What can a football manager teach us about learning? Well, in my opinion, quite a lot. It’s a well-known secret that Arsene Wenger is my hero (sorry dad!) and anybody that knows me will know that football is my biggest passion. So, with Wenger’s recent departure from Arsenal FC, I thought I’d put together the lessons I think Wenger can teach all learning professionals.
By sticking to his values, beliefs and unique style of management, Arsene Wenger transformed the entire English game of football. He made his team believe they could achieve the greatest honours and develop their skills in a way they never thought was possible. He taught his team to have success with a style and gravitas; and put to bed the ‘nice guys finish last’ mantra.
So, what can eLearning professionals learn from this?
The biggest lesson we can learn from Wenger’s leadership style is to always lead by example. Learning shouldn’t be a chore – training courses and eLearning should excite your learners and motivate them to expand their skills. How do you expect your learners to feel this way, if their managers are flippant about the benefits?
Managers should speak positively about the values of learning, should encourage their teams to learn more, and prove the benefits of doing so. Leading by example is a key way to make sure your learning strategy has a significant impact on your organisation.
Arsene Wenger gave every day of his life to a cause he believed in and stuck at the same job for 22 years. Whilst the money and profession of football has its own reputation, to remain relevant and reinvent oneself against outside pressures, whilst being questioned at every turn, is a quality to be admired.
How does this relate to us learning professionals?
It’s simple really. Wenger ensured he was continually learning, adapting to new influences and trends, observing his competitors and reacting to their actions. All of this comes down to his willingness to learn new things.
Learning is considered, by many people, a burden on their time – but it’s our job to ensure learners understand the benefits of any training course provided to them – and ensure they reap the rewards. Completing one eLearning course isn’t going to transform an individual’s whole career – but continually developing skills over time will make the difference. It’s the discipline that comes with successful learning that is vital for continued growth – and will make a huge impact on your learner’s development.
If you’re in charge of your team’s learning strategy, you must motivate your learners to have the discipline to keep learning throughout their careers. A great way to do this is to keep an eye on the skills your team are developing – and reward them for this by facilitating career progression. Or you might even want to incentivise learning through gamification and leader boards. However, you do it, it is crucial that as learning professionals we encourage our learners to continually learn throughout their careers (and stick with it!)
This point has an obvious connection to the learning industry, but you might not know how Arsene Wenger transformed the training programme when he joined Arsenal football club in 1996. Wenger implemented training drills that were just 7 minutes and not a second longer. This ensured that his entire team were engaged, without straining their concentration levels and ensured preparation for the tasks ahead were completely perfect.
I know my fellow learning professionals will hear the ‘bite-sized learning’ siren in their heads right now – and yes, Wenger’s approach was indeed akin to bitesized learning. However, it also teaches us about putting the learner first. How will our learners digest the information? Which teaching method will ensure the best levels of knowledge retention? How can we make learning a more enjoyable experience for our learners.
Putting your learners (or in Wenger’s case – football players) at the forefront of everything you do, will help you to produce a learning strategy that your learners want to engage with. And if your learners want to engage – then you’ll have a much easier job at achieving your learning objectives.
In my opinion, Wenger’s lessons, knowledge and economical understanding were truly wasted on football. But these qualities haven’t completely gone to waste – these lessons can be transferred into the learning world, and teach us valuable lessons to improve our own learning strategies. So next time you’re encouraging someone to lead by example, or telling your learners to ‘practice, practice, practice’ – maybe the greatest football manager of Arsenal FC will spring to mind.
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