After France's players refused to practice to protest star player Nicolas Anelka's expulsion, coach Raymond Domenech berated the team in the locker room, rather than open a dialogue. That's a mistake: If you make decisions that don't sit well with others, you need to acknowledge your part in creating the issue, says Liane Davey, principal for Knightsbridge Leadership Solutions in Toronto.
After Sunday's protest, Mr. Domenech did not try to cool down the situation, and team members' animosity lingered through Tuesday's game, which France lost. When an incident occurs, you will lose control of the message if you don't put out the flames quickly, says Alan Kearns, head coach of national leadership and career coaching company CareerJoy. "A good approach is to invite everyone into a room at the first sign of trouble, close the doors and lay out the facts as you know them and ask for their side of the story."
Shut up and listen
In his locker room speech, Mr. Domenech spent 45 minutes telling players they were wrong. And very little, if any time, listening to them. "A leader's credibility in a dispute goes down the longer he or she talks. When you let those with grievances have their say, your credibility goes up," Ms. Davey says.
Know your people
France's team was made up of players from many different soccer clubs, and Mr. Domenech may not have taken gotten to know their individual styles well enough, says leadership coach Sandra Oliver, owner of Impact Consulting Inc. in Toronto. Misunderstandings often come about because a leader hasn't taken enough time to understand the needs of individual team members, she says. "Being aware of and celebrating differences and rewarding people for their contributions will go a long way to making sure that ensure that your team will be supportive even in a crisis."
Bring in a mediator
France sent a government minister in to mediate, appealing to their patriotism. That's a move leaders should consider. When you have lost credibility, it can help to bring in someone who does have trust to appeal to the team, Ms.Davey says. "As a leader, there are times when it is clear someone else can be more effective, and you should be willing to ask for help."
Put it behind you
After Tuesday's game, Mr. Domenech. rather than shake the South African coach's hand, instead turned his back to him. That's opposite of what leaders should do, says Rick Lash, national practice leader of leadership coaching company Hay Group in Toronto. Rather, he says, it's important to put the incident behind you and work toward a better future."A common reaction of management under siege is to close ranks and stop engaging others. That's opposite to what they should be doing to put down a rebellion."
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