so I suppose more mentor maybe might be a better word.

Thomas: I, I was just gonna say, Tony, if you don’t mind, I’ve been trying to propose Tony to include more of his time and focus in this space because managers are under more pressure and scrutiny than they’ve ever been before.

Thomas: Sackings are now more regular than they’ve been before. And I think if Tony could actually include this along with, all the other stuff he’s doing, there’s a massive part for him to play in the football industry in general, because As a football head coach, you’re surrounded by opinion internally all week.

Thomas: You’re surrounded by recommendations and that’s a skill in itself. You know how and when and how to place an opinion, how to make a recommendation, because Making the wrong [01:05:00] recommendation at the wrong time with the wrong tone could cause conflict, as we well know, so there’s a lot of different skills wrapped up into the multidisciplinary teams within football these days.

Thomas: So to actually have somebody who has the disposition, the calmness, the reliability, In relation to the complex world that you operate in. I think it’s a massive tool that’s largely to my knowledge, untapped in the football industry just now and a really big opportunity, but as Tony knows, it’s linked to, the attention you can give and building your business and where you actually want to have impact.

Rob: Yeah, for me, the way that I always look to myself is I wasn’t a coach, but I could see more as a consigliere. And I think that’s really what you’re talking about. Someone who’s not a direct threat. They’re not going to be in a direct line of power, but there’s someone who can see the situation, and give an independent advice, be challenging.

Rob: And I think, yeah, that fits. It’s almost like 

Tony: Clark’s 10th man, isn’t it? In a way. Yeah. It’s got [01:06:00] similarities anyway. I think coaches ask questions and set goals, don’t they? Coaches want you to leave a session and, with an objective to me, and then you can measure that next time you get together and stuff.

Tony: So there’s always a little bit of that. I’ve just got a piece of works around, supporting a culture shift for a big manufacturing company with the senior leadership team. I’ve worked with them before. But within each of the senior leaders, there’ll be a need to understand what do they even mean by what if I said to us.

Tony: If I was brought into work with us as a small group around building a culture for this thing, I’d want to know, Rob what you mean when you say culture and what Thomas means when he says culture, because there might be 10 different versions of it and there might be 10 different versions of, what the meaning is in what they do, what the purpose is in what they do, what they’re connected to do.

Tony: So unless you can get these big picture ideas and these big value statements and big propositions, right at the outset need clarity. Otherwise, all the stuff that you try and put in between is futile. It just falls over the first time we start [01:07:00] interacting with each other. Because we didn’t really mean it.

Tony: We didn’t even know, we haven’t even agreed that we’re talking about the same thing. We just throw the word culture around. And, on the face of it, we’re nice to each other. We supportive, but as soon as we’re out of the boardroom, I’ve got my own function to look after, going to make sure I get my bit right.

Tony: Don’t mean any harm to anybody else, but if things get heated around here, we’re going to close ranks, we’re going to get, that there’s a lot of work to do to, to get through that. And even if you map empathy across the group say, okay, if we’re going to be a really unified senior leadership team that genuinely wants to understand each other so that when you need me, I can support you and vice versa.

Tony: Then you’ve got a map empathy because some people will be at the spread might not be that big, but there might be one. individual out of 10 who really has very little predisposed care for anybody else and has maybe high [01:08:00] competence, maybe vast amount of knowledge. So thinks he’s or she’s right.

Tony: So if you came to me and said, how would you advise an organization what to do with that? I need to go in and understand what this individual thinks, what they feel, what they want, and then do the same thing with everybody else. And at some point, they’re either going to get unified or they’re not.

Tony: So we work together to find that authentic common ground not a wishy washy, I don’t like vision statements and mission statements unless they’ve been really crafted from the people that are going to try and apply this on a daily basis. So I find it, I’d call it deep work, really.

Tony: It’s a piece of work to understand how the who the individuals are in order that, and are they prepared to share it because Sharing it on the surface or really sharing it like the four H’s Thomas that you used before, I’m not sure yet whether this group would be prepared to go there and to what degree I’m actually going to find out, I’m going to, I’m going to [01:09:00] throw it in there and see where we’re at, but it’s a really, as you can see, just from this conversation, just touching on it for a short period of time, it’s really complex and they’re in the face of a frightening business demand against fighting against the odds with supply chain challenges. So an operations team that are constantly experiencing the sense of failure at the end of every week, not meeting the KPIs and all of that sort of stuff. So in the face of that level of uncertainty, how does all this dynamic play out? So what does culture mean in that context?

Tony: What are we talking about? Let’s really get to under the skin of that and understand it. 

Rob: Coming from a background in psychology, it’s like every essay, half of it is defining terms. John Gottman is a relationship researcher and he analyzed what people meant by money and he stopped at a hundred different definitions.

Rob: When we were in factories and we were doing logistical work it’s working with something concrete. Everyone knows what a chair is, what a table is. But when you get to concepts like empathy, they’re [01:10:00] abstract, which means that our communication needs to be raised at a different level.

Rob: And I think people don’t necessarily understand that. I think culture is something you can observe. I love anthropology and the way that they can break down what a culture is. But because my background is people, I started with people in a gym, happiness, relationships, conflict, teams.

Rob: So for me, a team is a collection of people. And the way that you make the team is you build the relationships between the people. So every relationship has a purpose, but it’s usually unstated. And if you can, bond a team in shared purpose, which goes back to the vision, but the difficulty is, if you start a team from fresh, then you can come up with the shared purpose.

Rob: But otherwise you’ve got to have a clear articulated purpose that people can relate to, because if they can align to that and then, yeah, and then it’s all the alignment, but it’s It is very complex. And I think the culture develops from, it develops from so many different [01:11:00] things. And I don’t think you can manage culture.

Rob: I think you can manage relationships. I don’t think you can manage people. I think you manage the relationships. I think Thomas has talked about this a lot about the one on one meetings having that strong relationship then gives you the authority to. lead the team relationships, which then builds the culture.

Rob: And again, it’s a lot of other factors involved as well. So going back to all the different cultures that we’ve talked of, they’re all spread by their history, by the context of the environment and all of those factors, but it’s a huge factor, but it, but in the end, I think it all comes down to.

Rob: The why individually, and then the why individually has to tie into the why of the group, and that’s, and so I think the vision has to be, we have to have the empathy, to have the vision, but the vision also has to be something true. So I think of Martin Luther King, one of the most inspiring visions, but it came after hours and hours and hours of talking to people, of hearing concerns, and then it was a spontaneous [01:12:00] moment where it just poured out because it encapsulated everyone, everyone bought into it.

Tony: There’s nothing I disagree with there at all. The way I capture that for myself now is shared purpose, genuine empathy. We’re already halfway there. And then the quality of the interaction, how we communicate upwards, downwards, across the peer groups. If you get those three things in order, then the external demand, which is maybe volatile, but fixed, it’s there.

Tony: It’s constant. You’ve got a way of working together to navigate through it. You’re going to care how each other’s going. You’re going to be communicating to each other. Because you’re developing. Continuous improvement in how we interact with each other. The quality of the culture will be your frequency of high quality interactions minus your frequency of poor quality interactions.

Tony: How many conversations do you have every day? How many of them would you call high quality and how many of them would you think are not? You can start from there and start to benchmark [01:13:00] it simplistically. 

Rob: Yeah it’s funny how, however you slice and dice it, because you’ve come up with some things that would be distinctions from mine, because for me, it’s trust, communication, and the pinpoint of that is where communication breaks down is conflict.

Rob: And yeah, then we get connection and accountability and all of that stuff. But the one part you touched on, perhaps we’ll leave that for another discussion when we talk about the dark side, but the rub, the problem is always going to be, you’re going to have four to 7 percent of people who have the dark triad, like psychopaths, sociopaths, narcissists.

Rob: And they’re the ones that if you don’t manage, or if you, yeah they’re the ones who can set everything, up, upheave the whole.

Rob: I’ve 

Tony: experienced it firsthand, having an unmanageable experience of that, which was destructive. It destroyed all of the ambition in the short term of what I was trying to do and lost me the time I needed to get where I was going. It was incredibly destructive. So I’ve [01:14:00] experienced it firsthand. And, got ideas about how it could have been managed differently, not just by me, but by the organization itself.

Tony: But in many ways, as much as it was an incredibly painful experience without it, I wouldn’t be where I am now, having done the research and pursuit to try and understand how to navigate scenarios like that. Because obviously you can’t see it and sociopathic. It’s not always obvious what you might sense intuitively versus what’s actually happening.

Tony: You know something’s wrong, but you’ve got no evidence, but the evidence is revealing itself through behaviors of subgroups and cliques that start to fall. Wow. To see the, the deterioration of The fabric and the essence of what you’re trying to create breathtaking in its strength and its destructive power, it was horrendous.

Tony: And what I loved is coming out of that to a point where it was recognized, articulated to me how this fresh new evolution had taken shape. You must be very proud of. This was within the same season. [01:15:00] A new group had formed, but it was a group due to salary cap that was under strengthened, underpowered, under experienced, but had the shoots of a great, future. It’s nice to have that recognized by someone external and go, Oh, you must be really proud of that. Yeah. But do you know what we’ve just been through to actually get to this? And do you know how, where we are now compared to we were?

Tony: Where we were at the start competitive, potentially, punch above our weight to now we’re doing well just to step over the white line on a weekend and try and compete with all of the right fabric and essence and culture that you want, but without the capability and capacity to meet the dynamic challenges that we faced with, it was gonna take time to to go through that cycle of destruction.

Tony: Enthusiasm, destruction, rebuild was more than I wanted. It was more than a coach stepping into that arena for the first time should have really had to deal with. It’s a big enough challenge in a healthy state to go through. That was. A fascinating, but [01:16:00] horrendous experience and left scars, but on, on this side, great learnings to take forward.

Tony: I can go into any environment. I think I can go into any environment in any industry. I haven’t been in the military. It’s not that bad. To those guys, unbelievable, hats off. But outside of that, I can go into any environment. And like Thomas says, I am calm.

Tony: I’ve always had that. I’ve always had that, ability to take the tension levels down. To, ask the questions that matter and then we can start to navigate our way through. I’ve always had some of those attributes, but now I’ve had all of the big hits that can help other people who are going through, challenges that they haven’t faced before, and that they need a little bit of support to get through you.

Tony: You only need leaders when you’re facing a challenge that you can’t meet on your own. If everything’s going great, just crack on

Rob: the belly of the beast, the hero’s journey. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. A hundred percent. 

Thomas: An interesting conversation for sure, because even if you apply the football context, [01:17:00] professional footballers are essentially part of a 1 percent club, 1 percent of academy players make it into the professional game.

Thomas: So when you think about how personality has to be altered. And Dr. Ian Mitchell as a psychologist, they worked with Gareth Southgate, England, Wales now in Newcastle, gave a really fascinating presentation on the pro license. And he was talking about some of the personality traits and what a lot of the top players had maybe been exposed to when they were younger in terms of But even massive setbacks, and I think even in the book talent code by Daniel Coyle, he actually recounted about 20 or 30 names that like, historically, we would instantly know every single one that he mentioned, and they had all suffered something pretty horrendous in their and their youth, and then went on to achieve greatness either in politics, sport, business, whatever it may be.

Thomas: So it’s It’s a really interesting route for a discussion for [01:18:00] sure. 

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