Manchester United has been all over the news this week with the public sacking of the football club’s manager, David Moyes. Even if you’re not a sports fan it has been hard to miss.
Listening to the many view points about where it’s all gone wrong – from the Media, fans and former players – it’s notable that the tone of the feedback has been very different to that of his peer group. Fellow managers have shown nothing but sympathy for their colleague; questioning the way in which the club handled his dismissal and lamenting that he wasn’t given enough time to put his plans into place. For everyone else, it has been a much more emotive response; focused on the reputation of the man and whether he was ever a big enough name to lead a winning team the size of Manchester United.
This diversity isn’t surprising, given that one group are judging the situation from afar; whilst Moyes’ peer group are well aware of the challenges associated with taking over the reins of a well established team.
I can relate! My experience as a Store Manager with Habitat was such that with each promotion to a larger, more high profile branch, the challenges were amplified due to the increased level of importance placed on that Store by Senior Management and the greater numbers of staff involved.
The element that both hindered and supported my success in each managerial position was always the same: the team I inherited. The majority of employees would meet my appointment with mild indifference. They’d watch and wait to see how things panned out. They weren’t emotionally invested in the previous manager and had no reason, as yet to become invested in me.
There would always be a minority of employees who took an active dislike to me before I’d even set foot through the door. It wasn’t personal; it’s just that these people were fiercely loyal to their previous manager. So, it was always going to be an uphill battle turning these individuals into allies.
I have always taken pride in my ability to turn relationships around and would see it as a personal failing if I had to let someone go. In the short-term however, the amount of time and energy it took to build positive relationships with that minority was significant and inevitably took focus away from the bigger picture of increasing turnover for Habitat.
The disruptive elements in any business have a far bigger impact on results in the early days. One of Manchester United’s leading strikers is a good example of that. Robin Van Persie is widely believed to have won the Premier League single-handedly for Manchester United last season and you could see the satisfaction he took from his contribution, every time he played under Sir Alex Ferguson.
Under Moyes he has been a shadow of his former self; making significantly fewer appearances; having been out injured for large parts of the season and even refusing to play when declared fit by the club’s medical experts. So, here’s an individual who was committed to sir Alex; and it wouldn’t have mattered who succeeded him in the short-term, Van Persie was never going to play ball.
If you have too much disaffection from key employees – as is the case here – you can imagine how hard it’s going to be to turn things around in the short-term. Given the decline in results and the threat to future sales revenues it seems the club weren’t prepared to wait.
It sounds like Moyes was unable to convince the players – and ultimately Senior Management – of his plans and how he wished to translate work on the training ground into winning performances on the pitch.
So, what are the takeaways from this story?
Here are 5 top tips for developing win-win relationships:
HAVE A STRONG IDENTITY: First impressions count so when you take up a new leadership role, make an incisive contribution early on so that people get a sense of who you are as a leader
KNOW YOUR PERSONAL VISION: This means not being overly respectful of what went before; and having a clear idea of what YOU want for the business and how it will be better off because you were in it
DEVELOP A PASSION FOR PEOPLE: Take the time to engage with those happy enough to be led and find a way to connect with those whose loyalties lie elsewhere
COMMUNICATE YOUR PLANS: Especially the strong personalities and the key players. Find out what they want for the team and make sure that matches with what you’re looking for – and that it’s something the wider team wants
OWN YOUR MISTAKES: Learn from them and never make the same mistake twice
Numerous people have commented that David Moyes is a nice guy and a great Manager and that he was just not up to the job. I would be most unhappy to have that said about me. How about you?