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The following article was written by Coleman Patterson and appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.

Managers, like coaches, affect group success, January 12, 2007, 7C.

Regardless of your particular loyalties or leanings in college football, you have to congratulate and respect the University of Florida’s football team for their victory in this week’s BCS Championship Game.  The Gators, who some deemed unworthy of playing for the national championship and who few analysts gave a chance of winning the game, thoroughly dominated the Buckeyes both offensively and defensively.  It was a complete team victory.

Teams are composed of members who work together interdependently to accomplish goals.  It is the combined contributions of all team members that make up the team’s performance.  In the BCS game, it was the players on the field who made the plays that led to victory.  However, it was also apparent that the Florida players were well coached and prepared for the game.  In the weeks leading up to the game, Gator coaches conceived a game plan for victory against the Buckeyes—which they shared with their players and prepared them to enact in the game.  As the actual game evolved, coaches and players made adjustments and corrections to the plans to defeat Ohio State. 

Early research into the importance of managers and leaders on group performance analyzed group performance before and after replacing a manager.  The results were inconclusive.  In some cases, replacing a manager with another resulted in improved group performance and in other situations it harmed performance.  Many empirical investigations on management influence from a “succession” perspective used professional sports teams and managers as their samples.  Sports teams provide researchers with organizations that are similar in size, goals, tasks, and roles.  Additionally, sports teams compete against each other and performance is easy to measure and compare across teams and seasons.

There are two extreme views on the importance of managers and leaders on organization performance.  The symbolic view suggests that group and situational factors have the greatest influence on organization performance and that managers have minimal influence.  The omnipotent view suggests that managers have complete control and influence on organizational performance.  As concluded by later succession researchers, the true influence of managers and leaders is often somewhere between the symbolic and omnipotent views.  Characteristics of the tasks and the nature of the work, the degrees of cooperation and teamwork needed to perform the work, and the personalities and backgrounds of the individuals that make up the team all contribute to the required levels of group and manager influences needed for successful performance. 

To correctly assess performance issues within organizations, the influences of groups and managers need to be evaluated.  Firing a manager with little control over a situation is as incorrect as heaping praise upon a manager who did little more than wear a title and watch the group perform.  Management, group, and situational factors must be assessed to determine actual contributions to organizational performance.  The Gator’s victory arose from a total team effort.  The players enacted the plans and game strategy that the coaching staff developed.  Players and coaches both deserve credit for the victory.  Go Gators!

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© 2006, 2007, 2008  Coleman Patterson, All Rights Reserved