Wednesday, 29 June 2016

A manager’s magic dust

If you’ve ever been in any doubt as to the importance of a manager’s words and motivation, take a look at the England football team’s performance on Monday night.

In the first half, I’d say performance was good but not spectacular. In the second, the team fell apart. What happened in between? A team talk from the manager and his coaches. What should have been a chance to regroup, ensure clarity over roles and build confidence for the second half seems to have had exactly the opposite effect. Team members looked unsure, made individual errors and began to lose collective composure. The result…well, you’ll have seen it (watching through your fingers, if you’re anything like me).

The events just show how pivotal a manager can be to performance. Giving team members clear objectives. Helping them understand what is expected of them in their roles. Building their self-belief and inspiring increasing collaboration. Helping individuals gel to become more than the sum of their parts: in other words, an effective team.  

And yet we still fail to prepare managers for this aspect of their roles. We continue to promote people on technical merit rather than their ability to inspire, challenge and support team members. We don’t put enough focus on training, guidance or support (in whatever form this takes) and we seem to hope managers pick it up as they go along. Individuals, teams and organisations suffer as a result.

I’ve never seen any team shrink in quite the same way as we witnessed on Monday night, but I’ve seen many smaller-scale meltdowns triggered by ill-equipped managers, who have simply not been prepared for possibly the most important aspect of their role. I fervently hope we can address this issue within our organisations and industries in the months ahead. If we don’t, we’ll keep undermining our own performance and the prospects for achieving our goals.