Building winning cultures like Pep Guardiola

Dr. Jon Finn discusses the Amazon documentary ‘All or Nothing’ which offers an inside view of Premier League Champions Manchester City. Dr. Finn explains how manager Pep Guardiola creates a culture that consistently delivers world-class performances.

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Podcast Transcript 

In this podcast, the Amazon documentary, All or Nothing is our theme. The series offered an inside view of Premier League champions, Manchester City. It showed manager Pep Guardiola striving to create a culture that consistently delivers world class performances. Tougher Minds founder Dr. Jon Finn discussed this and highlighted how we can all start to build winning cultures and our own organizations and teams.

So the All or Nothing Amazon documentary followed Man City over the course of last season, which I think certainly broke some records in that period of time when the league and it was an in-depth behind the scenes look of what was going on. We know that that was a very powerful, very successful culture. So from my own perspective, I was interested in trying to understand more of what was going on there. What’s making these people tick. And very interestingly, Guardiola in a fairly recent interview talks about his aim isn’t to win League titles or Cup titles, his aim is to create a culture which focuses on training well, preparing well and improving every day. And a huge part of our work is to help organisations to build better, better cultures that help people to be healthier and happier and perform to their best more often.

So if you think about what’s Guardiola and his team doing to actually get those kind of outcomes, if we’re gonna help people to achieve things like training well, preparing well and improving every day, which could be quite generic ideas for a very high performing cultures across business and sport and other sectors, you’ve got to understand or what are the core, the core habits that actually make those things happen. Why do we need to look at the habits? Because unbeknownst to most people, most of what we’re doing is simply a habit or to 95 percent of what we’re doing right now is subconscious. It’s mindless. It’s not. I’m not thinking very consciously about what I’m saying right now. It’s coming out because I’ve practiced thinking about these areas a lot. So most of any behavior in any culture, is mindless behavior is habitual behavior. So we have to think, well, how do we build the habits that allow us to achieve the outcomes that we want, like training, well, preparing, well improving every day. So to do that we have to think, well, what, what are the habits that drive those things? And of course will be a whole list of different habits starting with sleeping well every night because none of those things can happen very well if we don’t sleep well. Eating well. Um, maybe having the habit of, of constantly reflecting on ourselves and looking for the things, not only that we’re good at and the things we can improve.

So there isn’t anywhere in the all or nothing documentary explicitly describes those, those habits, but I’m sure he has them in mind and maybe it doesn’t think of them quite like that. But ultimately what he’s trying to get his place to do is to build these more healthful habits that align with the outcomes that he wants to achieve. Now, if we want to build habits, what we need is knowledge and skills. So if you want to help our players to sleep better, we need to give them some knowledge and skills to allow them to do that. Now notice, this is knowledge and skill, simple and practical skills. We live in a society where knowledge is more accessible than ever before. You just have to type into a search engine and you find something out about it.

As well as knowing how to sleep well. We have to give people the skills to be able to do that as well. As well as knowing, for example, what a good leader looks like. We have to give people the skills to be able to do that. As well as knowing what it looks like to perform under pressure. You have to give people the skills to be able to do that. So once we decided what the vital habits are, what we sometimes call the progress habits, we have to give people knowledge and the skills to allow them to do that. And if we look at Man City, there’s an army of backroom stuff from technical and tactical coaches to people who help the players with their sleep and their exercise, but that in itself isn’t enough.

Most of us know and have the skills to do lots of things that we know we should be doing, but we don’t do them. Everything we do every day is influenced by what we call change factors. These are often hidden things in our environment, in our own cognition that drive our behavior that this word is to do things of the first step to building helpful or unhelpful habits. So if we want to get people to build these progress, all vital habits deliver, the outcomes are going to make the culture successful. We need to tap into these change factors, and we often talk about the six change factors or those more complex than that, but it gives us a simple way to start understanding it. And if we look at the, the All or Nothing documentary, we can start to see some of these change factors out there driving the kind of behavior, the Guardiola wants from his team and that ultimately help the team to achieve the results they did last season.

One of those factors we call social rewards, this is if I do something, I get rewarded socially rewarded by the people in my environment. And one really interesting example of this very early on in the City season was when a City were playing Chelsea, which is a form of club of Kevin de Bruyne and City beat Chelsea with a sensation Kevin de Bruyne goal and when he came back into the changing room he was enveloped by jubilant teammates they started chanting his name and lifted him up like he was a conquering hero. And it’s quite interesting then if you see some of the other members of the squad, they will want to get in on the action there as well. You know, someone like John Stones to put had a breakthrough season last season, will see that, and nd think, well, I want some of that, but to get some of that I need to be doing the kinds of things that Kevin de Bruyne is doing, you know, and interestingly Kevin de Bruyne, or is almost like a textbook, excellent pro.

He does all the things you’d want a great professional to do a including as his own personal chef to make sure that he’s nutrition, right. So you see that social reward factor going on and reinforcing the kind of behavior that will allow Guardiola to get the outcomes that he wants. Another factor at play is what we call social support. And this is Vincent Kompany. He’s the club captain and his nickname is the president. I’m a little bit like, I think Jamie Peacock really trying to just be called the Godfather. He has power and people respect him and they look up to him. And again, he’s almost like a, the exact sort of role model that you want in the dressing room. I’m an interestingly, again, we’re using the John Stones example was somebody who really, really came of edge.

It’s talking about how um, Vincent Kompany helps him to improve his game. And you know, they must be having those conversations and seeing what he needs to do if he wants to, um, get the kind of rewards have been to company has got in terms of silverware and in terms of career, etc. So if we want to create habits in an organization, we need people around us to model that behavior and support us in our efforts to, to build those new habits, whether it’s for sleep or for something else. So we see the social support factor and then say a third factor that you see very consistently in the documentary is Guardiola himself. I would say he’s triggering what we call personal motivation. It keeps reminding the players, this is not about him. He says, at one point, does it matter if you’d like me or not?

This is about you. You’re going to get your rewards if you keep persisting. And he keeps painting a very vivid picture of the big goal. those guys are working towards together as a collective and a team, and if we want to build a new habit today in the short term, that needs to be a really good reason why I’m consistently reminds me of that really good reason why they need to keep persisting. They need to get back on the field and the second half and secure the goal or whatever it is. So whatever we’re trying to do in our lives, if we understand the six change factors, it makes it a lot easier to do those things. Three very big ideas I think most people are not aware of. One is that their experience of the world is what they pay attention to. And that’s what William James said. He’s seen as the founding father of psychology about hundred and 10 years ago when he was setting up the first psychology course is ever in New York. I refined that silent and said, what we are in the habit of doing is our experience of the world. What we are in the habit of paying attention to is our experience with the world. If we’re in the habit of paying attention to everything that’s negative and everything that’s bad, we’re probably going to have a mental health problem.

Well, the good news is you can change that habit is malleable, so that’s one idea that everyone needs to understand.

So maybe maybe people might think when you use the word experience, well, it’s something that happens to me, but you’re actually saying then that because you can change it, it can be an active thing.

We have more control over our experience of the world than anybody else because we are not helpless in how we think. Even though lots of it is automatic, we can take active control. We can stop ourselves beating ourselves up. If we have the knowledge and the skills, we can stop ourselves eating extra piece of cake. We can stop ourselves staying up tonight and watching the extra episode on Netflix series of are watching. We do have control. So the next thing to understand this, that up to 95 percent, probably at least five percent of what we’re doing right now, how we’re thinking, how we’re behaving is simply a habit or a series of habits. It subconsciously, it’s mindless behavior. So not only is our experience of the world I’m driven by habit, habit is most of what we do most of the time. So how we experienced in the world, he’s, he’s naturally very driven by a very subconscious or very mindless process. Doesn’t have to be because we can pay attention to ourselves. We watch ourselves, but left to its natural, left on actual devices that. So that’s how it unfolds. And the third thing to recognise, again academic research is showing this this is the most of us, most of the time are not aware of is persuading us to build the habits that we built to build the habits of our lives and aware of explicit with the driving force that keep making us check our phone or that keeps making us beat ourselves up or keeps making us eat the wrong things. So these three ideas are driving everything that we do, but we can take control.

The first step is to recognise that most of what you do and is a habit and you can start to control that via the six change factors, designing our instructions with the world, how, how we experience the world and by taking control, it’s much easier to be healthy, happy and performance are potential more often. And when you combine that across a group of people, you get record breaking seasons like Man City had.

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