Sporting chances

first_img Previous Article Next Article Can the games people play really add value to business and coachingscenarios?It had to happen. British business has long turned to sport for models ofinspiration and motivation and has been kicking around with tennis and golfingparallels for the past 30 years. Now it is football’s turn to take the winner’spodium and supply a fresh perspective on the challenges facing modernorganisations. A new book, The 90-minute manager – business lessons from the dugoutsuggests that ‘the beautiful game’ can offer answers to classic modernmanagement questions such as: – how to create team spirit – what makes top talent want to work for a particular manager Authors David Bolchover and Chris Brady look at the key personalitycharacteristics that define a great talent manager and examine whether theideal manager of a winning football team is different from that for astruggling team. So why is football relevant? Bolchover and Brady argue that business is‘making the journey’ that football did many years ago, because it is finallyrealising the importance of the highly visible manager, as football always has.They argue that because a growing impatience with bureaucracy means business ismoving towards the openness and visibility which football has always possessed,management performance will be more measurable and the positive effect of a goodmanager will be more obvious. They also believe that the ‘transitional nature’ of the roles withinfootball, in which players are instantaneously transformed from attackers todefenders and vice versa, reflects the dynamism of today’s corporate giants. The book works well as an introduction to management principles. It makesgood reading material for line managers on issues such as creating teams anddemarcations within management. It is also useful for bringing a fresh view onunderstanding the talent economy, but ultimately can football, or any sport, bea valid tool for understanding business or are we in danger of transferring thenational obsession with sport into the workplace just for the sake of it? “Football is an eye-opener,” says Warwick Business School’s DrSusan Bridgewater, who has been working with football managers and coaches todevelop their skills as club managers. A programme of distance learning andclassroom sessions, sponsored by bodies such as the FA Premier League, willlead to a University of Warwick Certificate in Applied Management. Bridgewater believes business managers would be shocked if they looked atthe pressures facing their counterparts in football. “Football managers have a relatively short timescale to prove themselves,”she says. “And they have to do this in the spotlight. The average managersin a large organisations have much longer to make their mark than theirfootball counterparts and are unlikely to be sacked instantly if they makemistakes.” Bridgewater believes football managers have to command a bewildering numberof skills. “They need leadership ability, teambuilding and negotiationskills and have to quickly master public speaking,” she says. “Theyalso need to be adept at multicultural management and be able to quickly bindplayers of different nationalities to work as a team.” Ultimately, she believes, football is one of a number of tools whichbusiness can turn to. “It is another source of ideas,” she says.”Business needs to find examples of good practice wherever they can.”At CGR Business Psychologists, principal consultant Sarah Macpherson agreesthat sporting, and especially football, analogies have their uses. “A lotof businesses seem to like these comparisons,” she says. “They helptrainees remember key points from a course and work well in terms ofacceptability in a male environment.” Sporting terms, for example, can prevent training from seeming ‘fluffy’, shesays. “Male managers respond really well to talk of goals and winning,just as they like rugby phrases such as ‘tackling the issues’ and golfing talkabout ‘business handicaps’. However, courses which take in a female audienceneed to carry a broader range of references.” Women can be turned off by sporty talk, says Macpherson, because they tendto be less overtly competitive and don’t need to identify as strongly withpopular heroes. “They can also feel that sporting analogies arereinforcing a macho culture,” she adds. Another danger when trying to apply sporting metaphors to business isgetting too hung up on the concept of the sports coach, cautions managingdirector of the School of Coaching David Webster. “The common view of sports coaches in the UK is someone who shouts fromthe touchline,” he says, adding that it is madness to try to apply thisapproach in business. Webster advocates sensitive and appropriately non-directive coachingtechniques and defines the level of business performance that participantsshould be aiming for as “relaxed concentration, such as when tennis is goingwell.” Both Macpherson and Bridgewater see sport as just one of the tools forbusiness to enrich its thinking, and believe the trainer needs to draw on othermetaphors and references too. As Webster says: “In sport, the game is well-defined. Businesses don’thave that because part of a leader’s role is to define ‘the game’. Sport is ananalogy for life”, he says. “It’s not life”. Sporting chancesOn 1 Jul 2002 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.last_img

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