Two similar stories crossed my screens this week about winning ways to take over a new team. Today’s is from the all-conquering Arsenal football club under the early Wenger years. Tomorrow’s is from a supposed ‘turnaround’ at denim pioneers Levi’s.
Football team owners are forever changing their managers. Owners are so notoriously mercurial, that the average length of tenure in the professional game is ridiculously close to a single year.
For many new hires, the writing can be on the wall from virtually the moment they first take training. Most appointments are made in panic and haste. Most charges (the players) believe they are indispensable. If not where they are now, then surely somewhere ever more lucrative. And they have fat contracts to back up their ego.
I’ve heard plenty over the years about the new boss that on arrival gives the big speeches. “My way or the highway”. Putting the wind – actually, an entire winter of gales – up their underlings throughout their early days. Heralding drastic change of both the large and instant variety.
I’ve never liked these kinds of ‘leaders’.
So it was with relief I heard a former player praise the different behaviour of one such manager in this delicate position.
Arsenal centre-half Martin Keown was clearly impressed with new coach Arsene Wenger’s “softly softly approach”.
There were “no Churchillian speeches”. After all, they ‘run out over time’. (Deliver the “We’re gonna fight them …. we will prevail”, followed by no real improvement and their authority is also shot.) Instead, he flipped the pressure. He quietly made it that it was “the players who were on trial, not the manager”.
He did this by posting a list on the wall of each player’s slot for a 15 minute “interview” with him.
The defender only revealed that he was asked about what he needed or wanted. The focus was flipped onto them through their needs. Yet the impact was clear. Everyone knuckled down.
A fascinating alternative to the expected new broom sweeps which take no prisoners.
In charge of a new salesteam? What’s your equivalent here?
Perhaps a half-hour session, which asks;
where each member feels improvement can be made,
what more they’d want to achieve themselves,
how they will personally contribute,
where they want to get to and
what they’d expect to see have happened this time next year.
Assured. Measured. Determined. Focused.
A method that earns that most vital of elements, one that you cannot command but must earn; respect.
Then of course, execution (that’s your magic) should more easily follow.