A common goal: how Martin Glenn (re)united the FA

3 min read
Wembley Stadium, the home of England Football, where martin glenn united the players with a common goal

Our most recent guest on the Culture de-cooded podcast has had a long and varied career, from PepsiCo to private equity and then, his ‘act of public service’, as CEO of the Football Association. Martin Glenn has led more than one organisation through transformation throughout his illustrious career. His posts could not be more different, how could leading a legacy brand, United biscuits ever compare to re-igniting the fire behind the Football Association? Well, in the podcast Martin explains that the thread between these experiences lies in one strategy – creating a common goal or a collective belief.

Collective belief systems in organisations

‘All thriving organisations have a few things in common, context is different, but essentials remain the same- you need a clear purpose, a strategy that people understand, they need a sense of urgency around why things need to get done, a bigger picture for why they are working there and doing something worthwhile’

This is true for so many parts of leading an organisation, whilst each individual would have different personal goals or motivations, a common misconception is that these beliefs are rarely truly individual constructs. These beliefs are more often built and shared within a community- or an organisation.

Having and sharing these beliefs is crucial within a group or organisation, they provide a sense of cohesion, binding individuals together through a shared purpose and also making sense of where they fit within an organisation. This sense of purpose building is essential for building a successful organisation, as it fosters accountability and collaboration to reach a shared ambition.

Although these common goals are instigated by a leadership team, they are continuously reinforced by daily rituals, norms and practices that influence the behaviour, perception and interactions of people within an organisation.

Common goals in the boardroom and the changing rooms

‘Businesses need an ambition and a point beyond any financial win. Culture is an opportunity and a differentiator’

Whilst talking about his time working behind the Birdseye brand at Iglo (now Nomad Foods) Martin was one of the few executives who talked about culture and how it could be operationalised. However, due to the structure and nature of Iglo at this time, focus was placed on hard measures and culture was seen as an irrelevance and not core to developing the business.

After a tenure at United Biscuits, in perhaps his most famous role, Martin began his time at the FA in March 2015. This was a pivotal point for the England football team and the Football Association, where many different businesses were under one umbrella, each with different perceived goals.

‘Unite the game to inspire the nation’

At the time of his instatement there was no sense of guiding ambition about what the point of the FA was, or why it did what it did. At this time the England Football men’s team was not performing, with crushing Euro and World Cup losses in recent memory, they performed better as individuals than as a team, struggled under pressure and were victims of a toxic environment, wondering which player would be vilified for each loss.

Martin modernised the FA, he instilled collaboration, benchmarking and humility, learning from other countries and other sports in order to unite the FA with one common purpose- ‘to inspire the nation’.

One method he used was to ask each individual, ‘what does it mean to play for your national team?’ Each individual response fit within the ethos to ‘inspire’, such as being seen as a role model or breaking away from the stereotypical media representation of ‘bratty’ footballers.

Since the organisation began to focus on one common goal, tournament performance improved. Giving the players, and others, increased accountability and pride in the organisation by allowing them to shape their own purpose between them.

Martin, throughout his career has continuously pioneered the importance of culture and uniting individuals with a common goal to promote success within organisations. The positive outcomes of his positions demonstrates what a key aspect culture management continues to be.

Image credit: Winston Tjia

Culture15 is your complete toolkit for tracking culture change. CEOs and Exec Teams at world-leading organisations use Culture15 analytics to ensure success by aligning their culture with what they need to execute their strategy. If you’d like to find out how to define the culture you need, diagnose the culture you have and close the gap, talk to our team. 

Book a Demo

Schedule a virtual meeting with a member of the Culture15 team.