Can football learn from business?
Watching a recent interview in CNN with the French football icon Thierry Henry was interesting - he talked about moving from France to England to Spain and then to the US. All this has meant adapting to differences in every hue, not just that of the club, but that of country too. Food, language, traffic, weather – they all matter. And here is where football could possibly learn from business, in the area of talent management, specifically induction.
As a search consultant helping clients net senior and critical executives in several talent short industries, and as an avid follower of the beautiful game of football, particularly the superbly marketed English Premier League, it is debatable if as much attention is paid to the importance of cultural compatibility while securing and inducting those multi-million pound superstars into the team. Football is such a huge business and rightfully so, as any sports fan will aver. The large clubs are almost always backed by savvy investors ( read billionaires) and have charismatic managers too. There are CEOs, Directors of Football, Academies, and lastly but most importantly, a very large talent management function with scouts who track the Messis and Ronaldos of the future, across continents, for several years. A single footballer changes games, seasons and fortunes of these entities making successful hiring and talent management more crucial than in any other game in the world. However, several of the biggest transfers are done at the last hour – some just a few minutes away from the deadline. And the footballers are expected to hit the ground running, pun completely intended, almost from the next day. While the technical skills of the footballers are certainly evaluated and never in doubt – whether it is goal scoring genius, aerial capabilities, dribbling flair, holding strengths et al, it is not uncommon to see players unable to settle in to their clubs especially those who have been hired purely on the basis of their gifts on the football ground. Is it a case of too little time given to induction in helping in adapting to the styles and philosophies of clubs? When you hire a superb striker but do not give him even a week to acclimatize to the new team environment, you are likely to get a misfiring one. The recent and bitter parting of ways of Manchester United’s manager David Moyes also suggests from the outside a very lopsided initiation and transitioning exercise. If Moyes was given a role to shadow Sir Alex Ferguson, his predecessor, chances are Manchester United would not be left in this situation within 10 months. An Egon Zehnder study reveals that it takes a CEO 12 months to really settle into a new job.
While we all have attended workshops using the metaphor of team sport and its application in business, here is a thought - can football learn from corporates, especially in the talent induction space?
This article has been written by Diganta Barua, who runs Credence Consulting, an executive search firm in Mumbai.