19/06/2014

By Garry Veale, president of Avaya in Europe,

The squad’s been named, the suits have been modelled and the England camp has left the country. As we get down to the business of focusing on England’s performance what can we learn from Roy Hodgson’s approach to management?

After their lacklustre performance in the last World Cup, many supporters were left questioning the ability of the English team. However Roy Hodgson has knocked the boys into shape and got them through to Brazil. But has he done enough? Is his approach the right one?

He has a crucial balancing act to maintain — one that all leaders, be their teams sportsmen or sales reps, footballers or senior VPs, face. The combination of focus and sense of purpose with creativity and individualism, in a team setting, is vital to the success of all teams. What have Roy Hodgson and his coaches been trying to do to keep this fine balance?

Communication
At the heart of good team management lies clear communication. It may seem that footballers (particularly of the Rooney mould) do not need great eloquence from their managers and coaches but words of more than two syllables are important, particularly when trying to rouse spirits. Hodgson with his multi-lingual skills is considered a pretty good ‘talker.’ And, while he may never have been a Premiership player himself, he has tried to relate to his squad more than Capello and possibly Sven. It will be interesting to see how his team communication evolves as the tournament progresses.

Pep talk
And then there’s the fabled ‘team talk’. The sports pages say Hodgson has been singling out less experienced players, like Luke Shaw and Ross Barkley in his talks in an attempt to build their confidence. Similarly I’ve found that getting teams together regularly allows them — and me — to better understand what we are all trying to achieve. Giving your team insight into the positioning and tactics you plan to use will keep them engaged, develop their understanding, and give them something to work towards.

It’s a two way street
During the last World Cup, Capello apparently didn’t listen to his players and paid the price, not just in terms of the team’s performance, but also when Terry and other senior players took a public stand against him during the ‘Cape Town Coup’. No-one can or wants to act on every bit of feedback, but your team does need to know you’re listening. Otherwise frustration can lead to rash decisions. Remember Zinedine Zidane head butting Marco Materazzi during the 2006 final? Or Roy Keane walking out on the Irish team in the same tournament?

The voice of authority
Dealing with the Wayne Bridge-John Terry affair and the Algeria match drinks fiasco in 2010, Capello used a totalitarian approach to team management. However, it didn’t work out as planned. Instead his approach seemed to sow fear and uncertainty among the players which led to nervousness and mistakes on the pitch. We shouldn’t forget that professionals - whatever their talents - are still human and will only perform to the best of their abilities if they feel confident and comfortable enough to do so.

Mutual trust
Hodgson seems to have put more effort into building trust and leaving room for individuality: he has taken an approach that tries to give team members the opportunity to play to their strengths and he trusts that they will perform, even if others doubt it. Not so long ago Roy Keane criticised Smalling and Jones, yet Hodgson has kept them in the squad. While as a manager you are responsible for the end result, like Hodgson trust your team to know how they are feeling and can perform.

England didn’t have much to celebrate at the last World Cup but the team may do better this time. If the squad does do well, the whole nation will be feting not just the players, but Hodgson as well — such are the rewards of great management for both team members and leaders.