Last Saturday I took my son to see Watford play Yeovil in the Football Championship League. Watford were 10th in the table while Yeovil were bottom. Watford comprehensively out-played Yeovil but lost 3-0. Combined with three home defeats in a row, this inevitably raises questions about leadership for the manager, Gianfranco Zola.
In football, managers have a very fragile tenure; much more so than CEOs of public corporations. Their effectiveness is visible week-to-week, rather than the quarterly or half-yearly scrutiny of CEOs, and they generate more emotional responses in their customers – the fans.
The leadership issues behind most football manager sackings mirror failings found in the corporate world. Examples include:
|Falling out with the owner||Mismanaging the politics|
|Losing touch with players||Not knowing what’s going on|
|Introducing tactics players are ill-equipped to implement||Imposing strategy without taking account of the context|
|Buying high profile players that never perform||Ego-driven acquisitions that destroy overall value|
|Dressing room discontent with inappropriate management||Shop floor unrest leading to strikes and whistleblowing|
|Poor choice of tactics, players and substitutes||Wrong choice of competitive advantage|
In the case of Watford, most pundits agree that it is none of these. Zola is blessed with a very talented bunch of players and has established an exciting mode of one-touch play that creates many scoring chances, and which can also be exhilarating to watch. Zola’s analysis of the problem is that the poor run has left players with a blip in self-confidence.
Having watched several matches, I can agree with Zola’s analysis. I can also see the parallels with corporate leadership – the dispirited telemarketing team nervous of making calls, downtrodden software developers reluctant to innovate, project team members frightened to challenge, and so on.
But as a leader, this creates a real problem:
How do you build self-confidence in a team, group or department?
Other problems are much easier to tackle, but lack of confidence is much more difficult. We can probably all remember what happens when the seeds of self-doubt start to sprout in ourselves. Zola’s answer was “we must work harder”, but I’m not sure he’s right.
All suggestions gratefully received!