By popular request: what happened to David Moyes?

April 25, 2014

MacBeth wikipediaThe dismissal of David Moyes as Manager of Manchester United in April 2014 was both expected and unexpected.

It was expected

It was expected when media reports [April 21st 2014] announced his imminent departure, days after a Premier League defeat of his team, confirming there would be no European Cup matches next season.

Campaigns for his removal were gaining pace from disgruntled fans through the media. By mid-afternoon, a perfect storm was brewing on Twitter. A few scraps of information were repeatedly retweeted. ‘Moyes sacked. Moyes is about to be sacked. Moyes will be sacked soon/at the weekend/at the of the season.’

It was unexpected

It was unexpected because despite the poor record of the team, Moyes had been appointed as the choice of the departing Manager, the iconic and hugely successful Sir Alex Ferguson. He was understood to have been chosen for the long-term. In an emotional farewell speech to a packed stadium at Old Trafford, Sir Alex urged fans to get behind the newly-chosen one. His own last season had been a triumph of psychology over the aging legs of his team which finished Premier League champions.

Neither expected nor unexpected considerations took account of the preoccupations of the owners of the club, the American entrepreneurs, the Glazers. Their financial model has been widely recognized as involving finance of a creative kind to reduce their entrepreneurial risks When results disappointed, Moyes would have been seen as adding to the riskiness of their investment. Ten months into his long-term contract, he was toast.

‘It were well done quickly ‘

The club confirmed through Twitter the following morning that Moyes had been dismissed. It turned out he had been told the news very early that morning.

The timing was said to have been chosen to meet the requirements of information released to investors on the NY Stock markets.

The hunt for red assassins

I was surprised at the extent of the coverage of the story locally and globally. The early print editions of the British media had given it high visibility on the sports pages, writing as if his immediate dismissal was certain before the official announcement.

The early morning news bulletins followed suit, clearing the way for interviews with assorted pundits and players. When the news broke, the hunt for the assassins began. MacBeth morphed into Julius Caesar.

The poisoned chalice

Someone contacted me suggesting I should write about the poisoned chalice that David Moyes had received. Or hospital pass, I replied, remembering a tweet I received on the topic. Incidentally, the poisoned chalice is mentioned in the soliloquy by MacBeth which begins ‘if it were done when tis done….’

Another colleague wondered whether Moyes had indicated through his body language that he was not convinced that he was up to the job? Maybe, although there is something of a catch 22 around that line of questioning. Any authentic leader would recognize the foolishly high expectations of the fans on match day and as the game was being played. Anyone with super confident body language would likely be deluded or faking it.

The routinization of charisma

I go back to the pronouncement of Sir Alex regarding the appointment of his successor. In leadership terms, the former leader was deploying his emotional credit banked with the fans. It is known as an attempt to achieve the routinization of charisma. Sir Alex had acquired enormous credibility for his near miraculous powers of leadership. Much was attributed to the mystique of his charismatic personality. In practice, dilemmas arise, not least as the fans/followers reflect more rationally over the credibility of the replacement.

This analysis does not investigate the motives behind the appointment of David Moyes. Nor does it reflect on his tactical judgements of team selection and on-field substitutions. I leave the former to speculation by media pundits, and the latter to the larger number of pundits also known as football fans. What does seem to make sense is that the leadership issues at Manchester Unite can hardly be reduced to a simple error of judgement either in the selection of David Moyes, or in his dismissal.

Acknowledgements

To Susan Moger, Paul Haslam, Paul Hinks, Keven Holton, Ewan Leith, who were among colleagues who encouraged me put some ideas down for discussion on this fascinating leadership issue. To Wikipedia for the poster image of MacBeth.

Watch this space for further updates

April 25, 2014

Edward Spalton says:

Probably the best comment on this episode was by Richard North of eureferendum.com. that UKIP should try to recruit Moyes because he got United out of Europe in ten months.


Dealing with performance anxiety: the Coach’s dilemma

February 4, 2014

FencingDealing with performance anxiety has been a major issue in the development of a science of sport management. The knowledge gained is contributing to understanding of choking and under-performance across the sporting spectrum

I recently asked a [very small] sample of contacts whether performance anxiety and its management were important in coaching their sport. Here are few responses:

Football

In football, reckless tackling is deemed career-threatening and met with assorted bans and other sanctions. Although sometimes this is deliberate it is loss of control often through pressures to perform. Weak penalty kicks would be another example. Routines that work in practice influenced by performance anxiety.

Rugby

Rugby Union is a sport which prides itself in the traditional sporting values of personal discipline and respect for the referee’s authority. The violence, as in other contact sports, is mostly channeled legally into man on man hits. But there are still surprising episodes of grievous bodily harm. Off-field skullduggery are also known including coaches fixing blood injuries to obtain player substitutions. Nor is violence a product of the sport’s recent professionalization. One of the most-quoted injunctions was from a coach in the era of amateur rugby who urged his players to ‘get your retaliation in first‘.

Tennis

Non-contact sports create fewer opportunities for the release of a competitor’s tension through physical aggression. In Tennis, much aggression is directed towards explosive attack on the ball. If that fails, an attack on the racquet becomes a back-up strategy for some players. The action is subject to sanction, but the punishment is minor.

One tennis player who rejects the release provided by racquet-smashing is Chinese star Li Na.

Golf

Golf, in common with other non-contact ball sports [such as snooker, pool, ] requires execution of well-grooved routines which can break down under performance anxiety. In golf, the breakdown of routines particularly in putting is famously known as the Yips. The medical condition is considered a kind of small muscle fatigue. Similar breakdowns of performance are known in the world of music among violinists.

Fencing

William Thompson is a qualified fencing coach. He outlined how a leading international trainer dealt with performance anxiety:

“I studied fencing under Professor Robert Anderson who died in 2013. He explained to me that his role as the coach of the British Olympic team was to remove all stress and performance anxiety:

‘My foot ware is causing a problem,’ Coach: We will change your foot ware.
‘There is noise from the room next door and I cannot sleep,’ Coach: We will move your room.
‘My training partner does not seem motivated,’ Coach: We will change your partner.
Performance stress has its observable symptoms. The coach’s job is to address these symptoms and remove them.”

Obsession and performance anxiety

Overall, the accounts suggest that performance anxiety of players is a major issue for coaches across a variety of sports. Probably the obsessive drive to achieve among top athletes is a mixed blessing.


Engish football reunited with Jose Mourinho

June 4, 2013

This was the week that Jose Mourinho was reappointed manager of Chelsea football club. We look back at the period when he was abandoned for the first time

The earlier post [Dec 2007] built on a TV documentary which was striking in its demonstration of a charismatic leadership style.

Read the rest of this entry »


Chess provides excellent leadership lessons in the 2013 Candidates Tournament

April 6, 2013

The qualifying battles to become world chess champion in London this year showed why chess is considered an excellent metaphor for the processes of strategic decision-making

Magnus CarlsenI have often blogged about the merits of chess as a metaphor for strategic thinking. The last three weeks [March 14th – April 1st 2013] reinforced my beliefs.

The Candidates Tourney

London hosted the qualifying competition, with the winner going to a one-on-one shootout with current world champion Vishy Anand of India. In the UK, news coverage prior to the tournament was extremely limited. In contrast, chess enthusiasts had excellent live streaming of all games on specialized sites.

Watching live

For those with time to spend, you could watch the battles live in the afternoons (starting time 2pm local time). The format was our matches each day played simultaneously, with all eight contenders in action. This made it easy for the expert commentators (mostly grand-masters) to chat happily about moves played and about to be played, working their way from match to match. The technology did not quite work, but the commentators coped with the gliches well, particularly in the last hour of the last day, when the result still depended on the remaining two games. It seems an estimated million chess players world- wide had seized up the servers.

The Chess Federation [FIDE} website captured the tension of the last round of matches:

Magnus Carlsen [image above from wikipedia: Ed] won the FIDE Candidates’ Tournament in London on Monday after a bizarre finish of what has become a historic event for chess. Both the Norwegian and the other leader, Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, unexpectedly lost their game in the final round, and so they remained tied for first place and Carlsen won on the second tie-break rule: higher number of wins. This means that in the next title match, World Champion Viswanathan Anand will face Carlsen.

Marketability

The few popular news stories concentrated on Carlsen’s extreme youth, and marketability for himself and the game of Chess. “No problem with finding a sponsor for the World Championship” one commentator chortled.

Bizarre end

When the technology was restored, the rest of the chess world learned that Carlson had lost a game in which he had played weakly his standards as the highest rated player in the World. He could still be overtaken by former World Champion Kramnik who also seemed to be losing. After a nervous wait, Kramnik resigned, and Carlsen was declared winner.

Chess lesson

I am still reflecting on the lessons for strategic leaders offered by the players and their commentators. Carlsen, utterly fatigued at the press conference immediately after he had learned of Kramnik’s loss added one new lesson [for me, anyway]. “We were all tiring in the last rounds. My sense of danger weakened.” Worth remembering by business leaders needing to deal with their dilemmas…