I have a great deal in common with David Moyes. There are some areas where we differ of course. I don’t have to manage Shrek, I don’t have access to free track suits or dodgy coats and I don’t get my name splashed across every newspaper every time it doesn’t go well for me at work.
|Make The Inherited Team Work For You
Moyes, for those who live on Mars (or perhaps the US) is a football manager, the manager of possibly the biggest club in the world, Manchester United. Sounds great. Except he’s a football manager in his first season at the club. I am a programme manager. Specifically a programme manager who specialises in recovery. I land in troubled programmes and turn them around – or even sometimes terminate them.
The similarity lies in the loneliness, the isolation especially in the initial stages of the role. There are ways to alleviate this though as I will walk through later no in this post.
Moyes was presumably recruited by the chairman. A friendly, smiling face full of promises and smiles. Initial talk of ambition and plans, of positives and partnership. Bring in the programme sponsor. The guy wedded to the ambition and delivery of the programme but not necessarily wedded to the deliverer. He knows what he wants, will go to any length to get it but when it comes to it he isn’t that worried who delivers it. In both roles this guy treats you as expendable, merely a means to an end. Ultimately this person is not your friend…
Indirectly Moyes has another client that he must impress. The supporters. A recent survey puts the number of worldwide supporters that Moyes has to impress at 659 million. To be fair, I’ve never worked on a programme with 600 million users so I’m a bit behind there. But the similarities are there. The relationship with the supporters or the business into which you are delivering is always on a knife edge. They are reliant on you doing a good job and will back you vehemently when they see evidence of a good job being done. However, as soon as anything goes wrong they will be quick to criticise, to escalate and demand changes. A group of dissenters can gather momentum very quickly and whilst they do not generally have direct hire and fire power they certainly can influence.
Moyes inherited a team of players. In some ways he is better off than me in that Moyes inherited a team of world class players. Read into that what you will! The problem for Moyes is that they are not his choice of world class players, they do not necessarily play to his system and unfortunately the competition also has world class players. The last point means that in comparison they are average. I inherit teams. Generally pretty average team. One or two potential stars perhaps but in the main teams that don’t play to my system. Teams that don’t suit my style of management. Both Moyes and I are recruited primarily as people managers. Our abilities to produce results from a team are the primary reasons we get the job. Sure, we are experts in our trades, we know the fundamentals but then so do many other people. It’s the ability to get the people around you to deliver that marks us out from the crowd.
More importantly then, what do both Moyes and I need to do to deliver in such an environment?
The first piece of the jigsaw is perhaps a surprising one as it’s initially at least a non ‘work’ one. In order to succeed in this environment you need a friend. I’ve outlined above how whilst at any given time each of the groups might be supporting you, none are your friends. On arrival, you can trust no one and must not get too close to anyone. Three months down the line, you don’t know which employees you might be having conversations with about poor performance, you don’t know when you might have to deliver a hard to live with ultimatum to the chairman or your client and you don’t know when you might have that tough meeting with the business to let them know you won’t be delivering that much desired functionality or with the supporters to let them know your targets are not in line with their wishes. So until you have your right hand man in place, you need a clear idea of who externally you have to bounce ideas off, to motivate and inspire you and generally to get support from. To start a role without this is tough indeed.
Next comes team motivation. Moyes has an added constraint here. The transfer window. That means that player recruitment wise he is not only constrained by budget and the availability of his preferred team but is also constrained by the time windows in which he can recruit. The problem is similar though on both sides. You have to work with what you have and you need time to understand whether the players you inherit are capable of working in the way that you want them to. First impressions may be wrong. The way a team performed for a previous manager may be very different from the way that they perform for you. Getting the team onside early on and fighting for your cause is about setting out clearly your core beliefs, being very clear about what you want to achieve and how you aim to set about doing it. It’s about being tough when necessary but listening too. The bully boy tactics might create short term wins but never create a long term delivery structure. Mostly though it’s about taking the time to find out about the individuals. What inspires them, what are their concerns, dislikes and ambitions. Having these conversations not only establishes relationships but also starts to set out your long term goals. No point creating a style of play around the midfielder that is desperate to play for Real Madrid next year or the project manager who is looking to take a back seat. The key here though is to focus on motivation in the short term. These people may or not be in your long term plan. They are definitely part of your short term plan though and you will need each to perform as well as they can.
As soon as possible, it is vital to address the loneliness problem. To deliver in the long term, you need a trusted core team around you. People who absolutely buy into your vision and who have the ability to motivate and bring others along. Football managers and programme managers from consultancies often have the ability to create an instant Team structure. Increasingly when a manager joins a new club he will take his back room staff with him. He will walk into the new role an instant team around him. Consultancies will sell in the leadership layer as a way to kicking off a project quickly and early. I’m not a great fan of this approach though. If football or programmes were a repeatable process then this would be fine. However there are so many variables involved -the players, the budget, the ambition of the chairman – that each scenario Is different. To arrive with a management team means that you have one approach. To put your own repeatable model into play. To force the variables around you to act in the way that fits your model. It’s tough to get results this way but also it means you never get better. It’s a plateau model. You build your way of doing it and at best you repeat it. At worst you can’t force the resources into your shape and you end up failing. What you don’t do is create a better model each time.
The approach of arriving with an external sounding board, the inspirational friend, whilst tougher in the short term means that you have time to assess the situation before selecting the right team from your trusted contacts. It takes longer but you build a team that is accurately selected to address the challenges facing you and therefore a stronger long term team. One shouldn’t underestimate how quickly this needs to be done though. There is only a short period until the ‘trusted friend’ is too far removed and until the real storming within the team commences. By that point you need at least one person in that you trust and that shares your vision. Finally, your team around you should be people who are loyal to you. They should not be people who always agree with you. I have seen programmes fail due to leadership teams of yes men. If everyone is always going to agree, you may as well have one person.
The holy grail of all of this is time. Time to judge what you have in terms of resources available, time to build that loyal management team and time to start delivering and create an atmosphere of success. You can buy time though through an early deliverable. The absolute first thing to look for on any new project is how to deliver something high profile fast. Divert resource to that deliverable and stay with it until it’s complete. Once you have an early win in the bag, time to build will be made available.
Anyone for half time oranges?