Surface transformation only at Carlton!

What is transformation? What is the essence of what this word means? How does this apply to the Carlton FC and the position it is in at the moment?

Transformation happens when a complete change in the appearance or character of something or someone, so much so that the thing or person is improved.

If you have a run-down or old house and renovate it, you are transforming it from old, dull and worn out to a bright, new, fresh building. When you transform an old car into one that looks brand new, you are improving the car from what it was to what it is now.

The transformation of a person is when that person looks at themselves and say I need to change. They can change their appearance and look, but they must also change who they are for the transformation to be complete and valid. Transforming a house or a car can only be seen on the surface, and that is because an inanimate object is just that – something that has no real heart or soul. Transforming a person must contain two transformations to be legitimately honest and complete – surface and under the surface. Otherwise, everyone can see the outside transformations, but inside, nothing changes and therefore, the transformation is superficial, and while the appearance may change, the core of a person does not.

The same transformation occurs when it comes to the collective in an organization and, in this case, a football club because it is not the building that may be transformed but those that traverse its corridors that is pivotal in a successful transformation.

Peggy Johnson, former Executive Vice President of Microsoft and now CEO of Magic Leap, a company that designs and produces head-mounted virtual retinal 3D displays, stated that ‘when a culture is broken, the cracks show – morale is weakened, but so is profit and performance. That’s why culture has to be at the core of any business transformation.’ She also states that many companies have nice-sounding cultural values like integrity, respect, and excellence, but if those values don’t map to specific behaviors, they quickly get lost. Instead, we see what’s called a halo effect, where leaders tend to overvalue specific attributes and undervalue others.

The Carlton FC in its entirety is under the sharp, blinding spotlight of the AFL footy world, and it has been since the announcement of the review that happened mid-season. It saw the resignation of a President and the coming in of a new one, who brought in four new appointees to replace ones that left, no matter under what terms that happened. On the surface, the changes made, the transformation could be seen as one to enable the Carlton FC to move progressively towards eventual success. But this is surface transformation only, nothing more, as it does not get to the very heart and soul of what has been wrong at the club – its culture. Here’s why.

Luke Sayers has been on the Board at the Carlton FC for some years. In all that time, if he saw that things needed to change at the club, where was his voice then? Is it because he now has a power that he did not have before to make the necessary transformation at the club that is his and his alone? What does that tell you about the person where the only way they afford a change, a transformation, is when they become powerful? That they sat in the background, biding their time. Sure he has made some changes, and you could say that they are transformations themselves, but while the changes may be required, they only address the issues on the surface. They do not get to the real heart of the transformation – the toxic culture at the club. This is because Sayers did not make fundamental changes at the Board level but brought in those he has a close connection to, and therefore, while on the surface, the transformation of the Board could be seen as a good thing. But at its heart and soul, nothing much has changed. The past has been swapped out for the same characteristics that grace the present Board. The changes do not allow the transformation to get to the heart and soul of the issues at Carlton FC – its culture and one that Sayers has been a part of for quite some time.

Dr Jim Taylor is an internationally recognized authority on sports psychology and what it takes to succeed as an athlete and part of a team. He stated that ‘how team members think, feel, behave, and perform are all influenced by the environment in which they practice and compete.’ He also works with organizations, and he states that ‘developing a healthy team culture is as important in the sports world as in the corporate world.’ The culture is ‘the expression of a team’s values, attitudes, and goals about sports, competition, and relationships.’ He reiterates that ‘when a team has a defined culture that is understood and accepted by all of its members, they feel an implicit pressure (in the good sense) to support that culture.’

If Sayers believes that the club needed to be transformed to be successful, which has been done given what has transpired, he is also a part of the problem that has got the club to where it is now. If he felt that transformations needed to be made, where was he before he became President? Instead of looking at the very heart and soul of the issues at Carlton, he, along with others, have decided that transformation comes in the form of throwing copious amounts of money at some, in the hope that this will make the club a better one when that only allows a surface transformation. It becomes an inanimate transformation such as one where the appearance is changed, but the heart and soul remain the same. As with this type of transformation, eventually, the cracks will appear and then once more, there will be an attempt to transform the surface only by those who cannot see past their self-interest, and the Carlton FC will once more be seen as nothing more than a club that failed in their transformation.

The opportunity to ensure that Carlton completes a complete transformation has to start with any organization’s heart and soul – its culture. If that does not change, the surface transformation will be just that, on the surface. Quick, instant and one that cannot be sustained no matter whom they bring in and what they pay them.