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Link between leadership & performance – the case of David Moyes

Last week Manchester United announced the sacking of David Moyes after only 10 months in charge. Such a short tenure is not unusual for a football club but it has become high profile as David Moyes succeeded the hugely successful Sir Alex Ferguson, and led the club to their worse finish in Premiership history.

Ceridian’s Marketing Manager, and lifelong Manchester United fan, Jeremy Levene, looks at what we can learn from this in our organisations; how the performance of a sporting team and the role of their leader can relate back to the commercial world.

The link between the manager, their team, engagement and performance

Many people have criticised the players of Manchester United, for not being at the top of their game; not caring enough and not reaching the level of performance that they showed the previous season when they won the league. However, when we work with organisations to try and understand the link between engagement and performance there is always a trend in strong management performance and the performance of their teams. A manager therefore should be accountable for the performance of their team. They are responsible for motivating them, performance managing them, and developing them. If one team has an engagement score of say 80% and another where the manager is not as strong, say 75%, there is a big difference in the performance of the team – in sport those percentages are huge.

You should use analytical tools to compare engagement scores and staff performance. Look at the managers who are performing best, learn what they are doing and implement the learnings across the organisation – then look at how the performance of your company improves.

Succession planning

Sir Alex Ferguson was manager of Manchester United for 27 years and the most successful manager in the club’s history. As he approached retirement, questions could be asked whether they planned sufficiently around his replacement. This was made worse when Chief Executive David Gill stepped down at the same time. So, do you know who your future leaders are in your organisation and are you preparing them now for those roles?

Recruiting talent to create a well balanced team

The balance and make up of a team in football is extremely important. You need players that fit into the style, tactics and character chosen by the manager. If you do not get this right, you will not achieve success. This is no different in business. David Moyes did not play the same team twice, so appeared unsure as to what his style of play, formation and talent was. Do you have the right people in the right roles, and crucially do they understand where they fit into the team and the organisation?

When Ceridian developed its talent management approach, it came up with a model – Character +KnowHow = Impact. The ‘Character’ refers to our values and behaviours – ‘the way we do things’ and the ‘KnowHow’ refers to skills, expertise and knowledge – ‘what we do’. If you refer this to sport, the character is very much developed by the manager of the team (in the case of Sir Alex Ferguson it was a hard-working, never give up character) and the KnowHow the tactical ability and skill of the players. The balance between these is key – a successful team cannot have one without the other.

Supporting the manager and developing them

Finally, many individuals get promoted to management roles due to their technical skills. In the case of football this could be a newly retried player going into a management role. But just because they have the technical skills, it does not necessarily mean they will be a good manager. They need support and training with dealing with such tasks as performance management. Think about what management training you have in place. Mentoring can also work well. In the case of David Moyes, he would have benefited from coaching and mentoring from Sir Alex Ferguson.

Football management is a harsh and stressful job but football clubs could benefit from taking learnings from the commercial world. If Manchester United had done so, who knows David Moyes could still be manager.

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  • 23rd April 2014
  • HR
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