Business advcie from the football pitch

Much has been written in the press about the performance of the beleaguered England football team during the World Cup and particularly Fabio Capello’s management.
It seems that Capello was the root of the team’s problems, so this month I have analysed our performance through some very simply management headings to see how we could take some key learnings from our World Cup experience to help us better manage our businesses
I have always emphasized the importance of good planning in business. While the vision to identify pertinent building blocks to form the foundations of a successful business is also important, any business must have at least a two-year plan in order to promote growth in various possible conditions. The plan must be robust enough for the business to survive dips in business cycles – the equivalent of form – and to sustain losses of staff or skills – or injuries – having anticipated the “what ifs” that might occur.
Capello: 6/10 – A detailed plan, but it wasn’t robust enough to cope with injuries and the loss of form in the England camp.
Good managers also realise the importance of creating a productive environment in which their staff can flourish. Another national team coach, Clive Woodward, got the best out of his team through a combination of meticulous planning and creating a positive atmosphere in which they excelled. Such practices can have similar positive effects in a business environment. If a team are in a positive working environment which facilitates their needs and boosts morale, the results will be evident in their performance. Conversely, a negative environment can drastically harm the performance of a business.
Capello: 5/10 - Each player was carefully chosen and no expense was spared on training, but reports of isolation, boredom and a distinct lack of team spirit clearly impacted their performances on the pitch.
While effective planning and creating a performance enhancing environment are key foundations of a successful business, the manager’s ability to communicate a vision and plan to the team is essential in achieving results and earning respect. Many great leaders have achieved success without necessarily being the best at their game by being effective communicators. For instance, Jose Mourinho didn’t make it as a professional player, but he has become one of the greatest managers in the modern game and commands universal respect from his players and contemporaries because he understands how to communicate. Getting the best from their team is of paramount importance to managers in all areas of business and effective communication can help ensure that a united team not only respects a manager’s judgment but also supports their decisions.
Capello: 3/10 – It is well documented that Capello’s basic level of English led to difficulties in communicating with his players. The effects were clear on the pitch, where the players seemed to be without a clear plan, and came across difficulties when the plans were adapted during the game.
Look and listen
The days of show and tell belong in childhood; good management is about looking, listening and engaging. It is fine having the plan, the vision, the environment and communicating them to the team – but without being engaged, managers risk being unable to see and act upon any potential issues that the company may be facing. I wonder if Capello wandered down to breakfast to laugh and joke with his players specifically to unravel their thoughts, hear their views, gauge their mood and find out what makes them tick. In business you rarely have mutinies; people simply move on – but observing and listening can help identify issues early on and act upon them before they have serious effects. Being open and open-minded can help build strong relationships, where people feel they can communicate with you.
Capello: 1/10 - Capello’s strict regime typified his dictatorial management style. Key players had little influence on his strategy within the camp and voiced their grievances and concerns to the media rather than with him directly, accentuating the team’s already fractious bonds.
By making sure that everyone knows not just what they are doing, but also that their goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Targeted helps to bring about a positive working environment. Working with employees to map out their future and agree on what is expected of them helps to bring clarity and understanding to their working practices. Regular assessments are also key to ensuring that each individual understands the tasks they have been set; that they are not doing something that they are unhappy or unable to do; and to promote a smooth-running team and business.
Capello: 3/10 - It seems that the lack of communication and debriefing meant that player issues were not identified by coaches and helpers and relayed to management. As a result, Capello had no clear picture and was unaware that some were uncomfortable in their roles.
The task of integrating and coaxing a bunch of highly paid, individualistic footballers into a team - particularly in a cult of celebrity that panders to personalities – is clearly very difficult. The result is that football, in the England team’s mode, seemed to lack team spirit, continuity and clear expression. This proved unworkable on the pitch – and it is unworkable in business.
I believe that a good company is one whose staff have a common team-based goal, portray the same image, communicate the manager’s vision, and are rewarded for their good team effort – because the manager managed well. My conclusion is that England failed on most counts and that, ultimately, it was all down to the manager.
If you would like to read more tips and guidance about running a business, as reported in other articles in this series, visit our website: If you would like advice on management and business issues, do email me on and/or write to the TV bay editor.

Tags: iss043 | azule | business | finance | world cup | fabio capello | N/A
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