Evertonians of all generations are simply tired and worn down, the feeling that no tangible progress ever happens and that death by a thousand cuts just continues with an inevitable outcome, that goes beyond being relegated. It’s continuously tiring following Everton and it’s just as tiring as a Blue following Forest, Southampton and Bournemouth.
I’m not going to comment on the manager, the players , the on-field stuff because it’s covered very well elsewhere. It’s obviously imperative to our very survival as a football club with the financial implications of relegation compounding already continuous and huge operating losses and significant investment required to complete the new stadium.
I am going to focus on CULTURE and BUSINESS underperformance at Everton (through the lens of TRUST) because everything we see on the field is a direct consequence of leadership competence off it. You often see on social media that the board didn’t make the pass back v Brighton, they didn’t miss the chances v Wolves – well of course they didn’t but they did employ the people responsible for on field performance and they are responsible for organisational performance of the club. They are responsible and accountable. The specific things we see are SYMPTOMS but universally in business they are the consequence of the CAUSES.
The recurring themes to me are of a failing DYSFUNCTIONAL business, weak performance led by poor management where TRUST with fans has disappeared. So, let’s just look at where Everton, dispassionately as though it were any other business. 15 years ago, whilst managing a business in Asia, I stumbled across Stephen MR Covey’s Speed of Trust. It’s very profound but actually quite simple, the central premise being that high trust organisations get things done better, quicker and cheaper. The real value and depth of this is that Covey goes onto define TRUST, through a combination of CHARACTER based behaviours (do they tell the truth? are they respectful? etc) and really tellingly also through COMPETENCE based measures (do they get results?, do they practice accountability? etc). There are 13 measures and by my reckoning you could argue Everton fall short on about 8 (not all EFC leaders and not all of the time but it’s pretty damning). Some of the key ones I see are
1. DELIVER RESULTS – establish a track record of results
It’s been well versed but it’s a simple fact of failure to deliver – failing on the pitch, failing off the pitch with huge losses with a litany of bad decisions in appointing managers and incompetence in the transfer market. In the latest financial year, losses amounting to £70m , despite having sold its’ best player. Financial failure that now means there is a cash squeeze and virtually no room to improve a very poor squad.
2. CREATE TRANSPARENCY – be open and authentic
The club will point to supporter input to the new stadium and the establishment of the fan advisory board – both commendable but good businesses communicate regularly with stakeholders. BUT in the last 6 years, communication from Owner, Chairman and CEO has been woeful and in the TRUST model, where it has been has shown counterfeit behaviours where communication is illusional. It’s simply not good enough to try to do away with face to face AGM’s, to communicate through SKY, to only appear when it’s a win or good news or sugar coat newsletters. Fans see through it.
3. PRACTICE ACCOUNTABILITY – hold yourself and others accountable
This is about taking responsibility for results, good and bad. It’s unclear what consequences of widespread failure are with perhaps the managers/coaches being the only fall guys.
4. GET BETTER -continuously and meaningfully improve everything you do
Well, we hear of the 120-point footballing strategy plan of Kevin Thelwell but beyond a new stadium, I don’t have a clue what Everton is any more, where it’s heading and without divulging trade secrets how it plans to get there. But as a customer I am expected to shell out £650 for a season ticket.
5. CONFRONT REALITY -tackle the tough issues head on
Everton’s DNA is both its strength and weakness – I fully support and think great work is done on EITC and its’ overall commitment to locality and good of the game (standing up to ESL). Again, all tough work, committed and very admirable. But confronting reality is about dealing with the tough stuff, the undiscussables rather than the ‘counterfeit’ of attention on side issues. It’s clearly not one or the other but business focus is key. The reason Everton are where they are is similar to those that went before like Sunderland, Derby and Sheffield Wednesday. Long-term deep routed decline and failure to put in place real competence that make the right decisions. The culture of family club, of jobs for Blues amplifies the sense of a weak underperforming culture.
These are just 5 of the behaviours that I see diminishing TRUST, there is unfortunately more. And it’s powerful and critical but ultimately #AllTogetherNow is really about LACK OF TRUST in the leaders of the club and the urgent need for CHANGE, in key leadership positions to deliver greater character and competence.
The malaise with Everton and its’ leadership has caught up. It is now in the best interests of the owner, the fans and the club to CONFRONT REALITY and PRACTICE ACCOUNTABILITY. Onward Evertonians.