The Leaders Advisory Blog

To unite the two most crucial parts of business: the results that come, and the people who create them.


By Tony Walmsley

Are you a manager with personality, a natural born leader? What do you take responsibility for?

Performance is harder to measure than results. Having been a professional football manager, results count, but performance matters and depending on your perspective, the bits in between are unique to everyone. That’s complex stakeholder management.

But who cares? The manager is responsible and pays the price, even knowing on entry into a role that the tenure is likely to be curtailed sooner than desired. Such is life, but wouldn’t it be better if we could bring the complexity to the surface, to give clarity and direction?

The highly volatile world of football management is just one extreme example. As a new manager takes charge of a new team, with an instant demand for performance under scrutiny, the internal fears and drivers create energy and the external demand adds to the motivation and that is for one person at the top of the pyramid. Before anyone else is factored in.

So, what if a deeper insight into personality could increase longevity for managers, keep them more present, and operating with more clarity about how to get the best out of everyone, on their terms?

Since applying high resolution profiling to uncover complex team dynamics, I’ve been experiencing quick performance turnarounds. In simple terms I have surfaced insights that don’t usually get discussed and people are working better together consequently. Managers are more confident, performing better and team performance is improving in line with this.

That got me thinking about re-visiting professional sport, coaching and high performance in another context.  I’m excited about the application.

There are probably a lot more than just five ways that managers can increase performance and get better results by understanding personality, but let’s start with five key elements here for now.

The biggest challenge all line managers face is their ability to manage their people. Humans are complex and when you put two or more of them together, the complexity grows.

1.      Recruitment

Why does a high performer who takes up a new position suddenly under-perform at another place of work?

Now, there could be many reasons for this, but let’s look at what’s not skill related here, as past performance history stands up and we know this person has the talent to do the job.

Two main things typically go wrong in recruitment, a mismatched environment, and the depth of understanding in the relationship that enables the manager to influence.

So, let’s take a historical sporting argument as an example.

When people make statements of opinion about whether Gerrard, Scholes and Lampard could play effectively in the same team, the practical answer is yes, if the manager selects them.

First, we need to ask a better question. The better question is, are the players being asked to operate in their best position most of the time? If the answer to that is no, then there is a high likelihood of under-performance and not just from the one being asked to play ‘out of position’.

The psychology here is complex, but as a demonstration it paints a very clear picture of how the environment must fit the ideal natural characteristics of the individuals most of the time.

Scholes on the left? You may have a strong opinion about that, but the dynamics of the individual’s state and energy needs consideration in addition to the team.

When you hire people who you know are technically capable, work out how you intend to deploy them in context to avoid high cost errors. Same in business. Same in Sport.

High performance reports enable more resolution and help you and the candidate/player be specific. Essential if you really want to see them at their best.

2.      Delegation

The very nature of being a manager means we must delegate and to be successful means delegating successfully.

For a football manager, that sometimes means delegating to a player on loan. Now that is a complex scenario in terms of managing stakeholder expectations and it is not just about game time for experience.

A typical player/coach interaction is instinctive and sometimes intuitive, if that’s how you operate, but there’s more science to it if you’re prepared to look a little more closely.

How we delegate is influenced by our personality and how we like to be managed can also be brought to the surface in a high resolution report.

So, whether you are a football manager, coach, team leader, or department head, if you have staff then you will want to understand exactly how to delegate to them most effectively. Taking responsibility as a manager means adapting your own style to get the best from your team.

3.      Communication

Effective communication is critical to success in most roles in the modern workplace and essential for managers. Communicating effectively is also an area that many people find difficult to accomplish.

There are some simple frameworks to help improve conversations, in context, but before that starts, understanding your own natural communication style and gaining an awareness of how each of your team need to be communicated with can make a huge difference in how intended messages are received.

Moving from accidental management to management by design is a complex subject that needs simplification for humans to act in the right way, most of the time, under varying degrees of demand.

This is where psychological profiling and using high resolution reports can make a huge difference. 

4.      Team dynamics

If connecting with others and even understanding ourselves seems complex, then helping teams reach potential can become an almost unfathomable challenge to overcome. Many managers fail in this regard.

Imagine you are in a foreign country in a new city and you have a destination in mind. You need a ‘you are here’ indicator to be able to navigate effectively. This is team dynamics.

You are here, and each of your team is a destination that you need to reach as efficiently as possible. There may be roadblocks, potholes and even demonstrations at times that block the direct route, but you get the idea.

We won’t get into diversity in this article, but great teams are not one sided and have a breadth of representation.

When football managers take their backroom team with them wherever they go, I often wonder if adding an extra dimension, with alternate views and an ability to speak openly would make for a more robust outcome. It may take a little courage. 

5.      Leadership

How often do you hear former players, now pundits, talking about a lack of leaders on the field these days? Are leaders born, or created?

I’m often in discussions about the difference between management and leadership as the lines get blurred by expectation and people quibble over terminology, but does it matter?

Well, good management is not enough where the demand for leadership across functions at all levels is growing.

While the appetite for leadership is usually more present in certain personality types, leaders come in all shapes and sizes and are represented across the personality spectrum.

The key to strong leadership is first to understand your own natural leadership style and that can be done quickly, simply and affordably.

To find out more about how you lead, coach, manage, or perform, drop me a note, or book a call. I would love to hear from you.

The Leaders Advisory is a Performance Coaching and Leadership Development organisation that uses applied psychology to help companies improve their engagement, productivity, and wellbeing. Tony Walmsley, founder is a Performance Coach and Profiling Specialist with a 30-year history as a business leader, professional football manager and coach educator.

Written by Tony Walmsley