Five Lessons from Leicester 

Unless you are from another galaxy, or America, it’s unlikely that the David and Goliath story that is this season’s English Premier League has passed you by.

As such, I feel it is my duty to attempt what pretty much every other business commentator will be doing; make profound connections between sporting and business success.  I just hope you read mine before you are fed up with everyone else’s.


Obligatory picture of Leicester City football players teaching business a spurious lesson about something or other.

1 Take the team for a pizza for the slightest reason

Pundits have snorted at manager Claudio Ranieri’s motivational tool of taking his players out for a pizza when they finished a game without conceding a goal. How could such a pathetic reward motivate high earning sportsmen?

It’s not about the reward, it’s about celebrating small successes together, and importantly, spending time outside of the workplace getting to know each other. Seeing each other in a different way, learning to be around each other, learning to care for each other. That’s team-building.

2 Know your job and keep it simple

Leicester City are not a team made up of high flyers by top professional footballing standards. They are competent individuals at their level, no more. What’s important is that each of them knows his job, believes in his ability to do it well, understands how his role contributes to the whole, and gets on with what he is supposed to do.

At the point of winning the title Leicester City had the fourth best disciplinary record in the division. Maintaining discipline translates to maintaining individual focus in the world of work, not resisting the urge to gouge your competitors’ eyes out. When an employee maintains focus on their task they make fewer mistakes.

3 Minimise mistakes

If you can get your team members to do their job well, mistakes are minimised. A high number of mistakes leads failure, and no matter how talented your team is on the attack – innovating, selling, marketing – if you can’t get the basics of the operation right you’ll lose customers (or let in goals) faster than you can gain (score) them, and as everyone knows, customer acquisition costs about five times as much as customer retention. Leicester have conceded fewer goals than all but two teams in the division.

4 Minimise staff turnover

Leicester City have used fewer players than any other team during the Premiership campaign. Every time someone leaves or joins it causes disruption. Disruption means performance is compromised. Staff retention is absolutely crucial to the success of any team.

5 Don’t work too hard

Actually I have no idea whether Leicester’s training schedule was more or less arduous than that of other teams. I’m just chucking this in here because I want to.

Training too hard increases the chances of injury. In terms of business, working too hard reduces motivation and life balance. Being healthy is critical to performing well at work. Strings of late nights in the office are not good for the individual, the business or the customers. Balancing work with other activities; physical, social and intellectual, is good for business.


So, if you adopt some of these ideas for your team, who knows, maybe next year they will win all sorts of awards for their performance?

And then the following year they’ll probably be struggling to avoid relegation again.




2 Responses to Five Lessons from Leicester 

  1. Gareth says:

    Fast out the blocks – first reference to Leicester in my inbox.

    Like your take, and agree with the points. Couple of comments below.

    I have some stats to back up your comment at 5. Leicester only played 43 games this season, the lowest number of games by a wining English championship team since Man Utd in 1955/56. Leicester were not in Europe and didn’t progress far in FA or League cups. So stayed fresh, relatively injury free and focused on one main task throughout the season.

    And on point 1, Ranieri’s approach to celebrating small successes. So important, and he also gave them short term achievable targets which changed as results improved, enough points to avoid relegation; enough points to get into Europe, enough points to get into Champions League, and then without knowing it, you’re in contention and over the line as champions. Make the journey achievable and continually rewarding leads to success. Or in football parlance, “take it one game at a time!”



  2. Hi Nick, Good to hear your thoughts on this – you’ll recall that we met some years ago when I’d just written the community strategy for Leicester City, and although I’m not directly involved there these days I’ve maintained a close interest in how they approach teamwork on and off the field.

    Not working too hard – It isn’t just the playing staff but also the support, as the players themselves rightly state with the background staff who have important input too – sports scientists, dieticians, medical staff, etc. If a player is considered not up to a full training session, these guys are listened too and they’re given relaxation time instead – maybe akin to having specialist teams for IT, compliance etc who have their roles to input to ensure a better whole for a project or organisation.

    Also, the team are given regular time out to be with families etc – as an example left back Christian Fuchs wife and children live in Manhattan and I hear that at least once a fortnight he is given time to visit. Wes Morgan played through last summer in the Copa America and another tournament for Jamaica, but has had additional days off to compensate and ensure recovery. These are also just two of the on field leaders who generate mutual respect.

    On minimising mistakes, the identification and selection of new players is also key, and in ensuring that if recruiting you know how the individual will fit into the team, and not just be a lone ranger – maybe an analogy for people to consider how they can contribute to a wider team ethos when job hunting?

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