Category: Coaching


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.

In the past decade management gurus and the media have advocated that the “secret sauce” to success lies in becoming a leader not a manager.

Management has almost become a dirty word despite the fact that management is the essential component of delivering any leader’s vision. (See my blog defining leadership and management).  The net result of all this is leadership is now regarded as more sexy and seductive than management; more senior executives aspire to be leaders than managers.  This misconception comes at a significant loss in corporate performance.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jos Wintermans, the former CEO of Canadian Tire Acceptance Limited. Jos has successfully led more than a dozen companies during his career.  He likened leadership to a “Mars Bar” – providing a spike of energy or enthusiasm to embolden employees but it fails to sustain in longer term.  He explained that as the impact of leadership fades, so does the enthusiasm and energy within an organization. Management, he explained, is the discipline that sustains energy and enthusiasm within an organization.  It ensures that employees remain engaged, focused and energized and always able to do their best work.

I am not saying that leadership is unimportant.  Leaders point the way forward and describe the road ahead with energy that engages employees. But, after this rhetoric has faded the real hard work of implementation and execution of the plan starts.  It’s all about management.

I believe all CEOs have to face, and understand, that the higher you rise in an organization and the more employees you manage, the more management matters.  Management for chief executives – what I describe as CEO Management – enables you to best utilize every resource at your disposal in order for your organization to achieve its stated goals.  Let me go back to Jos’s comment about Mars Bars.  To effectively prevent the initial enthusiasm and energy from failing, CEOs need to identify the obstacles that hinder their employees’ effectiveness and then implement the required management systems to overcome them.

In the long term employees do not really care how charismatic you are as a leader.  They care about their immediate work environment and their ability to get their work done.  Fix their immediate challenges for them – the job of management – and you will have highly engaged employees.

There exist CEOs who strut up and down the auditorium stage telling their employees what a wonderful future they have and how new systems will enable them to do more with less… but then ignore the critical work of managing their business. Nothing will change in the immediate world of work for their employees.  The same challenges will remain that prevent them doing their best work, and employees will start to disconnect from the strategic plan, as management clearly do not intend on addressing the issues that compromise their ability to do good work and succeed.

Ignoring the management of your business is in effect implementing a long-term employee disengagement strategy!  What steps will you take today to improve your organization’s performance?

Nick Forrest

The two words leadership and management are probably the most ambiguous words in the lexicon of the business world. I believe defining these two words are at the heart of the meaning of the work, and success, of a chief executive officer.

As a CEO or senior executive you have to choose your words carefully. It is your job to effectively “launch a thousand ships” and, in doing so, know when to lead and when to manage. I often ask my clients to define the meaning of Leadership and Management.  The answers are hardly ever consistent. And my clients have strong differing views!  These need to be debated in order to establish a collective understanding and agreement of “how we will manage our company”.

My definition of leadership is about pointing the way; whereas management is how you get to your destination.  To use a football analogy, leadership is getting the team fired up before kick-off. Management is selecting the plays and getting the players to execute them in order to move the chains down the field 10 yards at a time. It requires everybody to understand what is being communicated.

The rules of language apply to all levels of management.  As a chief executive you need  choose a philosophy of management, a language, principles, processes, and structure.  You must then practice them for the rest of your professional career, developing an expertise and an ability to lead and manage in a deeply effective way.

I call this the Craft of CEO Management.

CEO Management is the lifelong pursuit of mastery in an executive’s chosen profession.  Part of achieving excellence in any profession is the requirement to be precise in the meaning of the language of the profession so that everybody understands what is being said.  The profession of management is profoundly poor at this.  It is beset with jargon, there is no universal agreement on the definition and collective meaning of words or language, and is laxly applied.  The existing vocabulary is continually being undermined by jargon.

We’ve all seen what happens when this happens on the football field – when team members misunderstand what the play call is or what route they are running!

CEO Management requires you to design and manage your company environment to maximize your employees’ understanding of their work,  their effectiveness and efficiency. This framework enables them to do their best work. The larger the group of employees, the greater the payback is for doing this. However, the larger the number of employees, the larger the risk of failure if there a clear framework does not exist.

Make the way you choose to manage uniform throughout your company. Give your both your managers and their staff the gift of consistency and clarity of language, principles and process.  They will respond with increased effectiveness and productivity.

To learn the language of effective CEOs, check out How Dare You Manage? Seven Principles For Closing The CEO Gap.

Nick Forrest

I had the pleasure of conducting a course this week on coaching. In the audience were 20 smart, motivated, and keen managers – some new to the role, some experienced. Many of them told me: “We’re told to coach, but no-one has given us a framework on how to do it.”

This was a common refrain of managers 30 years ago, and it’s still cropping up today. (“Coaching” may have been called “supporting your employees” back then, though.) I believe that managers are under even more pressure today to coach their direct reports, but are given no training, no support, and no time to do so.

And when managers do find the time to coach their employees, they are often not recognized for doing, well, what they are supposed to do.

But establishing a coaching culture in an organization is the most sure-fire route to engaging employees and achieving high performance.

Don’t agree with me? Consider these points:

  • coaching builds capability at all levels of the organization
  • through coaching, a manager has the opportunity to clarify the organization’s vision with the employee and get them to buy into it
  • through coaching, a manager can address issues regarding goal execution, performance, and innovation

Some managers fear those difficult conversations required to improve performance. But it’s part of their job! So, managers of managers, talk to your people about coaching. Determine a framework on how to get it done. And support your managers with resources, time, and recognition when they get it done right.

Nick Forrest