The Blog


Mourinho directs his troops

Image, ‘Mourinho directs his troops’ copyright Flickr user Ronnie McDonald. Used under Creative Commons.

As a Chelsea supporter the team’s poor start to the Premier League season has been hard to watch.  Having won the Premier League title last season, this season the team stands at 15 out of 20 teams – something unheard of for a team of generally used to be in the Top 3.  They keep on losing and losing badly and the normal action of owners in the premier league when a team’s performance declines precipitously has been to fire the manager.

How things play out in the next month at Chelsea will determine how it will go for the next five years.

A common problem

As somebody who coaches CEOs on both leadership and management the challenges facing the club are commonplace within large organizations.  CEOs have big plans which they expect their managers to deliver.  Abramovich’s vision for the club is one of long-term domination of the game. He has also stated that they must achieve a Top 4 standing in this years league in order to be eligible for the Champions League Tournament the prestigious European Knockout competition for the top clubs.

As in many large organizations the problem is largely one of differing expectations and unclear accountabilities – the vision determines how managers manage, rather than management successes being seen as a means to the long-term vision and when things don’t go to plan the Chief Executive applies pressure on managers to perform, rather than trusting in the talent and creating an environment, in which they can do their best work.

This environment cannot be created while the threat of being shown the door hangs over every performance. Abramovich has demonstrated leadership and set to rest any suggestion that Mourinho’s future at the club is in doubt – at least in the short-term.  He then needs to allow his manager to manage the talent available to him in order to deliver both the short-term league success and the owner’s long-term vision.

Blame the manager

Chelsea have had 11 managers in as many years.  The Club’s board has never seemed to take a long term view and as a result appears despite the huge capital investments made in talented players, is incapable of building an organization with the long term potential to become a world class soccer club – a force to be reckoned with. Does Abramovich support a culture of deliver or die or does he create a culture that enables his manager – a manager with a huge track record of success and is loved by all the Chelsea fans – to be given space to address the challenges of his under performing players.

Chelsea Football Club is a business.  A large business with major capital investments.  Its employees need consistency and stability to deliver results.  Abramovich needs to ensure that the “current storm of losses” can be managed through.  His employees need consistency, stability and clarity if they are going to deliver results.  The last thing he should do now is throw his manager overboard.  He does that and yet again any possibility to build and implement a long term strategy is ashes.

Having done this the confidence this will be achieved, of both the manager and his players, should improve.  As a result, the on-field performances are likely to improve and.  This was unlikely while there was a question over Mourinho’s future.

I think this is the right decision.

Leadership & Management

Solving the problem at Chelsea requires both leadership and management. It requires Abramovich and Mourinho to work together, rather than independently. Turning things around on the pitch needs to be Mourinho’s accountability.  Creating a culture that allows him to do it requires Abramovich to demonstrate leadership.