Aime Jacquet and his team were under fire all the time before
July 12, 1998, when they won the final against Brazil. But Aime was a strong fuse and never burned out.
If you made a book of all the criticism written or said about Aime and the French team, it would be a big encyclopedia. If you wrote all the names given to Aime during the four years he spent as coach, you
would have written a new dictionary of insults and bad words.
There is little to say about the day-to-day management of the team by Aime. This management was very classical and not different from what you already do when managing a team.
But we have a lot to learn on team protection against attacks from outside. Attacks hurt in two ways. First, attacks hit the team members and they more or less suffer. Secondly, the authority ruling the team knows attacks and they may lose confidence in the team.
To prevent the team members from being hurt too heavily, Aime had not included in the team very young players. He had no doubt about their technical capabilities but he thought they were not mentally capable effacing the heavy pressure. He was afraid to make them unavailable in the future from wounds still bleeding and slow to cure.
As it was possible neither to keep the team all the time in a closed room nor to prevent team members from watching TV and reading newspapers, Aime built a shield around the team and filtered information, requesting to be the sole spokesperson for the team.
In the company also, you may have to avoid including on the team some persons who will be wounded by heavy pressure either because they are too young or because they lack experience. Select old-timers with thick leather.
It is not useful to give additional weapons to the attackers, and a very simple rule must apply. There is only one spokesperson for the team, and the team members are requested to disclose no information outside the team except with the agreement of the whole team. Specifically, nothing must filter outside as long as the team has not reached an agreement. Jean-Pierre Chevenement, who was a French minister many times, resigned some years ago because he did not accept the way the government was managing some political matter, and he set what is still known among French politicians as the Chevenement principle: "A minister shuts up or resigns." This must be the leading principle for the team members.
Specifically, don't forget that the team will not follow a straight way. They will hesitate, go back to previous positions, be trapped in dead-end roads. Never disclose that outside the team. Even if some discussions turn to a gunfight in the OK corral, no outsider will have any information to make a movie of this. Outsiders must see a team going forward on a straight line to hit the heart of the target.
Doing this, you will let the team members solve their issues by themselves without external influences. You will not have some help, but you will reach the team solution and not an external one.
For the relationship with the authority ruling the team, there is a big difference between your company and the French Soccer Association.
Even if your company is one of the Fortune 500s, the TV and the newspapers are not focused all day long on the smallest of your acts and nobody will pinpoint everything saying that is not the right way to manage and so on. This means that the authority ruling your team will not have every morning during breakfast a paper explaining why you and your team are bad and how bad you are and all the reasons requesting you to be fired or to resign.
That was what happened to Aime and the French Soccer Association when, day after day, the French newspaper L 'Equips (ironically, The Team) explained why Aime should have never have been appointed as coach and why he must leave immediately.
On the other hand, the project your team is involved in is by far more important for your company than an additional trophy in the trophy room of the French Soccer Association, even if this trophy is the highest possible. The results expected from your team are essential for the survival of your company. You must keep the confidence of the authority ruling the team.
The ruling authority is the authority to which you report and will depend of the level of your team. A project team will report to a project board usually managed by a director or a VP. The managing team— president, CEO, and VPs—will report to the shareholders owning the company and more generally will be responsible to the stakeholders of the company.
The ruling authority will be sensitive to the slightest information, true or false, about the team, and you will have to fight against rumors and bad will.
You will have some help if you can set intermediate targets. Aime did not have this capability. He had to hit the highest target and no intermediate result would have proven that he would succeed.
Don't forget that the relations with the ruling authority are part of the responsibility of the team manager and cannot be delegated for a long time to a spokesperson.
Don't forget either that the natural trend of the ruling authority is to trust the first Murphy's law stating that if something can go wrong, it will. While they will trust anybody saying that something is going wrong with your team, they will request very solid proofs to be convinced that you and your team are working well.
To set intermediate targets, use performance indicators edited on a timely basis—weekly or monthly—allowing the ruling authority to follow the progress of the team on the right path. The performance indicators must contain two numbers, the actual value and the reference value with the variance allowed. The whole team must have set them up as soon as the target is agreed upon and the path to hit this target has been designed.
All the performances indicators used in the company are reflections of team activity. As an example, a very simple performance indicator is the profit per share used by the shareholders to follow up the profitability of their investment. This reflects of the performance (good or bad) of the team managing the company.
To Be Continued
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