The official perspective

I have just watched the official press conference that was called by Cricket South Africa (CSA) to convey the official views of the sudden resignation of the coach, Mickey Arthur.

Prepared speeches were read out by the CEO and the coach. And then a question and answer time was opened up to the media. In such contexts very little meaningful information is actually shared. It is not a safe place to reveal one’s true feelings or to share one’s honest perspective.

Maybe it is because of my previous work with elite teams and administrators or maybe it is because of my understanding of how interpersonal systems behave in crisis when there is so much interpersonal positioning and covering, but I was left feeling that ‘the whole truth and nothing but the truth‘  had not had any possibility to surface. Throughout the press conference, I kept thinking that there was so much more to what was being said. There were so many more ‘unsaids’ than what was actually being conveyed.

In times of crisis on a leadership level, there are many narratives that are kept behind closed doors – hidden from others. These narratives are often wrapped up in power plays, political agendas, personality clashes and issues surrounding decision-making processes.

So at this point in time, the official view from the coach is that his sudden resignation was caused by him not being in agreement with the structures that were being proposed by the CSA board. His relationship with the captain was healthy and intact.

But I can’t stop wondering why the sudden resignation? Why now?

And then it hit me. We should not be seduced into believing that this was a sudden decision, wrapped up in this moment in time. These crises take time to unfold. There are interpersonal processes and dynamics that are at play that build up over time. They build up pressure – just as competitive teams do to each other in the heat of battle. Until the opposition cracks, and the victory is secured.

Interpersonal battles leave scars, create resentment and build up mistrust. Interpersonal battles are more complex, devious and hidden than the on-the-field battles that sporting teams encounter. There are ‘rules’ in sport. Interpersonal battles are not clearly defined and there is an unpredictably of behaviour.

At this point in time, the CEO of CSA has contained the crisis around the coach’s resignation, the captain is still the captain and seems ‘no part of the problem’, there is a care-taker coach to accompany the team to India and the CSA board will select the fourth coach to work with the team and help the captain achieve the objective of getting the team to the Number 1 ranking in world cricket.

The process has played itself out just as I expected.

But I can’t help thinking that there is so much more to this story. So we’ll have to wait for this narrative to unfold. In time, stories reveal themselves as the narrative moves towards the intricate complexity of the ‘truth’. These narratives are eventually revealed in time as the information finds itself flowing through the informal channels of those who are involved in the sport, moving through the complex inter-connected fabric of the system. Information gets shared in interpersonal contexts where those who feel aggrieved, feel safe to ‘really tell their story’ – to share their story without the need to posture or to censor.

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