Interview with Soccer Team Manager
The first interview we conducted was of a manager of a club soccer team. The recommendation to meet him was given to me by a friend who plays for this club. The manager has been in charge for the past six months and the team has seen a pleasantly surprising turnaround in their performances. The club’s players really respect him for what he has done for the club. We spent a few hours at the club’s training session. The details of our observation are shown below.
Our day with the club started with a casual chat with the manager about what different has he been able to do from the other managers. He was very modest about what he has achieved and gave all the credit to the hard work of the players. This showed that, as a leader, he was not taking all the credit for the success, but sharing the success with his players and other staff.
He said that when he joined the club as manager, he brought a vision. The vision was not to win. The vision was to give the players a chance to enjoy the sport. There had been too much pressure on the players to win. In the process, they had forgotten to enjoy the sport they loved. Once he taught the players to enjoy soccer, the wins would come automatically. That is exactly what happened. As a leader, he had a vision which he shared with his players. He used his communication skills to put the message across to the players. The idea was to put it across so effectively that the players believed in the vision as much as he did himself.
During our time with the manager, we got the chance to attend the manager’s lecture during the team meeting. It was more of a motivational speech. He believed that all his players were skillful and determined enough to achieve anything they wished for. The thing that was missing was the belief; the belief that they could do it. In the meeting, the manager talked about his faith in their abilities and that he hadn’t seen a more capable club team in his long career. The manager, playing the role of the leader, was trying to motivate the players by instilling belief in the players that they had the potential to achieve what they had set off for. If nothing else, the lecture at least charged them up for the practice session.
During the practice session, two players got into a fight. They were engaged in a fistfight when the manager arrived at the scene. The other players separated them and tried to cool them off. The manager took both of them to the office. Later in the day, we asked the manager about his talk with the two players. The manager said that he was successful in diffusing the tension between the two players. He made them realize that their personal differences were hurting the overall objective of the team and, in turn, their own professional growth as soccer players. He talked about the soccer team being one big family and that everybody has to get along with each other, whether they like it or not.
He ended his chat with the two players by clarifying that he would throw out misbehaving players but not compromise on the team’s discipline. His way of dealing with the situation was firm and compassionate at the same time. He let the two players know that he was concerned about them and their effect on the team’s morale. He tried to make them realize their mistake. But at the same time, he also gave the idea that he will not put individuals above the team if they failed to overcome their personal conflicts. This demonstrated his handy negotiation skills as a leader.
During the drinks break at the training, he noticed that two players had not showed up for the session. He inquired his players about those who hadn’t turned up. He was told that one of them was ill. The manager immediately pulled out his cell phone to call the player. It was a gesture of great empathy from his side and the player appreciated it.
Now we were starting to understand the reason why he was regarding as such an extraordinary coach. He probably possesses the same technical knowledge about the game which all other coaches have. According to him, the coaching courses they are required to take are pretty standard and there is not much difference between what the coaches learn during the coaching courses. But it is his man management skills which sets him apart from other coaches. According to him, a soccer team manager’s job is to take out the best from his players; make sure that they play to their potential. For that, it is very important to keep the players motivated, mentally and physically fit and raring to go. His self confidence and clarity about his job description makes him even more effective in doing his job. We saw that he has impressive social skills as he is able to bond well with the players. This is another very important trait which should be present in a leader.
Overall, it was a very good experience to meet the manager. We felt that it was interesting to see the application of leadership principles in an unorthodox environment like a soccer club.
Interview with Electronic Engineer
To fulfill the criteria of meeting two people for the assignment, we decided to meet an electronics engineer working in firm which manufactures electronic equipment such as circuit boards and chips for other organizations. Our contact is working as a Manager. We met him at his office which is located at the manufacturing plant. According to him, his job is to lead a cross functional team which designs new products by carrying out research and development on possible and existing products and ideas. The team is also supposed to work on ideas brought in by the customers.
We got a chance to attend one of the meetings as observer where we saw how the manager interacted with the team. According to what we observed, the manager turned out to be an active and intent listener. He asked for the progress on different projects from the engineers and commended them on their achievements. During the meeting, we also saw that he was in complete control of the matters and he looked a natural leader, which is a very important trait for an aspiring leader to have.
The manager’s creativity can be seen by the fact that he has introduced a new system to help him evaluate the performances of his team. Instead of doing all the evaluation all by himself, he has introduced peer evaluation where his subordinates evaluate each other’s performances. He uses that input in his own performance evaluation of his employees. Although it may not be required by the organization, but he does uses this method to bring fairness to the process and reduce his own bias. A similar process is used in the meetings where the team members are required to talk about what the team has achieved since the last meeting, their own role in the achievement or progress, and who do they think contributed the most in that achievement. This creative discussion not only leads to self evaluation by each employee, but it also helps in acknowledging the star performer of the team. The manager believes that, besides creativity, another positive aspect of this exercise is that the employees’ need for appreciation is met.
A team member was responsible for heading a task force for dealing with suppliers. The manager didn’t seem to be satisfied with the performance of that person. Instead of discussing the matter in front of everyone, he asked the person to meet him after the meeting. Later upon inquiry, we found out that the employee thanked the manager for not embarrassing him in front of other people, especially his team members. The manager felt that criticizing people instead of their ideas leads to resentment building up inside the employee.
The manager told us that he held a team dinner every fifteen days where all the members of the cross functional team were required to be present. On that dinner, the team members were required not to discuss official matters with each other. According to him, the point is to increase informal interaction between the employees and improve team cohesiveness. This showed that, as a leader, he was trying to improve his team’s compatibility which will in turn improve productivity of the team. Not to mention that such social events also improve employees’ morale and create an emotional bond with the colleagues and the company itself.
It is very important for a leader to adopt rules and principles which he or she wants others to follow. This was very much evident in the manager’s work style. He is very punctual when it comes to coming to work. He tries to honor his commitment and makes sure that he apologizes if he commits a mistake. We also got an opportunity to meet an employee who is a subordinate of the manager we had interviewed. According to him, the employees look up to the manager as a role model. He also shares technical knowledge with the junior employees. One of the employees joked that he had learnt more from his manager than he did at school. He said that when he joined the company fresh out of college, he was very nervous about doing well. But the manager gave him immense confidence by assigning him a very important project. The manager told the new employee that he was only here because the organization believed he had the potential to achieve something big.
We felt that in addition to his sound technical and interpersonal skills, it his charismatic and disciplined personality makes him a natural and a complete leader. Because of his leadership skills, the team has been able to decrease their product development time by 30 percent. This has only been achieved by implementation of key leadership traits such as creativity, clear vision, and determination. He has also focused on communicating the goals to the stake holders and making sure that everyone moves in the same direction. His leadership skills have also been spotted by the top management, which is why he has been tipped to get a promotion by the end of this year.
http://changingminds.org/disciplines/leadership/styles/managerial_grid.htm Mouton, Blake. “The Managerial Grid”. 19th July 2009
http://www.skagitwatershed.org/~donclark/leader/leadcon.html/ Bass, B.
“Concepts Of Leadership”. 19th July 2009.