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In the space of a week, we had the CPM ‘Step Change’ Conference and then I went to the theatre to see ‘Dear England’.

Dear England’ is a theatre performance about current England football manager, Gareth Southgate. The show focuses on how he coped with the pressures of the game and the role of Manager of the national men's football team. It covers how he approached the position and improved England’s rankings in top tournaments such as the Euros and World Cup.

One of the changes Southgate brought was appointing British applied Psychologist Pippa Grange as ‘Head of People and Team Development’ at the Football Association.

Despite some initial pushback and hostility (not just from the players), Dr Grange worked with the team to help them be more understanding of their fear of penalties and of losing. Penalties have always been an issue for the England Men’s team (with Southgate himself missing a pivotal penalty when he played for the men's team in the 1996 Euros), it’s previously been suggested that the team has a “penalty curse”.

“The goal isn’t to get rid of fear, that's not possible, fear will always be there. It’s about how loud we allow it to be, how much room at the table it gets" -Dr Grange.

One moment of the play that stood out was Southgate coming into his managerial position in 2016 and informing the team that the goal was to win the 2022 Qatar World Cup. They had an upcoming World Cup in Russia in 2018, so the team couldn’t understand why the aim for that tournament wouldn’t be to win… Surely that’s what competing in a tournament is all about?

But Southgate assured that a longer-term plan to reframe their thinking would be more beneficial with small ‘step changes’ to make a difference. Between Dr Grange and Southgate, they worked on creating support and trust between the players and themselves.

Tasks included writing in journals, sharing thoughts with teammates and stopping players from only sitting with teammates from their league teams in downtime and seated sessions. At England they are one team.

Dear England

It is to be said that Southgate had 3 pillars of change. Empathy, Fear and Authenticity:

Empathy- Southgate knows how tough it is to be a player. He understands the pressure it holds to represent your country and he understands the emotional and physical toll it can take on a person. He could empathise with his players and truly understand their fears, doubts and hopes.


Fear- The weight of wearing the England shirt has quite often resulted in underperformance and Southgate only knows how tough that can be. But he reminded the team… ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’  He focused on mindset and culture, as much as technique and tactics, to change the way the players approached the game, rather than letting fear take over.

Authenticity- Southgate reminded the players it’s not worth trying to be something you’re not. As a person and manager Southgate is honest and open. His actions show this when writing personal letters to the team, coaches, and England fans… hence the play name ‘Dear England’.

Since Southgate…

In 2018’s Russia World Cup, England finished 4th.

In the 2020 Euro tournament, England reached the final but lost to Italy on penalties.

In 2022’s Qatar World Cup, England reached the quarterfinals.

At CPM our conference focused on ‘Step Change’- the small step changes we can make, that have a big impact. We have been and will continue to work towards cultural, organisational, and commercial Step Change in our business in 2024.

We want people to recognise the efforts that have gone into improving our business, no matter how small because it all adds up. It’s important that our people recognise and are motivated by the fact that they each have a part to play in reaching our shared goals.

“If players have some ownership of what’s going on, then that’s going to help them make better decisions on the field and also buy into the way that we’re trying to progress.” - Southgate

It is not about striving for perfectionism; it is about doing our absolute best. We start small and gradually build over time as this approach brings authenticity, transparency, collaboration, reflection and commitment to moving forward.

At CPM we set realistic expectations recognising that small steps are still steps in the right direction of our goals. We embrace failure as a natural part of learning and aren’t afraid to take risks or try new things.


We’re not saying we’re just like the England football team, but there’s certainly some similarities in our ways of thinking. Working together as a team, trusting those we work with as well as having faith in our own capabilities. 

And whilst big goals are great, it's important to remember that it’s the small step changes that add up to the big wins… you could win a World Cup or even an FMBE Award!