Selection, deselection & development of individuals - Part IV of a Business vs Premier League comparison

By Andreas Frische Geir Lislerud

Sarri arrived at Stanford Bridge, soon after 16 players were sold. Even under pressure to sell Giroud, Sarri had faith in the notorious goal scorer and silenced the critics after the strikers brilliant performance to secure the Europe League title for Chelsea.

In part I-III in this blog series, we discussed five key elements to lead High Performers in Organisations, Strategy Assessment and Assessment of Team resources. Today we will give you some point of views on fire, hire & development of individuals.

A new Premier League Manager enters the club with his (sorry - so far no female Premier League Managers) leadership style, strategy, philosophy and a thorough assessment of each player weather he fits the style, needs to be developed or ultimately "does not fit".

When Guardiola, Sarri, Klopp, Emery and Pochettino took over as Premier League Managers we quickly experienced a "Fire sale" of players, likely because they didn't make the "cut" regarding strategy or likely wouldn't be able to execute the strategy. Sarri sold 16 of Chelsea's players, Fàbregas and Courtois among others, Guardiola replaced Joe Hart and Klopp had a solid housecleaning at Anfield. Now, in the frantic transfer windows some players are regretted leavers and others are forced. However, we see a clear picture of Managers choosing to «Fire and Replace» rather than develop.

Identify the ones to develop before you fire and rehire

In the CEOs Business world, we also see the same trends. A new CEO often quickly recruit a new CFO, a new CFO often build a new management team in Finance. Dolphin Drilling in Norway replaced their CEO and soon after the management team were fired. Harvard Business Review did a study of which positions was replaced after a new CEO arrives. Not surprisingly, 40-50% of the CMO, CFO and CHRO were quickly replaced in the management group [1]. 

Both Premier League Managers and CEOs face expectations of quick results, turnarounds, change, improvements and a strong push internally, externally and not least the scrutinising critics from the press. All having their own agenda, which is not always in the best long-term interest of the company or club.

So, how do Premier League Managers or CEOs develop their players or Directors to fit the strategy? Some leaders have the traditional "fit in or fuck off" attitude and do not really invest in change. Others take the task seriously and stands through tough critics. Imagine Sarri listening to the press regarding the "prügel knabe" Olivier Giroud. Would Chelsea then have won the UEFA Europe League final against Arsenal in Baku? His brilliant trademark header opened the game for Chelsea triumphing the final. For the 2019/20 season, Sarri is left with the "development" option as Chelsea has a transfer ban until summer 2020. Maybe his stamina will take Chelsea to the finals in Champions League next season.

Klopp has undoubtedly taken Liverpool to the next level. Two Champion League finals in a row is a tremendous achievement at all aspects. His development of transforming Salah, Mané, Firmino and Origi into the Liverpool Strategy is probably more difficult than it seems. He also had to loose Karius and get Alisson after the incidents last season. Karius had some trouble stopping what seemed like easy shots. However, Alisson kept a clean sheet in this year's Champions League final against Tottenham, securing the Liverpool triumph. You cannot argue against that replacement.

In essence, we see the same trends in Business as in Premier League; a high demand for quick results. The pressure on Managers and CEOs therefore make the Fire & Hire solution the quickest way to change. Do we sometimes need more «Sarris» in the CEO position to trust and develop?

In the final part of the blog series, you will read how Geir and Andreas argue for their favourite Premier League Manager and their Leadership Style. Access it here.


[1] Harvard Business Review - Who new CEOs fire first