Here’s your disclaimer:

  • football is the context, the lessons and ideas are generic and transferable
  • Manchester City are the second-best team in Sky Blue. Coventry City are the first. Before I get any hate for that

In my quest to buy experiences rather that physical things as presents I decided to take my dad to do something we love. Visit football grounds.

Cue an early morning trip up the M6 in May, followed by a McDonalds breakfast (the naughty, double sausage and egg McMuffin kind) to pull up to Eastlands as many coaches were pulling away, ferrying thousands of City fans off to Wembley in hope of completing the domestic treble (spoiler – it happened).

I’ll save talking you through the tour (and the ground being set up for Spice Girls) and skip to the feeling I had when I left.

Awe. Energy. Passion. Excitement.

Not from the football, from the philosophy. The holistic approach that’s being taken to create a high-performance culture on and off the field. The meticulous thought, preparation, commitment and execution that happens every day with an eye on creating long-term dominance.

The money and big names aside, there were a few really important lessons I picked up that I think have transformed the culture of the club. I think we can learn from them, too.

In the dressing room, where possible, no two players of the same language/country sit together

This tactic was employed by manager Pep Guardiola for a number of reasons. After seeing the danger of ‘cliques’ being created in other clubs, he insists on this set up to increase communication, build relationships and break down any silos.

Think about where you work. Do you talk only with people from your department/team, or are you making sure you break that pattern and spending time with other departments, teams and areas of the business?

A circular dressing room so that all players can be addressed and given eye-contact equally

The first team changing room at the stadium is circular. I’ve seen no other changing room like it. This means that the manager can address everyone as equals and include everyone as part of the team.

Think about where you work and a team you might be in. If you’re located in one place think about how the physical environment helps or hinders equality, communication and connection and what you could do to improve it.

If you’re a team that’s located across a country or territory, how are you creating an environment or virtual space that foster exactly the same and includes everyone?

All dressing room conversation in English

A team of different nationalities can lead to side conversations in native languages, poor translation and a lack of communication and inclusion.

Now I’m not saying we should all speak a specific language. What I am saying is consider the language you use at work. Is it the language of your department/profession or is it one that is consistent across the business? Do you use jargon for ease, but does it cause confusion?

Think about how upholding and promoting a consistent ‘language’ can improve what you do, your communication and relationships with other teams.

God knows we love an argument over language in L&D (micro/mini/bitesize learning anyone?), maybe we could learn something from this?

A glass ceiling in the first team changing room in the training ground

No, I’m not suggesting we stick these in everywhere. There’s context.

The training ground is used every day to run the club and prepare the players. The glass ceiling in the changing rooms serves a very important purpose. Visibility.

The staff can see the players as a reminder of what they are all there supporting.

The players can see the staff in the offices who work every day to give them the platform for success.

There is no feeling of ‘us’ and ‘them’. The ‘players’ and ‘the staff’. There is complete visibility for everyone and, as a result, a more inclusive environment.

Think about where you work. What’s ‘visibility’ like of you and your team? Of leaders within the business? Of other teams and departments?

How could you create your own ‘glass ceiling’ to improve this?

Youth, men’s and women’s teams all sharing the same training facilities

The purpose-built Etihad campus a stone’s throw from the stadium was designed to bring all Manchester City teams into one place. A purpose built 8,000-seater stadium provides top-class facilities for the youth and women’s team to play on an identical surface to the Etihad and create a smooth progression curve.

Of course, there are probably financial elements to keeping all teams together. This was deliberately done to create a feeling of inclusion around the football club, a feeling of togetherness no-matter what team you play in.

On top of that it promotes a clear progression path and reduces the obstacles that progression might throw up (new training grounds, pitches, players and routines).

What do you currently do to promote inclusion across teams that might operate at different levels?

What paths do you create that makes progression in your business smooth and reduce any disruption for those taking the leap?

And finally…

The quotes dotted around the stadium and training ground

‘Some are born here, some drawn here but we all call it home’ – Tony Walsh

The place could be plastered in generic ‘inspirational’ quotes (There’s no ‘I’ in team etc.) but they’re not. Instead, local poetry and an iconic line from Tony Walsh’s poem about Manchester line the walls and dressing rooms.

This gives a clear reminder of why people are there, who they’re playing for and creates a connection to what everyone is looking to achieve.

Look around your work, your offices or wherever it is your work from day-to-day. Any generic ‘inspirational’ quotes? Are they recognised? Do people point to them and say ‘this is what we’re working for’?


Give it a rethink. Why are you there? What could give you all that reminder? What can you all get behind, believe in and use to drive your attitudes and behaviours?

As you can tell, it had a bit of an impact on me. It got me thinking. And I hope it’s got you thinking too.

I’d love to know what you do to promote similar ideas where you work. Or what inspiration you’ve taken from this to make improvements around you.

It’s the small things, right?

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