Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho: Do Mind Games Really Work? | Nudge Podcast with Phil Agnew (91)

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Key Takeaways

  • Jose Mourinho is known for his psychological approach to games, using mind games in press conferences and interviews to undermine his opposition and motivate his team
  • A mind game is psychologically manipulative behavior intended to discomfort another person or gain an advantage over them
  • He uses three mind game tactics to improve his team’s chances of success: signaling, reactants, and reframing
  • Signaling: conveying information, belief, and trust by means of a gesture, an action, or a sound
  • Reactants: the motivation to regain something after it has been lost, threatened, or taken away from you 
  • Reframing: explaining a situation in a different way to help his players look at a problem from another angle
  • Using signaling and reactants to influence, persuade, and motivate can work, but not if they’re used endlessly; eventually, they will start to lose their potency or backfire on you
  • Be sure to match signaling with humility; as the leader, it is vital to take responsibility for bad results  
  • When people are told they cannot do something, the forbidden activity becomes more attractive and alluring to people, i.e. if you tell someone they can’t do something, they are far more motivated to do it  
  • Approaches that work for Jose might not work for you; he is a one-of-a-kind operating in a unique setting

Intro 

  • Jose Mourinho (@josemourinho) is a Portuguese professional football manager who is the current coach of Italian Serie A club Roma. He is one of the most decorated managers ever and is widely considered to be among the greatest managers of all time. 
  • In this episode, Nudge host Phil Agnew extracts the valuable tactics that can be learned from Jose Mourinho, specifically analyzing his use of mind games to motivate his players
  • Check out these Podcast Notes on Psychological Biases and Influencing Others 
  • Host – Phil Agnew (p_agnew), writer of The Nudge Newsletter 

Background on Jose Mourinho 

  • Jose never reached the highest level of football as a player, which is something that most of the top managers have done
  • Jose has a track record of transforming less talented teams into champions 
  • He famously won the Champions League with Porto and Inter Milan in 2004 and 2010, respectively
  • Jose also won Chelsea’s first league title in 50 years, the Spanish league by a hundred points, and Roma’s first trophy in 11 years 
  • Jose is known for his psychological approach to games, using press conferences and interviews to undermine his opposition and motivate his team 

What are Mind Games?

  • “Everything I do is mind games. The only thing that is not mind games is the results”Jose Mourinho in a press conference with reporters  
  • A mind game is psychologically manipulative behavior intended to discomfort another person or gain an advantage over them

Jose Mourinho’s 1st Mind Game Tactic: Signaling  

  • Jose creates a culture of extreme confidence to achieve success as early as possible
  • It’s not only important for his players to build confidence, but Jose tries to build confidence in himself through the eyes of the players and media 
  • Jose uses signaling to build confidence 
  • Signaling: convey information, belief, and trust by means of a gesture, an action, or a sound
  • Signaling is common in nature:
    • Springboks jump up and down for no other reason than to signal to predators that they aren’t worth chasing because they have sufficient energy to elude pursuit 
    • Yellow-banded poison dart frogs signal to predators that they are toxic with their neon yellow bands across their skin 
  • Examples of costly signaling in nature:
    • The peacock’s feathers signal its reproductive fitness, but the large tail with the feathers severely weighs the peacock down and limits its movement  
  • Humans use signaling to convey information about ourselves, such as wearing a Rolex watch to signal wealth
  • Jose signals in an efficient way: he simply tells everyone that he is the best in the world
  • After joining Chelsea in 2004, he called himself “a special one” in his opening press conference 
    • His word choice was calculated to signal confidence 
    • He wanted others to believe in his extreme talent 
  • Calling himself “a special one” so early in his career was a costly signal: it put his reputation on the line and opened himself up to criticism  
  • Costly signaling is risky, but can also be highly rewarding
  • Jose has said things that sacrificed his team strategically but bolstered their confidence
    • For example, he once gave away his team sheet in a press conference before a big game 
  • Mourinho might be a little self-obsessed, but he’s not afraid to blame himself when needed

How Managers In Other Industries Can Use Signaling

  • Use signals to build trust and motivate your team 
  • State your absolute confidence in your team
  • Announce your concrete belief in your team’s ability to succeed
  • Be sure to match signaling with humility; as the leader, it is vital to take responsibility for bad results   

Using Attention When Signaling 

  • Mourinho takes the pressure off of his team by making the press conferences all about himself 
  • He’s known for doing bizarre things at press conferences, which causes the media to focus on that instead of putting unneeded stress on his players 

Jose Mourinho’s 2nd Mind Game Tactic: Reactants 

  • When people are told they cannot do something, the forbidden activity becomes more attractive and alluring to people, i.e. if you tell someone they can’t do something, they are far more motivated to do it 
  • Reactants can also be explained by the Streisand effect: a phenomenon that occurs when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor information has the unintended consequence of increasing awareness of that information 
  • Jose Mourinho uses reactants to motivate his team
  • He commonly tells his team that people don’t think they can do something, or that the other team doesn’t expect them to win 
    • Here’s an example of a halftime speech he gave his Tottenham players in a big game against Manchester City
    • Tottenham ended up winning the game 2-0 
  • Jose once accused the media of having a coordinated campaign against one of his players Diego Costa
    • Jose builds motivation in Diego by telling him that the world is against him
    • Costa ended up being the team’s top goal-scorer that year   

Using Reactants Against Opponents

  • Jose famously called his rival manager Arsene Wenger a “specialist in failure” 
  • He taunted Arsenal’s best player Thiery Henry saying that he only scores against small clubs
  • Mourinho’s reactance tactic also works against him by incidentally motivating the opposition 
  • A weakness of Mourinho is that he cannot help himself in press conferences 

Lessons Learned for Business 

  • Using signaling and reactants to influence, persuade, and motivate can work, but not if they’re used endlessly; eventually, they will start to lose their potency or backfire on you  
  • The first ten years of Jose Mourinho’s career were far more successful than the last ten years 

Jose Mourinho’s 3rd Mind Game Tactic: Reframing 

  • Reframing: explaining a situation in a different way to help his players look at a problem from another angle
  • Reframing can change someone’s perception 
  • Steve Jobs was a master at reframing problems for his engineers, which enabled them to achieve things they previously believed to be impossible 
  • Examples of Jose Mourinho using reframing:
    • We don’t have to win, but we cannot lose
    • Losing today’s game ruins a whole year of work    

Using Reframing in Business

  • Reframe a goal that you’re struggling to achieve 
  • Zoom out of focus and evaluate the bigger picture when reframing a goal that you’re lacking the motivation to achieve 

Wrapping Up

  • Jose uses signaling to build confidence in his players
  • He uses reactants to motivate his players and turn around a poor performance 
  • He uses reframing to persuade his players to perform at their best  
  • Approaches that work for Jose might not work for you; he is a one-of-a-kind operating in a unique setting
  • Being aware of these methods may help you better evaluate others who use them
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Notes By Stan Rizzo

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