MT EXPERT: Business lessons from Roy Hodgson

The man tasked with leading Eng-er-land to victory this summer has a management style completely at odds with his predecessors, says Garry Veale. Here's what you can learn from him.

by Garry Veale
Last Updated: 12 Jun 2014

Another World Cup, another England manager. Roy Hodgson has got the England team to Brazil, whipping the boys into shape, while at the same time rebuilding their spirit after their lacklustre performance in South Africa. But has he done enough? Has he got the balance of strictness and flair right? Whether England win or are knocked out in the first round, here’s what you can learn from Hodgson’s management style (its efficacy can be judged later…):

1. The fear factor doesn’t work

There is no doubt Fabio Capello’s totalitarian approach to management during the last World Cup tamed the team’s behaviour and rivalries. And who can blame him for this approach when he had to deal with the Wayne Bridge-John Terry affair and the Algeria match drinks fiasco? But the approach didn’t seem to kick-start the team’s talents: rather, it spread a wave of fear and uncertainty which led to nervousness and mistakes on the pitch. It’s worth remembering professionals, whatever their talent, will only perform to the best of their abilities if they feel confident and comfortable enough to do so.

2. … so build trust instead

On the other hand, Hodgson seems more willing to build trust and leave room for individuality. He wants to give team members the opportunity to play to their strengths and he trusts that they will perform, even if others doubt it. Despite Roy Keane’s criticism of Smalling and Jones, Hodgson has kept them in the squad.

The lesson here? While you might feel responsible for the end result, trust your team to know how they and each other are feeling. More often than not the team’s captain will get a better sense of team spirit sooner than the manager, largely due to their proximity to, and day-to-day interactions with, other team members. This applies in a business sense too.

3. Communication

As we all know, clear communication is vital in good team management.  You may think football players - and not just Wayne Rooney - do not need great eloquence from their managers and coaches: a few grunts should do it, (or a football boot if you’re of the Alex Ferguson school). But words of more than two syllables are important particularly when trying to rouse spirits.

While Hodgson is no Churchill and hasn’t yet stirred anyone with his oration, he has tried to play up an ‘I’m one of you’ attitude he hopes will speak to players in a way many European managers can’t. It will be interesting to see how this translates into World Cup success (or otherwise).

4. Team talk

Linked to this is the mythical ‘team talk’. Hodgson has reportedly been paying special attention to less experienced players, like Luke Shaw and Ross Barkley, in his pep talks, trying to build their confidence in front of the entire squad. Similarly business managers should always take the opportunity to talk to their teams and allow them to really get to grips with the objectives in hand. Giving them an insight into the positioning and tactics you plan to use will keep them engaged, develop their understanding, and give them something to work towards.

5. Feedback

The worst thing you can do as a manager is to not listen to what your team is telling you. During the last World Cup, Capello learnt this after England’s disastrous second match. Not ‘hearing’ his team led to the ‘Cape Town Coup’, with Terry and other senior players making a very public stand against him.

While you won’t always be expected to act on every bit of feedback you get from your team, they do need to feel that you’re listening and taking it all on board. Otherwise frustration can lead to rash decisions and dire consequences, of which there are countless examples: Zinedine Zidane head-butting Marco Materazzi during the 2006 final, Becks kicking Diego Simeone in 1998, Roy Keane walking out on the Irish team also in 2006 – the list goes on and on…

6. Dealing with the Group of Death

Making the best of what you have is all about flexibility and adaptability. As Hodgson’s face showed when England was drawn in Group D, the team certainly won’t have an easy ride in Brazil. One could argue that since 1966, many things seem to have gone against England, from Peter Bonetti taking over from Gordon Banks in 1970 to Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ goal in 1986 and the disallowed goal against the USA in 2010.

Yet managers have to work with what they’ve got. For example, while this squad won’t have Sturridge’s usual pairing of Suarez, Hodgson’s plans to partner Sturridge with Rooney could have as good an effect. And let’s see what the electrolyte drinks tailored to each player’s sweat pattern does in the 99% humidity of Manaus.

7. Celebrate a win

England didn’t have much to celebrate at the last World Cup (and the team had already been taken on a safari holiday before the tournament even began) but hopefully this time will be better. If England does well, Hodgson will most certainly provide great celebrations for them. In our post-recession economy, managers would not do badly to organise their own version of this – a bit of reward and team-bonding always helps drive loyalty.

8. Have a dream…

It is important to be realistic, but still have a dream. You may think England’s chances of lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy this time are next to nil, but recall Cameroon in 1990: an unheralded team made up mostly of second- and third-division players who beat World Cup champions, Argentina, led by none other than Maradona. OK, they didn’t win, but it’s that ‘against the odds spirit’ I’m talking about.

- Garry Veale is president of Avaya Europe.

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