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Which side are you on boys?



More regular that Halley’s Comet comes England’s elimination from the World Cup and once again there will be much discussion and hand wringing about the reasons behind it and finger-pointing all round.  No doubt another manager will be sacked and a huge compensation package paid and we start all over again.  With debates about how relaxed or strict the regime should be, whether a beer is allowed or not and how many nights with the WAGs is justifiable.

All of this seems to me to overlook the main issue which is startlingly similar to one that I face at work.  They are not a team.  When Jamie Carragher said that he valued playing for his club more than his country there was an outcry.  When asked the question “World Cup or Champions League?” on a kids TV show, Wayne Rooney answered “Champions League”.  But are they just not being honest?

I was sitting with a board member the other day and I asked him a simple question, “who is your team?” He started to talk about the people who report into him and the areas that he is responsible for. He didn’t talk about his fellow board members.  I tested it out on another board member and again the same thing happened.  The simple truth is that their affiliation, their loyalty and their focus is placed in one team and not another – in this case it is Company vs Group in the football it is Club vs Country.

Add to this the fact that we reward and recognise for the Company performance and what do you expect? I’m no expert on football financials, but I can’t help thinking that the bonus a player would receive from reaching the Champions League final would far outweigh the money they would get for a World Cup final. Not to mention the sponsorship deals and the fact that it comes around each year so you get another bite at the cherry.

Although it is easier for me to start to change things and to try to realign the senior team, I’m facing  many of the same battles.   The culture is ingrained, there is a reluctance to change and the organisation and establishment is brittle and immobile.  On the positive side, I have control over the entirety, whereas there is no one overarching body looking after both clubs and country for football. 

We could change the CEO (now there’s a thought!) time and time again, we could tease and cajole and try to conjure up a slightly stronger team ethos, but unless we tackle the way that people are organised and rewarded we will be rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic.

If you want change, you need to address the underlying culture. Either that, or our players are just shit…….

8 Comments leave one →
  1. 06/28/2010 08:58

    I think they were just shit! This makes a great point on team view. “team Me” first, “team mine” second and “team all” last. Not sure that this does not apply to most firms.

  2. 06/28/2010 09:52

    Really enjoyed this post, HRD. Great point about executive teams – and a test worth anyone carrying out.

    • ianpbuckingham permalink
      06/28/2010 10:32

      I started reading this thinking “here we go, more rock throwing from the sidelines” by the tribes who inhabit this island and pathetically glory in each other’s misery . But working through the snide asides you make some very good points about teamwork in general.

      As far as the football is concerned, of course that group of players aren’t “crap”.
      The root cause of sporting underachievement on these islands generally is unquestionably the fact that we don’t truly value sport at school compared to other countries or we would have a deeper pool of talent to draw from. But typically, the “establishment” of outrageous idiots look to academies and throw money at the issue. It’s not working for tennis, why should it work for football? Until children want to kick about a tennis ball on a park we’ll never foster basic talent!

      As far as teamwork at the office is concerned….well your previous post on trust says it all.
      Culture, as you rightly point out, is key. But when our organisations see employees as costs rather than assets; reward short term goals rather than medium term focus and promise one set of values to citizens; employees (and customers) but exhibit a contradictory set of values there’s no surprise that something is rotten at the core of the team whether it’s the sporting team (insert England; Scotland; Wales or Ireland) or corporate team.

      Sporting culture is a reflection of national culture which in turn influences corporate culture. Underlying culture can be influenced and changed over time as you imply.
      But are we really being honest about the prevailing culture on these islands versus differing perceptions of how we believe things should be to generate the goodwill which makes life more fulfilling for as many of us as possible?

  3. Aussie HR Chick permalink
    06/28/2010 23:24

    Great post HRD…….

    at least you won the cricket, right?

  4. 06/29/2010 07:21

    @Bill Boorman – I think it probably does to a greater or lesser extent. I wonder whether the trick isn’t to contain it rather than solve it?

    @Martin Couzins – Thanks Martin. I’m extending the test out surreptitiously…….

    @ianpbuckingham – I’m not sure I agree in terms of sport. Cricket as (Aussie HR Chick) points out is a good example of where we have managed to turn the tide. But it still isn’t played by nearly half as many children as football. And is this really a British problem? What about Cycling? What about Sailing? We have brilliant track records in those. Are these individuals not subject to the same cultural influences?

    @Aussie HR Chick – Well seeing as you brought it up…..3 out of 3 I think? Aussies playing for honour? Thanks for the kind comment.

  5. 06/29/2010 13:27

    Good points well made – but why does it need to be “either/or”, why can’t it be “and”? Isn’t that the underlying problem, that we see everything so one dimensional, so clear cut instead of understanding that everything is connected.

  6. 06/29/2010 14:10

    They can do as much hand wringing and excusing themselves and apportioning blame as they like – the fact of the matter is that at the end of the day we were rubbish :o)

    You have hit the nail on the head on the teamwork front. Like a senior management team you have a group of people who have different priorities and perceptions who usually don’t work together, but bring all the pieces together in a (hopefully) harmonious whole. We have our team meetings & informal chats at which we communicate to each other what we’re doing right and wrong, make team decisions & discuss the issues of the day and ideally our leader makes sure we’re all pointing in generally the same direction. Then we all go our seperate ways again to get on with what we do best, hopefully aided by the feedback of our colleagues and a general knowledge of what everyone else is doing.

    But when the communication options are limited it can all go a bit pear-shaped. I actually think in this case the ‘CEO’ scored an own goal by cutting down on their social time – it’s in this time that the team give each other more honest feedback in a more relaxed environment where they feel more comforatble telling each other when they’ve been a bit of an idiot & what they should have done differently.

    You’ve mentioned getting the teamwork, organisation and reward right – and quite rightly so, but I would add that getting the communication right is crucial too.

  7. 07/01/2010 07:24

    @Felix Wetzel – Thanks fro taking the time to comment Felix. You are of course right, it is understanding which hat you are wearing in each scenario that is important. But perhaps it is also understanding that wearing different hats is ok?

    @HR Harriet – Completely agree on the communication point. Getting to know one another helps when the time comes and your backs are against the wall. If you like someone then you will surely go that extra mile?

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