Lessons on victory from Mikel Arteta
A view from Sue Unerman

Lessons on victory from Mikel Arteta

Team spirit and belief are often downplayed in business.

When I was a kid, the FA Cup final was a huge occasion. The one match in a normal season (ie outside World Cup and Euros) when time stopped, when everyone – even people who had no fondness for football – paid attention and watched the big game.

This is far from true now in a normal season, as there are so many more big European games – but this year is not a normal one, as you will have noticed. So we were all – even mildly attentive football fans – delighted to welcome the return of this occasion this year, albeit later than usual. Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 at an empty Wembley on 1 August, thanks to two goals from captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

There is something to learn from the Arsenal manager's analysis of his victory.

Mikel Arteta (pictured, top) started his new job in January and, like the rest of us, his season has not gone exactly as planned.

He is the first person to both captain and manage Arsenal to victory in an FA Cup final. Arteta, who won the trophy twice with Arsenal as a player, is in his very first managerial role.

"I think it's even better winning this than as a player," he told BBC Radio 5 Live. "I am really proud of what we have achieved, because I know the difficulties and everything we have been through."

In post-match interviews, interestingly, he didn't talk tactics or strategy, or call out particular players – he talked about belief: "For me personally, it has been so tough over the past six months with a lot of things that have happened in our lives, but I had just one mission when I came here and that was to make the players and staff believe we could do it.

"We had to change that energy and that mentality."

A good example of the leader of a team prioritising whole team culture and his people's happiness (players, backroom staff and fans) as a crucial aspect of winning. An aspect that is frequently downplayed in business and is replaced with time spent planning logistics or giving the spotlight to a few star players. Or if it is on the agenda, it is dealt with in a 10-minute rousing speech to the team that is not followed through. As I wrote in my July blog, you can delegate many areas of expertise, but as a leader you cannot delegate culture.

Speaking on talkSPORT, Arteta explained that the turning point in the game was when Chelsea scored in the first five minutes. He said that this was the very best thing that could have happened: going one-nil down. We've all watched games when this was in effect game over, where the disadvantaged team lose focus and morale slips. In this instance, the Chelsea score made the Arsenal players go for it, release the handbrakes and play instinctively. Falling behind so early made them stop overthinking tactics and overworrying about making mistakes, and passionately commit to winning.

Sometimes, what you need to spring forward is to be knocked back. As we come into the autumn, when it's awards season for Campaign Media, Media Week and IPA Effectiveness, this is a good point to remember. Everyone has worked very hard. Not everyone will win. Whatever your outcome, don't just take the glory of any win and shrug off any loss. Make sure your response includes the whole team. Most of all: remember the feeling of not winning, of being behind the competition – and use this to fuel your resurgence.

Sue Unerman is chief transformation officer at MediaCom
@SueU
Picture: Getty Images

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