Why the different mindsets of Mourinho and Klopp matter – fixed and growth mindset alive in soccer management
Nestled together in Saturday’s sports pages were reports on media conferences held by the managers of two leading English soccer teams, Jose Mourinho of Manchester United and Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool. Both were discussing their title prospects next season relative to Manchester City, this year’s runaway Champions. In context, both teams had scored three goals to beat City within the past two weeks and both are enjoying a relatively successful season. At the time of writing, Manchester United are 2nd in the league and potential FA Cup winners and Liverpool are 3rd and European Champions League semi-finalists. In addition, since both possess immensely talented squads of players, they both appear to have realistic chances of becoming Champions next season.
So, this was an early opportunity for Mourinho and Klopp to publicly and positively frame the challenge ahead and create some realistic optimism among players and supporters alike, in the same way you, or your leader, might for your organisation’s future.
However, in stark contrast, the two managers’ chose to discuss next year very differently.
Beneath the headline,
Jürgen Klopp backs Liverpool to close gap on ‘even stronger’ Manchester City
Klopp said “Liverpool do not fear the challenge of trying to wrest the Premier League title from a Manchester City team he expects will be even stronger next season”.
“Unfortunately, the job City have done in the last few years is outstanding,” the Liverpool manager said. “They brought together a team in a fantastic age. There is still a lot to come from them. They will not stop refreshing the squad, that’s clear, but whatever they do it will stay possible to beat them – that’s how it is.
“The gap between us and City didn’t happen in the games against them, it happened in the other games. It’s not important how good City will be, it’s about how we can get all the other points plus the points we got so far again. That is why it is always possible to be closer. But are they able to dominate? They don’t have a limit to spending, so I don’t know.
“Maybe it depends on all of us. Our age group is good as well, the best years are coming. That’s why we try to build on it.”
So, I’m reading from Klopp the message that it will be difficult because City are good but they are beatable, and since we’re good too, we’ll do everything we can to finish ahead of them.
If I was reading that as a Liverpool player or supporter I would be feeling excited and motivated by the challenges ahead, believing that we can win the league ahead of Manchester City, in no small part because our leader believes we can.
Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho chose to frame the year ahead in a different way with the headline stating,
José Mourinho says Manchester United may struggle to close gap on City .
The two sub headings emphasised the enormity of the task
- Mourinho praises rival’s ruthlessness and consistency
- ‘If they do the same [next season], it will be almost impossible’
and were followed by an opening line of Mourinho has admitted that Manchester United will struggle to catch Manchester City if the new Premier League champions maintain their high standards next season.
The report continued,
United’s manager struck a pessimistic tone when asked whether greater consistency would allow his team to challenge City’s supremacy, pointing out that Pep Guardiola’s side have set a remarkable pace at the top of the table.
“So in this season many clubs had positive seasons, like us, like Tottenham, like Liverpool. But it was impossible because City were really good and consistent and will reach a number of points that makes it impossible for you”
So, if I’m a Manchester United player or supporter (which I am), my thoughts about our chances next season are negative and limiting even before this season has finished.
I already feel deflated and lack the appetite required for the important challenge ahead because my leader, our Manager, has publicly and negatively dismissed our chances.
What is the relevance to You and Your Organisation?
As a leader your mindset and resulting behavior (in this case views about the future) massively influence the way your team feel about themselves, the organisation and its future. This directly affects their performance.
Although Professor Carol Dwek didn’t develop her concept of Fixed and Growth Mindset with English soccer managers in mind, her mindset framework is clearly on display here with Mourinho and Klopp.
Dwek describes the difference between the two mindsets.
“Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts). This is because they worry less about looking smart and they put more energy into learning. When entire companies embrace a growth mindset their employees report feeling far more empowered and committed; they also receive far greater organisational support for collaboration and innovation. In contrast, people at primarily fixed-mindset companies report more of only one thing: cheating and deception among employees, presumably to gain an advantage in the talent race”
Klopp possesses a growth mindset. He is focused on the concept of the Liverpool players becoming the best they can be, and his language, both verbal and body, are positive and encouraging to those around him. Anything is possible. They can do it. Their best might be good enough or it might not but it will be the best.
In stark contrast, Mourinho, displays a fixed mindset. He casts doubt on the ability of his players to beat Manchester City because of how good they (City) will be. He conveys a sense of defeat and foreboding. Also, although not displayed in this conference, he regularly and publicly castigates players for their mistakes and poor performances. This can only dent their self-confidence and lack of faith in their manager to help them fulfill their potential.
While it is more likely that Mourinho’s rather than Klopp’s prediction about next season will come to pass it is also more likely that Liverpool will achieve greater success with a happier group of players and supporters.
Dwek’s concept of fixed and growth mindset and the stark contrast of the two styles of Mourinho and Klopp are incredibly relevant to every leader.
Focusing on what you can control, ie encouraging and being realistically positive about becoming the best team of people you can be, with no statement of limitation, is far more engaging, motivating and ultimately productive, than limiting at the outset what can be achieved and chastising any setbacks or failures along the way.
View Klopp soccer report
Finally, I accept that the two different Guardian journalists, Jacob Steinberg and Andy Hunter, could have over emphasized or misreported the statements of the two managers but I don’t think that is the case.