Sometimes you might find it hard to motivate your staff.

We all have lives. Your HR Manager’s daughter has just been sent home early from school. Your Marketing Executive’s brother is in hospital. Your PA is anxiously waiting to hear back from their landlord.

Your centre-forward might have just been arrested. Your best defender has just been caught brutally kicking his cat. Your right-back has got himself caught up in another sex scandal.

Okay, these might not apply to you. But they’re still real-life situations that managers have to deal with on a regular basis.

Dealing with Premier League footballers as employees isn’t all too different from managing normal people. The main difference is the money they earn, and the publicity they receive.

At their core, football managers are very similar to us. They still rely on motivating their staff to work. They still try to work around big egos, tactical disagreements and contractual disputes.

Here are 3 lessons we can learn from some of today’s Premier League managers.

1 - Pep Guardiola – Manchester City

Since he became Barcelona’s manager all the way back in 2008, Pep has established himself as one of, if not the best football manager in the world.

His man-management tactics haven’t changed all that much in that time. He is often seen to be friendly and warm to his staff but can be strong-minded when he has to be.

With Pep, his players know he doesn’t just talk the talk – he was an incredibly successful player himself for Barcelona.

He has been there and got the t-shirt. And with his success rate, both as player and manager, his squad know to follow his vision for more success.

Pep has spoken of his leadership skills before. He said:

“As time goes by, people get to know you better. They pose problems for you, and you have to come up with solutions.”

His leadership style is emotional and passionate, and that resonates with his team.

All of Guardiola’s teams have had something in common. The belief that no one player is bigger than the team. Yes, even with a star-studded Barcelona squad consisting of Iniesta, Dani Alves, Xavi and of course Lionel Messi.

In fact, the impact he left on the players he coached is palpable - Xavi has since returned to Barcelona as manager and implemented a similar vision and sense of leadership, taking them out of free fall and back into a stable position to build from.

Guardiola laid out a long-term vision that his staff would want to get behind. He gives them the basic tools they needed, and he relies on his squad’s talent to do the rest.

2 - Jürgen Klopp – Liverpool

The charismatic German manager has done wonders at Liverpool.

Under his guidance, they went from perennial under-achievers, to a fierce, relentless team with three major trophies in the last three seasons.

Ralf Lanwehr, professor of management and lecturer in business administration, said to the Business Insider about Klopp:

“Jürgen Klopp combines many qualities of a good manager. He is insanely charismatic, but doesn't take himself too seriously, puts his players in the foreground and makes them better as a result.”

Klopp came to Liverpool after a successful period with Borussia Dortmund, where he implemented a very specific high-tempo style of play.

His experience and successful reputation reinforced a lot of trust from the Liverpool players. After all, Klopp’s competence as a coach was there for everyone to see.

In turn, Klopp demonstrated a lot of trust in his staff too. He once said:

“I know I’m good in a couple of things, really good in a few things, and that’s enough… I need experts around me.

It’s really very important that you are empathetic, that you try to understand the people around you, and that you give real support to the people around you. Then everybody can act.”

Through this, and through the development of strong, personal connections with his staff, Klopp has clearly cemented a place for himself as one of football’s best leaders.

3 - David Moyes – West Ham United

While Manchester City and Liverpool have dominated the English Premier League for the last few years, West Ham are just starting to solidify themselves as a top side.

Their manager, veteran David Moyes, has said to the press that he knows he cannot do everything himself at the club.

Moyes attributes some of his success to his management team, and sees his delegation efficiency as key.

Dave Slemen, Founding Partner at Elite Performance Partners, a performance firm working across elite sport, concurs. He said, “The team is bigger than just the players.

“We believe alignment can have a big impact on the behaviours of the group and its sense of identity. It can bring people closer together, especially when things get tough.”

Through this delegation and perception change, Moyes and his leadership team have created a winning mentality, and their staff have upped their performances for them.

Slemen and Moyes’ words were echoed by West Ham and England midfielder, Declan Rice. In September 2021, he said in a press conference:

“I’ve played in teams here that have fought relegation and been mid-table, but in the last two seasons, what the manager has built for us, and what we’ve bought into as players, has been amazing.”

Having your staff believe in you goes a long way, and David Moyes has instilled trust and belief into his employees.

The real world

Guardiola, Klopp and Moyes might all be successful leaders, but how much can we, as business leaders, really take from their management tactics?

Well, I say quite a lot. Footballers are still people. They have personal lives, goals and worries just like the rest of us.

It's all about the buy in from staff. We can all relate to that in the business world. Our motivation and accountability comes from the belief that the job we're doing is just as important as everyone else's.

If you can get your people to believe in your leadership and your vision, you’ll succeed in your managerial role too.

So, have a think about it – are you a Guardiola, a Klopp, or a Moyes?


Written by John Davis – Marketing Executive