Rob O'Donohue
December 21, 2019

Change starts with belief (and results)!

Mikel Arteta was announced as the new manager of Arsenal football club just yesterday. A big day for the club. And for me! As a lifelong Arsenal supporter, the last few years have been tough going. So, when Mikel’s first press conference was shown live yesterday on Sky Sports (and repeated every 15 minutes since), my listening levels and interest were at an all-time high. To say he was impressive might be an understatement. With my coaching hat on, I was so impressed how he delivered his message, was composed yet passionate, and really came across as a man that knows what he wants to do in this job. It begins with belief. During the press conference, he used language like “changing the energy”, “engage everybody”, having the “same mindset” and, most importantly, “building a culture”. As I listened, it struck me that he never once talked about how talented the players were or their skills. For Mikel, the most important first step on his journey is bring a belief back to the team. And he seems to have the self-belief to do it! Leadership in sport and in business is very much focused on getting the belief right first. Too frequently, the focus is on instant results at all costs. This can have a short-term bounce but not bring real change. Changing the belief isn’t easy but if you can, you’ve tapped into a powerful catalyst for real transformation. Everything that Arteta said during the conference could be easily applied to a manager or leader within any business organization too. When a new boss takes over a position in a team that’s not functioning, getting everyone on the same page and sharing a common belief, vision and mission is an essential starting point. Towards the end of the interview, Arteta was clear about the importance of some “quick wins” to help get things started. This triggered a memory. There is a very famous organizational change model (the Kotter model) that I’ve used and studied in that past. It’s an 8-step approach for organizational transformation. One of the key steps is to achieve ‘quick wins’. Another, that must be in place earlier, is to create a shared vision and belief. I can’t be certain if Mikel is planning on following all 8 steps of Kotter model, but he definitely has a very clear view of how he plans to bring success back to Arsenal. And it’s all starting with an unwavering belief. And hopefully a few quick wins. Starting against Everton today! When taking on a new role, team, or challenge, there is a very strong urge to dive right in! Resisting this temptation could be the difference between success and failure. Take some time to be clear on what your beliefs are beforehand. Have you tried to use the Kotter model in your own change initiative? What other ones have you had success with? Till tomorrow, Rob

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