Building a Winning Mentality in Your Business

May 9, 2019

To build a winning mentality in your business, the best vision and strategies are the ones that you can easily bring to life. They are so clear that everyone can imagine what they will look and feel like and can fully believe in.

One of the best examples I’ve witnessed was at a Premier League Football Club.

Ending the drought

The new Owners at the Club had a vision to win the first major trophy after a 35yr drought. To achieve this, they would need to invest in the right players (which were highly expensive assets), though this investment alone wasn’t enough to guarantee success. The manager and the Club had to ensure that the players adopted a ‘one team’ mentality. They needed to adopt a shared strategy and tactics to win, as opposed to simply playing in silos. In fact, this was comparable to a manufacturer investing in the most up-to-date machinery. It is only with the right vision and a strategy to generate orders, or with the best process to set up and integrate the machines, that he will successfully get the maximum return from his investment.

Building a winning mentality

The strategy was to create the conditions within the Club for us to be able to win the trophy. Key to the success of the Vision and the Strategy was turning a Survivor’s mentality into a Winner’s mentality.

The Staff – aggregation of marginal gains

With the staff, it was all about communicating the importance of getting the detail right “off the field” in achieving the right performance “on the field”. Each person had their part to play and the aggregation of these marginal gains would be what led to the win. This helped everyone to start to see themselves as a ‘Club’, rather than a team of just 11 players. As we approached the Semi-Final at Wembley, a whole new challenge opened up. It was the current Club’s first experience of preparing for a match at Wembley vs. their own stadium. The leadership team worked hard to ensure that every person involved could visualise the part they played in a potential win. It was an exciting period, where we learned rapidly, and our approach was significantly refined from lessons learnt between the Semi-Final and the Final.

The Fans – speak up for what you want

For the fans it was a question of emphasising the power of their voice. We showed just how important the sheer sound of their support would be to the players in a venue such as Wembley Stadium. To do this, we worked closely with the Heads of the Supporters Clubs and via Fan forums. We also made it clear to the fans that this trophy, once won, would be the trophy for them as much as the players and the club. If we won it would go on tour around the country after the win where fans could proudly hold it up high in their local Community, just like their players had at Wembley. For many people, the vision of getting rid of the Club’s key rival’s flag, which highlighted the Club’s long trophy drought was every bit as motivational for the staff and fans as winning the trophy was!

The Players – see it, believe it, achieve it

Amongst the players there were few in the team who had won a major trophy. To address this, the coaches invited the World Cup winners and and those who had won major trophies with other Clubs to share their experiences of the excitement and elation of winning a trophy and what winning felt like as a player. Secondly, and probably most motivating of all to the less experienced players, those players who had last won a trophy back in ’76 were invited in to explain how it felt to be a winner, how it felt to do that for your Club and how it felt to be adored by the fans who you had won the trophy for. The players were armed with a clear vision of ‘winning’ in their minds, to carry in their head as they went in to the Semi-final and the Final.

Building traction in the vision

Once the trophy was won, and celebrations over, the leaders of the Club used the shared success to create momentum in their strategy, pushing their stakeholders on to the next win and the next trophy. Every employee meeting, players meeting and all communications with fans had to be approached with confidence and the vision of the next win at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

Asking the right questions

At the outset, when faced with the legacy of a 35 year winners ‘drought’, the questions that this Premier League Club asked of themselves are the same questions that we should ask ourselves to achieve a successful business vision and strategy:

  • How can we create such a compelling vision that people can see it, feel it, breathe it, be hungry for it?
  • How can we engage all stakeholders in a way that’s meaningful to them and which creates the right conditions for success? What is most going to motivate them?
  • How can we get people to believe in the vision and strategy and keep believing on the journey in spite of the inevitable ups and downs?