Thursday, 9 February 2012

Men behaving badly

Why are Englishmen so awful at personnel management? How is it possible for the FA board not to have consulted their highly-paid team coach before making a team decision as crucial as removing the captaincy from John Terry? It beggars belief.

The FA Chairman, David Bernstein
Whatever the rights and wrongs of Terry retaining the captaincy - and you can argue either way with some reason - it's plain as a pikestaff that to fail to consult Fabio Capello, his boss, beforehand, was plain insulting and bad management. It leaves me wondering how much a free hand he'd ever been allowed. It was convenient to pin the World Cup blame on to him. Since then, however, he seemed to have created a successful and promising team with prospects for Euro 2012. But the point is that if you employ a man at an annual salary of £6 million, the least you can do is afford him the respect to do his job.

Fabio Capello
It's not surprising if Capello had been hopping mad to have heard the FA's decision post facto. He must have felt he was up against the Mafia. Even more so, when he was expected to keep silent. When he spoke up, the Mafia would have shot him; the FA fired him. He was a strange creature in their world - a man of principle, a manager who expected his team to maintain standards, someone who said it as he saw it, someone who actually believed in "innocent until proved guilty". What a surprise, when a man of such eminence in the football world, said, "I'm sorry. I manage this team. That's what you pay me for. I make the operational decisions. You can advise. I decide"! And don't tell me he resigned! He was pushed - probably by being told, "Like it or lump it, Fabio. We've decided."

It's not the only example I've come across of what can only be described as crass personnel relations in organisations. Somehow managers regularly miss the blindingly obvious in how to treat their employees. Perhaps it's an aspect of their ambition that has pushed them up the ladder. You tend not to look at the fingers you're treading on, otherwise you'd never get on and up. I wonder whether it's a particularly male thing. I think of the different headteachers under whom I served. Without doubt the best two were women. Outstanding was Sister St James, a splendid upright fireball of a nun, who had brought an all-girls' convent school to be a highly successful mixed comprehensive. She was respected by staff and students alike, and yet had time for all alike as well. The other was Freda Storrar, who'd worked in industry before returning to education to take on one of the toughest upper schools in Cowley. She too had that combination of integrity and humanity. I hate to admit it, but three of the four male heads under whom I worked were not in the same class. They weren't bad, but they weren't as good. The exception was a retired head brought out of retirement to fill in a term's gap between appointments.

In other contexts, I've seen either first-hand or through friends repeated managerial crassness, usually at arm's length: in the Health Service for example nurses expected to operate new IT systems without having been given the training and with no time allowances; coordinators told to write up their own jobs with a view to being down-graded. I could go on. I looked at the Football Association's website. There's a page which proudly proclaims The Decision Makers. It's the list of the Board members, of whom there are 12. No prizes for guessing how many are women! I believe 51% of the world's population are female. Maybe there is a Women's FA. Maybe more men than women do play football. But maybe we don't need to look any further than the Board to understand why the members are such crass "decision makers". (In case you were wondering, the answer, of course, is 0.)

I don't make a habit of agreeing with our Prime Minister, but I think he might have had a point when, talking about women in board-rooms this morning in Sweden, he said, "The evidence is that there is a positive link between women in leadership and business performance, so if we fail to unlock the potential of women in the labour market, we're not only failing those individuals, we're failing our whole economy."
Vicky Beeching

Meanwhile the Church of England General Synod, this week, returned to the vexed question of creating women bishops.... Coincidentally, I imagine, singer/song-writer, blogger and academic, Vicky Beeching, posted a blog entitled God has given Christianity a masculine feel, says John Piper. He's a well respected and popular author and preacher in America. Unsurprisingly Vicky rebuts his thesis, and set me wondering what I honestly feel. There are getting on for 100 comments following Vicky's post (mine's near the end!). I have to say I am now positively in favour of women in positions of pastoral leadership in the church. I wasn't once. My one reservation, and sadness, is that it can become a further cause of disunity within both the church (C of E) and the Church (worldwide). I'm hopeful that, with humility, it's possible to disagree but not divide.


  1. I have always loved the way Jesus responded to the question "Whose husband was she?" for the woman died after being married several times: "In Heaven there is no male and female". If the Church is the gateway to Heaven, I'm sure women are just as capable as men, in showing me the way.

  2. Good point, adelphos (usually translated brother, but meaning wider than that). Certainly women have been instrumental in guiding my faith.