Spend any time with Burnley boss Sean Dyche and you will want to become a manager – I know I did after a couple of hours in his company.
I went to meet Dyche to find out how his style of leadership has helped him build the Clarets’ fantastic team spirit, and ended up learning how his philosophy underpins the entire club.
I know, from my playing career, how effective his type of open, honest and inclusive approach can be in getting the best out of a team, but Dyche’s influence extends far beyond the dressing room and training ground.
‘He has unpicked the mentality of the whole town’
Part of Dyche’s success has been with his signings – it has to be. The club has the lowest turnover in the Premier League, so he cannot afford many mistakes.
He tries to avoid making any by checking out the character of prospective buys as rigorously as he does their playing skills when he assesses how they will fit in with his way of working.
He uses personality profiling as a tool with his existing players, too, and the reason he gives such importance to their psychology is because, as he says: “If I can understand them better as a person then I can understand how to make them a better player too.”
That outlook is at the core of how he operates, and he clearly pays the same level of detail to his relationship with his coaching staff, the board, the media – and the Clarets supporters.
I found it fascinating, and not only because I am from Burnley, that he has unpicked the mentality of the whole town – hard-working, humble, unassuming and resilient – to work out who the people are, and what we appreciate.
Dyche has done that for a reason, of course. Clarity of purpose is one of his mantras.
He has matched the players he has signed and the way his team plays with the club and its fans, and doing that makes it easier for everyone to sing from the same hymn sheet.
‘Leave your egos at the gates’
Dyche tells his players to “leave their egos at the gates” at the entrance to the driveway that takes you to the Clarets’ old training ground at Gawthorpe Hall, and also leads on to their impressive new £10m Barnfield complex, which is right next door.
To get there you cross a bridge over the River Calder, which is in flood at the moment and is also freezing cold – but goalkeeper Nick Pope still had to lie in it for a minute last week.
A dip in the river is one of the challenges on the Burnley squad’s infamous ‘wheel of fortune’, used to decide the forfeit for anyone stepping out of line – which includes offences like lateness and leaving a cup in the wrong place.
It is one of the ways Dyche has fostered a formidable group mentality in his players, and also backs up the family analogy he is fond of when he talks about his club.
In this case, when he talks about his players’ manners and them tidying up, it is like he is talking about raising his children and moulding and nurturing them into what he wants them to be.
‘Others enforce the principles he has introduced’
Burnley are not completely dependent on Dyche as a father figure, however. He does not have to do it all on his own – he has made sure of that.
His success in his four and a half years with the Clarets has bought him time. In his own words, he is well into “the red zone” when it comes to the average time – about 1.23 years – that a manager spends in charge at a professional club.
Dyche has used that time to build a structure that allows him to step back and let others make decisions while enforcing the standards and principles he has introduced.
That includes his squad, who get across to new arrivals what is expected of them and what the club is all about.
His coaching staff do the same too. From the moment he took charge in 2012, he made sure they knew how to respond if a player moaned about something, and to reply by turning it into a positive instead.
I have played in teams where I have seen what happens if you let that moaning continue – it puts a big wedge in the squad that just grows and grows. This way, nothing can escalate.
‘Dyche knows which buttons to press’
Burnley’s approach boils down to hard work and togetherness. It is a consistent message and, like everything Dyche says, is easy to understand.
He makes everything seem so simple and achievable, which is no doubt a big part of the reason why his team are close to securing top-flight survival this season – something the club has not managed since the mid-1970s.
Being honest with his team is important to him, too. He is not interested in spin.
From his perspective, if you tell a lie, you have to be very clever to remember to keep it up. It is much easier to tell the truth.
On top of that, it is also beneficial for players to always know where they stand. At a basic level, if you are not playing then you want to know why you are not in the team, and you appreciate his type of plain talking.
Dyche still gets involved on the training ground, and the tactical and coaching side of his job is clearly something he knows a lot about – but there is far more to him than that.
I was left thinking his real skill is dealing with people, because of his ability to establish empathy and understand what makes different characters tick.
His team are impeccably organised, of course, and never stop running either.
But the biggest reason they are getting results is because Dyche knows which buttons to press with his players. I can see why they give everything for him.
Rachel Brown-Finnis was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.
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