I am writing this blog from our Perth office this week and I just walked past the lunch room and read all about the sacking of Mark Harvey, the former coach of the Fremantle Dockers. For those of you that are not AFL fans, Harvey was sacked just after having breakfast with the CEO, who didn’t mention a thing, and replaced by Ross Lyon, the St Kilda coach who was still under contract. Interestingly, both Harvey and Lyon were managed by the same management company and they were not aware of the machinations behind the scenes. It will probably be the biggest story of the year in the AFL and it has led to a flurry of recent coaching appointments. It raised some interesting questions for me; was it brilliant recruiting or unethical? Would it have been accepted behaviour if it wasn’t in the sports industry?

This is in no way limited to the AFL sector either. At the start of the year, the Brisbane Courier Mail was running story after story regarding the dismissal of Ivan Henjak. Henjak had the enviable task of replacing Wayne Bennett and the Brisbane Broncos were a club in transition. The new Board felt that they needed to go “in a different direction” and Henjak was removed and the unheralded Anthony Griffin was appointed. Rumours of a fall out with senior players were plentiful and there were a great deal of leaks from “insiders” saying that Henjak was too intense and difficult to work with. The result has been that the Broncos are one game away from the Grand Final and have unearthed some brilliant talent. Once again, was this brilliant recruiting or was it unethical?

Without trying to pretend that I have any inside information to either of these dismissals and appointments, it is very hard for me not to feel very sorry for both Harvey and Henjak. Harvey has had to deal with a massive injury toll and Henjak invested heavily in youth and the success is there for all to see this year. However, the Broncos Board has certainly been vindicated as their results have been nothing short of brilliant and the entire town is supporting them totally again. Fremantle too can lay claim to the fact that they attracted the best possible available coach in Ross Lyon and enticed him to leave a team who has made two grand finals in recent years. Both management teams could strongly argue that they have acted in the best interest of their clubs to achieve the best possible results. This is what they are charged to do and this is how they are measured.

This brings me to my world of recruitment. Last night, I took in a confidential assignment to replace a senior executive. The client told me that the Board is not dissatisfied with the incumbent; they just feel as though he is not the best available on the market and he is not maximising the results for the group. While I immediately felt very sorry for the incumbent and started to defend him, I took a step back and admired the actions of the Board as well. They were making the difficult call and they are proactively making a change which they believe will lead to better shareholder returns. Ultimately, this is how they will be measured.

So, while the recent spate of coaching appointments maybe rare and getting a great deal of press and commentary, it is not limited to the sports industry. These types of staff movements occur every day in all industries. It is just sometimes difficult for those on the other side and also those in the middle. They just need to be handled with respect and dignity in what are difficult times.

Brad McMahon – Managing Director

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