Whilst I would not describe myself as a massive football fan, I do follow the results and watch many of the games in the Premiership and Europe. To me, football, like many other team sports, provides its own microclimate within which we can observe leadership, management, and team and individual performance. It is quite difficult to get such observer insights in many other industries  – typically whether we are working inside or with a business, we can only observe that particular business’s managers, teams and individuals.

 So – some musings over performances so far this season:

 Let’s start with Manchester United – I think most armchair pundits would make a good case to justify that any new leader (David Moyes) taking over from an outgoing leader (Sir Alex Ferguson) who had been in charge for 26 years, may just take a little time to settle in, and that such a change may well be justification for United’s somewhat inconsistent, and for them, poor, performance so far this season.

 But for me, it raises a really crucial question and that is “where does the real reason for the poor performance of the team lie”?

 The newspapers and media, have been fairly quick to suggest that Ferguson’s team actually overachieved last season when they won the league and that this season’s league position and results more fairly reflects a team that lacks star quality across the positions. So their inference is that it was the Leader who made the difference. Is this true though? To what extent is it fair to burden success or failure on the manager/leader? If we look at the rest of the Premiership, we’ve already had Martin Jol, Ian Holloway, Steve Clarke and most recently AVB sacked from their respective clubs because of poor results and there are many betting websites, somewhat cruelly, lining up odds for the next casualty.

 So is this right? Is it the managers fault when (their) teams don’t perform? I think that the leader does clearly have to take some responsibility and it’s perfectly reasonable to assess them against a set of leadership qualities and skills, but they can’t play the game once the starting whistle blows.

 My view is that Football also provides a stunning example of a business where individual under performance is tolerated and where the consequences for that performance are insubstantial.

 I’ve lost count of the number of times, even in a single 90 minute game, where I see players, many of whom are paid £100,000+, a week, unable to complete even the most simple of tasks such as passing a ball to someone wearing the same colour shirt over a distance of less than 10 yards. Players taking corners and free kicks where they hit the first defender, players who are supposed to be attackers, shirking all responsibility for shooting or taking on a defender and instead going backwards or sideways. We don’t generally see their names emblazoned in the press the next day when the team fails.

From a football perspective my view is that perhaps it’s about time we did?

But what about in the real world, in your business or in your team.

  • Do teams and individuals have specific, measureable and relevant goals to achieve?
  • What checks and measures are there in place to monitor individual and team performance?
  • Are there any consequences for under performance or outstanding performance.
  • When a team or department does badly is the focus on blame or on development?

If these questions raise further questions perhaps we should talk to see if The Reality Business can help you find some answers.