A coach gets off the boat

In August, after German football club FC Bayern Munich won the Champions League final and thus the famous “triple” (Champions League, German championship and German national Cup) for the second time, I wrote a blog entitled “The coach is the better trainer”. After the triple, in the same season, the coach and his team won three more titles (national Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup) and thus the “sextuple”. This term has actually been used the first time in 2009, when FC Barcelona was the first club achieving that. What else can come after such a huge success? In the very best case, the same again or, much more likely, much less than that.

It is the coach’s fault

This is also what happened to the team of FC Bayern Munich. The Corona crisis lasted much longer than expected with no real end in sight yet. The management of the club let good players leave and replaced them only half-heartedly without real involvement of the coach. The team now pays the price for a tough program of game after game within short periods, because even the well-trained bodies of professional athletes fail at some point. Suddenly, the squad gets extremely small and things aren’t going as smoothly any longer as in the year before. Now it will most likely be “only” the German championship title instead of the triple or even more. As always, it’s primarily the coach who has to take the responsibility for that, despite the fact that he only could be so successful with his team, because he is a real coach and not just a trainer. Apparently, there has been a big rift for some time already between parts of the club’s board and the coach due to the fact that he is not really supposed to interfere when it comes to decisions regarding the player squad. Of course, we do not know everything that was and is discussed behind closed doors, but you could see very clearly in the last few weeks that the coach was not happy any longer. At the end, he asked for his contract to be terminated. 

… also in corporate business

Why am I talking once again about football, just as I did in my blog from August 2020? Quite simply because, once again, this resembles so well with the corporate environment. If everything is going in the right direction or even better than expected, everyone is a hero and all lie in each others arms. If you are facing more difficult and challenging times, as we are experiencing for more than a year now, the atmosphere changes very quickly. Pressure is going up, employees leave the company or are asked to leave and are not replaced for cost reasons. Others are overworked and no longer perform as well as they used to. The whole environment becomes more difficult because customers and business partners are struggling as well. Then it is not uncommon for things to become a “matter for the boss” because the responsible people presumably are not doing their job. In most cases, it especially hits those managers pretty hard who are always more of a coach than the “tough manager”.

You need a good hand

In times of crisis, I believe it is completely counterproductive to just push the team even more, to apply more pressure or even threaten them. In times of crisis, it needs managers who really coach their team through such a phase. Especially in situations like the one we are experiencing right now, where many employees are also struggling with private challenges, you need a good hand to keep the ball rolling, to use a soccer metaphor again. You now need to be even closer to your employees, make the best possible use of the available resources, stand by your team and, above all, keep listening. And you should not forget to celebrate the small successes instead of constantly criticizing that, for known reasons, the big plan will be missed. You definitely must do the latter when all boundary conditions are optimal and things are still going in the wrong direction. But definitely not when the water level is rising and everything around you is sinking, while you are still sitting quite comfortably on top of a green hill.

Crisis reveals the truth

Very often in times of crisis, suddenly problems come to light, that were actually existing already before but were swept under the carpet of success. Hierarchies come to life again, decisions are made top-down, and micromanagement is back in vogue. You immediately realize that everything is not quite as harmonious as it seemed. And then, unfortunately, the political games start. How can I best position myself? Which side do I take? How can I come out of this unscathed? How can I turn the whole situation potentially even to my advantage? Those managers, who see the meaning of their work differently and want to devote their energy to this instead of getting involved in political games, very often then get off the boat – as the FC Bayern coach did. Unfortunately. Because especially during difficult times you need exactly such type of leaders. At least this is my firm belief!

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