The European Championships have been a delight to watch this year. With the absence of any of the home teams, people in the UK have been enjoying the football without the stress that comes from being emotionally involved. When watching games with friends and catching up with colleagues the talk has been of great skills, real endeavour, commitment and style.
We’ve even been involved in conversations about the high standard of refereeing and the courage of a referee who isn’t afraid to change his mind when he’s made a mistake. That’s not something you hear from partisan fans.
Without the pressure of wanting a team to win, and without the pre-conceived ideas about who will play well, who will get booked and who should never have been selected, it’s easy to see beautiful football in action. And now that Italy, France and Romania have gone home (personal prejudices aside!), we can watch and observe objectively; the way teams play is as valid as the result.
Managers can suffer from the same lack of objectivity when watching the performance of their own team and the individuals within it. When things are going well it’s easy to mistake mediocre performance delivered with style and charm as being outstanding, whilst when overall performance isn’t meeting expectations, it’s far easier to spot mistakes and inactivity. Personal performance and behaviour may not have changed or may have improved, but the overall mood can colour observations. And when you introduce the additional layer of personal preference or antipathy things really get subjective. A likeable under-performer who supports the same team as you, compared to somebody you don’t enjoy the same rapport with, who is at a similar level of performance, needs you to have clear-sighted motives, dealing equitably with both parties.
Taking time to add some emotional distance before assessing performance, and taking care to really observe behaviour rather than assume it, makes a big difference to both appraising and developing people.