Management lessons from the Wayne Rooney saga.


Your star performer has a contract up for renewal.  He has performed consistently at the very highest level for years, but in recent times his form has taken a dip.  Something must be wrong.   He has great talent.  How can you help him to get back to the level of performance you need to realise the objectives you have set as a leadership team?

You put your arm around him.  You offer help, whatever you can to support him.  How does he thank you?  He openly questions your ambition, your hiring decisions.  What impact does this have on your team?  He has broken the bond, the trust that exists and is crucial to team success.  How will his colleagues react?

For years you have espoused the virtues of no one player being bigger than the team and your actions have consistently evidenced this.  This time its different.  The financial situation makes acquiring new talent incredibly challenging.  You are working hard to develop your own talent, but this takes time.

Consider the actions of Sir Alex Ferguson.  He talks openly about his disappointment.  He looks physically shocked, disillusioned, let down, he opens up to the world, expresses his disappointment.  A master stroke?

He forced the issue out in to the open.  Rooney had to make a decision.  Once again Ferguson looks to have been the master of ensuring that nothing allows his focus and that of his team in meeting their objective to be thrown off course.

What of Wayne Rooney?  He looked to rebuild trust with his team mates by offering up an apology.  Trust is something that takes a long time to build up and a second to break down.  Its easier if you are the talisman, the natural leader, the difference between success and failure, to paper over the cracks.  After all, we need you, right?  But at what price?  You have made it clear that you don’t consider your colleagues to be as good as your competitors.  If times get tough here issues are bound to surface.

If it were just about the money Rooney would appear to be the winner.  If reports are to be believed, he has doubled his money.  If you have made the decision to resign from your employer rarely will money be the real issue.  There is always more to it.  Offering you more money to stay is simply putting a plaster on a deep cut.  It stems the flow of blood and helps the wound to heal, but you will be left with a scar.  More money simply papers over the cracks, temporarily.  The reason that you were looking to leave in the first place will still be around 6 months later.  The extra money makes those issues easier to deal with for a spell, but unless addressed they will re – surface.

I can’t decide who the winner is here, if indeed there is one at all.  Ferguson gets to keep his star man.  Rooney doubles the value of his contract, with assurances from his board that his ambitions will be matched by their investment decisions.  It is surely a dangerous premise to allow your star man to dictate the broader investment strategy of the board.  Would you allow your star sales person to hold the board to ransom in the same way?

Is sport just different?  Is this a master stroke in negotiation from Rooney and his advisors?  Is Ferguson once again proving to be the master in management, constantly building and rebuilding winning teams?  The answer will come in May when the Premier League once again crowns its champions.

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