Learning winning lessons from Pep Guardiola

11 Mar, 2021

‘In football, the worst things are excuses. Excuses mean you cannot grow or move forward.’

Pep Guardiola

On Sunday, Manchester City lost to Manchester United. That’s not the big news of this blog. What IS the news is that it signalled the end of a 21 game unbeaten run. Words the Manchester City manager said himself to Sky Sports, ‘We lost and that will be the news, but the [real] news is 21 victories in a row. This is the news’.

It’s not an easy task, being an unstoppable winning machine. Manchester City play in the Premiership, literally the best league in the world. Their 21-game run included sweeping defeats against some of the greats in the league including Tottenham, Arsenal and a 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool – the previous year’s league winners. You may not know football, but everyone knows Liverpool are a good team, right?

Actually, Pep Guardiola has made quite a name as being one of the winningest of winning managers. As a manager he holds the record for most consecutive wins in La Liga (Spain), Bundesliga (Germany) and the Premiership. What does that mean? It means he has the title of being undefeated the longest in the three finest footballing leagues in the world.

Before we start learning from him, let’s get to know why you should be paying attention to him. Best way to do this? His track record.

‘I will forgive if the players cannot get it right, but not if they do not try hard.’

Pep Guardiola

Guardiola spent most of his playing career at Barcelona, a fabulous achievement in its own right. There he won numerous titles and trophies, including four consecutive Spanish league titles – clearly this is where he began his time as the winningest winner ever. He spent some time venturing to other clubs and also played for his country on numerous occasions. For most players, this sort of career is the dream. To play for one of the best clubs of all time.

A man in a suit holding a football, standing with authority like Pep Guardiola

Following his playing career, Pep moved into management. He started as the coach of the Barcelona B team before taking on the first team. In his first season, Guardiola guided the squad to the treble achievement of league title, Copa del Rey title and UEFA Champions’ League – this made him the youngest manager to win the super prestigious European title. See? Pep wins.

He went on to Bayern Munich, winning the German top-flight league ever year he was coach. He came to the UK to take on Manchester City, and he has continued to break records like a rioter in a HMV – records are flying everywhere Pe Guardiola goes. Most wins? Check. First team to win 100 points in a season? Check. First team to win a domestic treble (all three top UK titles). Check.

As of 10th March 2021, Pep Guardiola has led Manchester City to winning 73% of the matches he has been coach. That is phenomenal.

So, he wins a lot, but what can we learn from him? Is it not just a case that he happens to have managed some of the richest clubs in the world? Are they not just throwing money at the teams to make them win?

‘I have learned that when you are in the right, you should fight the world’

Pep Guardiola

Success and Failure

Failures do not necessarily mean that you will not be successful. This is something that Pep Guardiola knows. One of his key attributes is the manner in which he manages his players in both success and failure. His teams may have tremendous winning records, but ultimately titles are won when teams are able to take a defeat, absorb it, and move on.

He says, ‘When you win the game you must remain calm and when you lose, you have to work harder and be more focussed because you’ll have another chance to show what you are like’. And he’s right. It’s all too easy for us to become bogged down and myopic about losses, and in doing so lose sight of longer-term objectives.

Picture someone trying to quit smoking. It’s a really difficult ask, especially for someone who may have been smoking for many years. This person may have previously been a 20 a day smoker but has managed to drop cigarettes entirely. However, 3 weeks into being cigarette free they break and have one. It’s a sneaky one, it drove them outside into the rain because of the smoking bans and they found that now those little white sticks which had once given such pleasure don’t actually taste so great.

On the face of it, they have failed. For many people it’s the kind of lapse that leads to a negative spiral which leads them right back to 20 a day. The ‘oh well I’ve failed now, might as well giving up’. Have they failed though? Or as Pep says, do they just have another chance to show what they’re like?

Play with meaning

In his days at Barcelona, Pep pioneered a form of football referred to as Tiki Taka. A playing style which featured a great deal of passing, quick passes between a constantly moving and repositioning squad. A jab and move style where the ball could be moving slowly up the field in a series of 20 passes before suddenly being sent back to the defenders to begin a new build up. The ball, the team – all constantly moving.

Now as I describe it, it could just sound like a group of lads down at the local park knocking a ball aimlessly about. Guardiola believes in purpose though – ‘if you do nothing with the ball then what’s the point? Everyone in the world knows when you’re playing with meaning or when you’re just playing because you like the ball’.

How can we translate this beyond football though? Well, it’s about the broader concept of living a purposeful life. Increasingly, research is indicating that a life built with purpose is a key element in greater emotional and physical health[1]. Ennui is the death of happiness and can be physically harmful. Whether you are setting yourself career, leadership, or personal goals you can question the nature and purpose of your activities. Purposeless activities are very literally like spinning our own hamster wheels.

Believing in Vision

Pep himself has said, ‘Creating something new is the difficult part. To make it and build it and get everyone to follow? Amazing.’ Whilst Guardiola’s managing career has been at some of the biggest and richest clubs in the world, his ethos isn’t to simply throw money at a problem. He has his vision; he believes in the collective good of his team and has expressed having no time for players who claim they need the space to work alone. And he builds trust in his vision meaning he is allowed to perform as he wants.

Since the 2018 documentary, ‘All of Nothing’, premiered on Amazon Prime we have had first-hand experience of the passionate manner in which Pep distils his vision for his players. This is a video of him giving a quick team talk.

So, what are we learning here? Well, it’s a many-layered lesson! Patience is needed to persevere with a plan of action, but passion is no less important to maintain that perseverance. Pep displays a vision and an attention to detail that we can learn from.

Evolve to dominate

Football player performing scissor kick

Humans are funny creatures. You might not believe it now with the millions of sofa surfing, Netflix addicts we seem to have spawned but as an animal we sit at the top of every food chain. In a world of alpha predators, we are the number one. We’ve done that through constant evolution.

With a tremendous work ethic, Pep Guardiola is a huge believer in the constant nature of improvement. ‘Evolution is a way of being — a necessity, a duty’. Every player is expected to work and to grow. He is forgiving of mistakes, but not of a scarcity of drive. Try or die.

Every one of us must constantly work to improve ourselves – emotionally, physically and mentally. There are so many areas for one to work on, it is not really acceptable to simply rest upon ones’ laurels.

‘That’s the beauty of sport, sometimes you laugh, sometimes you cry’

Pep Guardiola

We all have something we can learn from one of the greatest football coaches of all time. No matter our goals. With determination, focus and confidence we can put ourselves on recording-breaking winning streaks.

If you’re interested in working towards improving yourself, setting yourself goals and developing a vision of how you can achieve those outcomes then I am here. I can help you to achieve your personal, career and fitness goals through structured coaching and support, to help you create and live your own purposeful life. Visit the Contact Page and let’s talk, worried you don’t have time? Check out my post on time and coaching

Transcend Coaching is a small business consultant and life coach offering business management coaching and personal coaching. We primarily serve businesses and individuals in Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Walsall, Dudley and the West Midlands but we can help nationwide. Whatever your needs – whether you are attempting to hit sales targets, achieve personal goals or start-up your own business Transcend Coaching is here to help you. Get in touch today for a free consultation!

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