Why Mick Malthouse is having fun


I think Mick Malthouse is having fun.  Mick is the coach of  Carlton, a team in the Australian Football League which is the top competition in the land.  He took on the job this season and I think overall he is having a good time due to two structural reasons that are useful for us to pay attention to.

The first is clarity of accountability.  I doubt Mick has been given a position description with words under an ‘accountability’ section  like “conduct training sessions on a regular basis”.   Instead, he has a clear outcome he is accountable for – a premiership in the next three years.

Here’s the first question to ask about your role and your people’s – are the outcomes required of the role actually clear, or is it a shopping list of tasks?   Only the former allows for people’s natural creativity to come forward.

But accountability alone is not enough.

The second aspect that Mick would have in place is clarity of authority.   Mick would have decisions that are his alone to make.  Most important are the choosing of his own people, their roles, and the final judgement on how they are performing.   Alongside of this is the final call in terms of preparation, training methods, gameplan and how things run on game day.   Put simply, while he may receive input from a variety of sources, the final decisions rest with Mick.

This creates our second question about your role and your people.  For each outcome for which their role is accountable, do they have the authority needed to get this work done?   For managerial roles, do they have the authority to say no to someone joining the team who they don’t think can do the job?  Do they decide the roles their people will play, then make the judgement on how well they perform them?  And are they given the authority to make the decisions in their job that will achieve the outcomes they are accountable for?

While Mick may have authority because of who he is, authority is also attached to roles, regardless of who is in them.   Give your people’s roles clear outcomes they are accountable to achieve, then give them the authority to make the decisions to do so.

This is the source of real motivation and how creativity is properly harnessed.  And forms the foundation on why Mick is enjoying himself.

(These concepts originated from the work of Elliott Jaques.  See Principle 5 in Andrew Olivier’s book Organisational Design: What Your University Forgot to Teach You for more on empowering roles)

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