Collaborative Leadership and…

…business success? career progression? satisfied customers?

Well, of course we mean yes. But here at Rook Tree we’re actually thinking of our World Cup prospects and because of that we are drawn to this article

Healthskills Leadership Academy e-letter #65

Collaborative Leadership and the route to the Premier League

As people who know me will tell you, for over 40 years, I have carried the burden of a passionate support for Burnley football club. Seeing them in the top flight during the 60s and 70s, sinking to desperate survival from relegation out of the football league in the 80s and a slow crawl back to success over the next 2 decades.

Well this year they won automatic promotion back to the Premier League against a backcloth of predicted relegation, no funding and the smallest squad in the Championship. They achieved this with a new Manager in the shape of Sean Dyche who has clearly had a profound impact on the team way beyond the expectations of pundits and press alike.

Given my involvement with leadership – I grew curious, what exactly had he done to produce a performance like that from a group of players – previously written off as “also-rans”.  So here is his philosophy:

“The first thing I did when I arrived was to assess the mood and culture within the team, so I gave them a simple questionnaire to complete anonymously which I asked them to tell me exactly what they saw and what they felt needed to be done. I then took direct action on the basis of their replies but made it clear that once the changes were made, they were responsible for making them work.

“I like working with players and try to ensure that everything I do is for them – I dedicate my actions to the team, however it’s also important to draw a line between connecting with them as individuals and being the boss.

“I try to create a positive culture via good positive communication, appropriate recognition but making sure I recognise the differences in different player’s needs.

“Moods and attitudes change, so I take a lot of time to assess the mental and physical states of the players on a weekly basis and try and meet their needs, it’s about caring.”

The result has been a season’s performance which saw Burnley concede the lowest number of goals in the entire football league and gain promotion by a record number of points for a team in second place.

His philosophy is easy to describe, more difficult to execute under the intense pressure of the climate in which he operates, but there remain strong signals within, for all of us involved in leading teams –

  • Collaboration is more powerful than “throwing boots” at people
  • Listening produces better long term results than the “hair dryer” approach of my way or the highway
  • People’s needs vary and it requires mastery, flexibility and constant vigilance to respond appropriately

As people in that part of Lancashire now say – “In Dyche – we trust”

Charles Marshall, Healthskills
4 June 2014

Charles Marshall photo