An Emotional Intelligence Lesson

imageThere is an emotional intelligence lesson going on in London and I doubt if many management gurus are watching it. Most who follow football would be aware of it, when I mention the names of Chelsea, Mourinho and Stamford Bridge.

For the uninitiated. Jose Mourinho, the most successful manager in the last decade, has won European Cups and League Championships with more clubs than anyone in football history. His football sense is exceptional, but many have tactical nous. It is his strategic sense, the ability to create a vision and teams which makes him exceptional. He will create a siege mentality, so players bind into a team. Coupled with their football skills, team bonding drives the purpose and brings trophies. Mourinho has won European Championships with Porto, Inter-Milan and league championships with Porto, Chelsea, Inter-Milan and Real Madrid. Not to forget the local cups he has won. He has ended up winning 22 trophies in an eleven year period.

This is obviously a Rolls-Royce of a manager, with a very aggressive confrontational management style, but his teams are at one with him.

So, when Chelsea (English Champions) stepped into this season, with a couple of additions to the squad, they came as favourites. Somewhere, unbeknownst, things were not quite right. My own inference is that the head was not quite in place. Arrogance begets strange children.

The team preparation was not adequate. I think they fell into a trap of complacency. So pre-season being inadequate, they came into the season not at the top of their game. In modern day sports, the difference between dominant professionals and very good ones is minuscule. It meant a bad start.

From then on, human psyche took over. An early reverse, meant that Mourinho and team were under stress. They were angry that they were not living up to their reputation. Mourinho knows one style only. Its confrontational and generally directed at the press, referees and sometimes other teams. Here bad results meant, he was looking for rationale. He turned inwards to the peripherals of his team – theoretically where least damage happens. A very strange and largely irrelevant storm blew up against Dr Eva Carneiro, the team doctor. Since this is sub-judice, one cannot comment on it. Suffice to say, it had little to do with football and coupled with a gleeful media, it became a storm, which has now ended up in the courts.

What it did to the heads of the players is the more relevant issue. Managing a team, football or otherwise is a very delicate balance. The leader has to lead. The moment a team realises that a leader is not in control, it sheds doubt on his/her leadership. Mourinho, I think lost control of the situation immediately. The moment you lose control, the team is gone. The common enemy, common purpose, the feeling of belonging begin to unravel. The results showed it. They were not disastrous, but were decidedly mediocre.

Next step came the players. They start with a mind set, ‘we are good players and at the moment the team is a problem’. As the results decline, supporters become agitated and the press target them, personal confidence slides. After a while, even the players start losing confidence and perform sub-optimally. This eventually resulted in a couple of bad results and Chelsea now hover right above the relegation zone.

We are now at a stage where the atmosphere within must have come apart. Typically it results in a blame game and descends into politics. Sure enough! With Eden Hazard (rather dismissively) going off injured in the last defeat against Leicester, Mourinho has now gone on record as feeling betrayed by his players. This is a man, whose basic tenet of management has been that his players are great and that he is a wall of protection in front of them against the big bad world out there. Now just imagine the feelings of his players. They have lost their protector, leader and friend. They have been cut loose to face the world.

At this stage one of two things happen. Mourinho has either taken a risk and hopes to shock his players back into togetherness or his ego is now in justification mode – ie I am not responsible for this mess. It is the stage where rationality has now gone out of the door, with the ratcheting up of risky actions. I would be surprised if the owner Abramovic does not step into action by the New Year. So either way, the status quo is about to change. Chelsea go up suddenly or Mourinho goes out.

This is a salutary case study of management. The whole facet of it. An exceptional system, leading to exceptional success. Complaisance due to over confidence, leading to temporary decline, an unthought reaction, an unravelling of the team spirit, an implosion inwards and now arbitrary decision making. It is now in the realms of luck.

* picture is from Dreamstime.com

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Parting from close ones

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One of life’s ultimate emotional stress comes through in the form of parting from close ones. Recently, on a Sunday morning visit to my fathers grave I recalled his last day and various other goodbyes which have occurred during my life. This is probably a blog to myself to assuage a personal need.

I was living in London during my professional study years. Coming from a school where we were together right from Prep to our A levels, school relationships were very strong. We had been together for fourteen years and when we ventured forth at eighteen, the bonds remained. Mind you, these were the non technology times and communication was an issue.

In London, a whole lot of us would meet regularly. However, many of us ended up in the universities in the US. Every early summer, these friends would drop in and at the end of the summer some would come back again. These were short two day visits of friends returning to Pakistan early summer and then going back to US in late summer. I came to look forward to these visits, but at the same time to dread them. The Tube link to Heathrow was made in the early 80s, and one would go to the airport, either via Tube or drive, to leave the departing visitors. The times when I have hugged old friends at the airport and felt that the world was ending were countless.

Is not a parting something like that? How does one know if you will see or hear or talk to this person ever again. Life for either party is uncertain..is it not? Now, I am not sure if everyone feels the force of this, so some out there would say this is nonsense. But, throughout the early and late summer I would be depressed. The loss of a company of friends and the effect of bidding these adieus would really shake me up. It was as if the departing people had taken away ones happiness.

In later years in the 90s, I was working abroad and would come back to Karachi couple of times a year. Enjoyable holidays, where friends and relatives would entertain one, coupled with a bit of nostalgia. During one of my short visits, a close relative was diagnosed with late stage cancer. On my last night here, she came to see me, as we were packing and friends were floating in and out. I still remember her traditional last words, as we hugged. “acha tou zindagi rahi tou phir millain gay” (if life allows we shall meet again) and in saying this she faltered when our eyes met. It was obvious to both of us, that we will not meet again. A month later she had died and I have been left with the haunting memory of those words. Awful; enough to shake the soul. A memory which has remained with me, these last 19 years.

Another form of parting is when people go away from a work place. My own resignation from Engro Foods in October 2011, was a traumatic experience. While I expected some sadness from colleagues – we had grown the company together and start up operations have a family sort of bonding – but was totally unprepared for the adulation and tears which I encountered in various farewells. So the last large good bye event at the Boat Club, which ended with me giving a speech, was extremely emotional and traumatic. It felt like multiple friends and family had been surgically removed and I was bereft of a huge part of myself.

Lastly comes the ultimate departure. This is the genuine final one, when we leave this world. Most have faced this. My father’s death was earthshaking, but he went in his sleep. So while the particular day will be etched in my memory, this was not, in a classical sense a parting. In one other case, a close relative died in my arms, while I was trying to get a heart pill into his mouth. That was an experience which shall remain in my mind. One literally saw life ebb out. Totally. Death is so final and such a significant event. It shapes our lives and we should never forget it.

So goodbyes, separations and partings, whether short or long term or permanent, are a serious examination of ones emotions. The particular person is gone, out of our lives for a period or forever. It is one part of our existence being physically taken out of our souls. Its a form of death! The closer the links, the greater the examination and hurt. In todays world, with family and friends spread all over the world, this has become all too frequent. One almost wishes for those “beam me up Scotty machines” from Star Trek, so that we would never have to part for a significant period from loved ones and friends. Alas, we come here alone and go out alone, with other smaller partings in the middle. Sadly, a process we have to live and thrive within, like it or not.

*Picture is taken from dreamstime.com a free picture stock

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