Taking Southampton Football Club’s leadership team to the next level

The club’s board asked us to help create a shift in mind-set, skills and behaviours in their senior management team (SMT). The aim was to enable it to take a more strategic, joined-up approach to leading the organisation, and to help each member take their own leadership capabilities to the next level. We worked with the SMT and the board, collectively and individually, remotely and in person, creating a bespoke programme and evolving our approach over a 10-month period. The work had a huge measurable impact on the team’s capability, identity, unity and relationship with the board, and transformed the way SMT members approached leading their own teams.

Context and objectives

Southampton Football Club (SFC) is a Premier League football club with around 250 staff, revenues of over £110m and assets in excess of £190m. With only a quarter of the income of the league’s richest club, SFC fights well above its weight on the pitch and is seen as a real success story. When CEO Gareth Rogers and his Head of HR Michelle Butler asked us to partner with them and their organisation, the invitation appealed to us on a number of levels:

  • The club has an impressive track record of finding and developing young footballing talent and wants to build a similar reputation for developing its leaders and staff
  • It has a reputation for operating as a business, not a ‘billionaire’s plaything’
  • The high profile “first team” that plays in the Premier League is just the tip of the iceberg: SFC is a multi-faceted organisation with operations across the UK and aspirations to increase its global footprint
  • The CEO was very committed to the work we’d be doing together and prepared to invest the time, energy and resources to make it a success
  • We really liked the people we were going to be working with

The board’s vision for the organisation required a step change among its SMT – an intentionally leaderless team of 12 peers reporting to the board. Our brief was to:

  • Take effective operational managers and help them develop the skills, mind-set and headspace required to attend to the strategic needs of the whole organisation
  • Enhance each individual SMT member’s leadership of their departmental teams
  • Create a consistent leadership ethos while respecting and encouraging different management styles
  • Help ensure the SMT and their teams were optimally equipped to maintain a consistent high performance mentality, despite the very public emotional highs and lows that are endemic to this industry. Being with the SMT and board during and after both an ecstatic home win and an unexpected away loss showed us first hand just how challenging this can be
  • Deliver an experience and outcome that would set SFC apart when it came to leadership development – not just in football, but across sectors

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In our client’s words… [+]