Learnings from Leicester City

What do Leicester City's incredible rise and working in an integrated digital agency have in common? Equator PR & Social Manager Charles Cameron explains.

Leicester City. What a story. Regardless of your interest in football I’m sure you are aware of what’s been happening. The underdog punching above its weight, with a stylish swagger. A team of so-called journeymen taking on the elite of the Barclays Premier League – and winning. It’s inspiring.

At the top level of sport it is very rare to see a team accustomed to fighting relegation suddenly be in pole position to win the league, in fact, it’s Hollywood stuff.

So what’s the magic behind Leicester’s incredible rise – and how does it transfer to working in business, or more relevantly, a digital agency?

Well, for me, there are four key ingredients to Leicester’s success that we can all learn from – the four Cs. Commitment, consistency, confidence and creativity.

At the start of the season Claudio Ranieri, the Leicester manager, set the team a target of Premiership survival. An achievable expectation.

Like any good business, it’s important to set realistic targets that your team, or employees, can buy in to. Get the foundations in place, get your ducks in a row and get organised. If you have good people around you, with everyone knowing that their jobs are, and you do the basics well – there’s every chance you will succeed. This is what Leicester did… very effectively. The team have been committed and believed in each other from day one.

And as the season has developed – so has Leicester’s mind-set. They’ve believed in themselves every step of the way. And why not? If you don’t have faith in your own ability, nobody else will.

Success brings confidence, expectations rise and pressure increases. It’s like winning a new piece of business. It takes lots of preparation and the execution needs to be spot on. Winning a new client is a great result. But in essence, that’s the easy bit. It’s delivery that’s the real challenge. But by setting realistic expectations, getting everyone to understand their role and putting detailed plans in place, that difficult part becomes so much easier. Exactly as Leicester have shown.

It also means that as those objectives gradually get bigger and bigger, they also naturally become easier and easier to achieve – because everyone bought into and has been involved in the project from day one.

At the highest level of the football world, and in most environments actually, it’s all about marginal gains against the competition. On the pitch a manager must be ready to make a tactical reshuffle at the right time.

Managers also need to pay attention to detail and prepare methodically – otherwise their team will be exposed by the opposition. Leicester have consistently done this. It’s the same as working on a major project. You need to do your research, have a plan, and also a backup. Do your due diligence, leave no stone unturned and you’ll have a chance – on the football park and in your agency.

Now consider the employee characteristics required for a successful agency to operate, and compare them against Leicester’s squad of players – there are lots of transferrable skills. Good businesses need direction, organisation and discipline. Leicester have this in abundance. From the manager, who sets the standards and keeps the team motivated, to a squad of focused and talented individuals. They want to get the job done.

Having these skills is imperative to success. But to move to the next level, you need that edge. Once the foundations are in place, just like in any successful organisation, you need that X factor. What is going to set you apart from the competition when it really matters? Where’s the creative spark? At Equator it’s our big numbers and big ideas.

Kasper Schmeichel leads by example as goalkeeper, is reliable and brings experience to Leicester. Wes Morgan and Robert Huth are hardworking and never give up in defence. They keep it simple and maintain high standards that everyone else follows, and then you have Danny Drinkwater and N'Golo Kanté in midfield. They are dogged, tenacious and keep things clean and tidy.

Once these boys do their job, it’s time for the James Vardy and Riyad Mahrez show. The creative stars, the innovators, who will create and convert chances into goals.

Time and time again, they have turned up when it matters – as we’ve all seen. But it’s no fluke. The preparation has been done rigorously, the whole squad bought in to the goals a year ago and is like a well-oiled machine. It’s been a team effort and the game plan has been executed perfectly.

Externally, these types of players receive the plaudits from media and supporters, but they know that without the collective team effort they’d be unable to flourish. Once again, it’s the same as a digital agency. Everyone has different skills, but employees need to complement each other and have a unified team spirit – which Leicester have talked about regularly.

It’s like a jigsaw. If you are missing one piece, or one person doesn’t fit in you can’t complete the puzzle. That’s going to have negative repercussions for the whole team and be detrimental to achieving the wider goals.

From PR and social media experts, marketers and web developers – in digital, colleagues may be experts in different fields. But take everyone’s positive attributes, marry them together, set a game plan and you can succeed. Just like Leicester.

Three games to go…

Written by Charles Cameron, PR & Social Manager.