After the West Ham v Manchester United game last night, Sky Sports played their show ‘The Debate’ with Paul Merson and Craig Bellamy. The topic of the ‘West Ham Way’ came up with the presenter saying, ‘What is it anyway?’ and Paul Merson replying ‘They’ve done nothing since the 60’s when they had Geoff Hurst so I’ve no idea’.
The West Ham Way firstly, is not a marketing tagline that we’ve attached to the club although the press seem intent on making it look as though we have. Ron Greenwood coined the term when he spoke about fans of the club not expecting too much other than good football. All it means to me is that the game is played with maximum effort and the ball is kept on the ground. A mix of Billy Bonds and Trevor Brooking would provide the perfect example.
Personally, I don’t think either of those things are too much to ask from any fan of football, particularly those of a Premier League Club. I know we’ll never play like Real Madrid but if I’m playing £50+ to watch a game, I don’t think it’s an unrealistic expectation not to see Sunday league style, long ball football with half-hearted effort from idolised millionaires.
There are two things that I’ve seen evident in all successful teams I’ve recruited for. Teamwork and effort. There are also common themes in underperforming teams that I’ve seen, which I’ve listed below. If your team is not living up to its full potential, have a think about which of these may apply. Just because I have a little obsession, I’ll link each to something that’s stood out to me over the past 35 years of supporting the mighty Hammers:
About 2 in 10 employees are actively disengaged in their work and undermine value created by their peers, according to Gallup. Less destructive people benefit from the results of the group but contribute nothing to it, demotivating their peers. Think back to the Payet saga, as soon as he left – after making it clear he would make no effort on the pitch – the team staged a mini-revival and played with greater spirit. Look to motivate these people in to becoming engaged and working harder and you’ll find that overall team productivity will increase.
Paul Merson also said on last night’s show ‘If I was a season ticket holder at West Ham, I’d have no idea of what they’re looking to achieve, mid-table or top 8’. Without clear goals and a strategy to achieve them, high-performers will leave your team. Some find the lack of a meaningful goal demotivating. Dimitri Payet had said his lack of motivation stemmed from West Ham playing defensive football; and because he didn’t think they were living up to the promises he’d made when joining about signing other top players.
Lack of visibility over expectation means that people can drift from one task to the next but will also mean that people don’t know if they are over or under-achieving. This can also lead to demotivation. I could give plenty of examples of how the owners of our club have held back information on what the team is looking to achieve. We moved to the Olympic Stadium hearing that we would be a ‘world class team, challenging for the Top 6’. They then signed a few defenders with an average age of 83, Jordan Hugill and brought in a less than inspiring manager. No surprise really that the players don’t know what’s going on or what they’re aiming to do.
Fear of being the bad guy and lack of discipline hold people back. Without accountability, mediocrity will rule and careers suffer. Not holding people accountable for under performing does them no favours and will lead to difficult discussions at appraisal time. Andy Carroll had an argument with David Moyes last week because he wasn’t brought on after returning from injury. The fact that he’s been injured more times than Rocky Balboa and has shown more dedication to taking vodka to a party (fill the gaps if you know the song) than a comeback shows what a lack of accountability can do. If he knew how he was perceived, he may put down his glass and pick up a barbell more often.
Fear of Feedback:
No feedback is actually worse than negative feedback – team members want it, managers hesitate to provide it. Get over the discomfort and make it a habit to provide regular feedback. Julian Dicks can step in here, he was asked how he’d deal with Mario Balotelli if he were a teammate “I would’ve smashed him.” OK, don’t do that! Although do let people know if you’re not happy with their performance. Just don’t whack them, I’ll be in a whole heap of trouble if you do.
So there you are, think ‘The West Ham Way’ and you’ll think like a leader. Get your team to work hard and together as a unit and productivity will soar. If only the Hammers team themselves would do it (Mark Noble not included!).
Written By Paul Miller