It’s hard being the boss. I speak from bitter experience. I love the challenges of making big decisions and the glory of being in charge when it goes well but, when it doesn’t, it’s horrible.
And it’s not just horrible because it means my businesses aren’t making money or because my clients or colleagues aren’t happy, it’s horrible because it always feels like it’s my fault (even when it isn’t).
The truth is we’re all human. We all make mistakes. And, weirdly, some of my greatest successes in business have come when backed into a corner and being forced to put things right after I’d screwed up. The problems come when you take the other easier paths that are far more tempting. And there are two paths I think Stewart Donald is currently following that will see him keep speeding towards the cliff edge he just can’t see.
When you’re the boss you always have to make the final decision, but the most successful people constantly take advice and, in areas they’re weak or for projects they don’t have time for, they take help from people who are better placed to act. It’s hard for a businessperson to admit there are people better placed to act because it feels like admitting a weakness but, in fact, acknowledging you need help and then accepting it is a huge strength.
In terms of the football side of the club and the day to day management of the commercial side of the club, Stewart Donald needs help from someone, or some people, who will be in Sunderland seven days a week, taking responsibility for those roles and working together to bring the club together. The appointment of non-exec directors is a positive but nowhere near enough and, as I’ve already said, even with them, is Donald going to listen to what they have to say?
Admitting you got something wrong as a business owner is really hard. The temptation is to bluff your way through it, say that it’ll get better, or blame someone else for the decision, but sometimes we have to stand up and admit we screwed up.
The bigger the gaff the harder it gets and the temptation is to dig yourself even deeper into a hole by telling everyone that what’s happening is exactly what you planned. I fear that is where we are with Parkinson. Everyone can see that it hasn’t worked out. Everyone can see that he has to go. The players have started playing like they know he’ll be gone soon. The fans have turned against him in a way I can’t remember with any other manager, even Moyes or Wilkinson.
Time to step up, admit it was a mistake and, adding together the two points I’m trying to make, appoint a trustworthy, full time director of football and give them their first job of recruiting a new manager to take us forwards.
I’d like to think that no Sunderland fan would ever blame a player, manager or director for making a mistake. We’d be upset, sure, but if they acknowledged their mistake and worked hard to prevent it ever happening again, we’d cheer them on. The #DonaldOut hashtag isn’t a result of fickle fans or misguided expectations, it’s a result of misinformation, distraction and a refusal to accept that things are going horribly wrong.
So rather than #DonaldOut, I’d rather say admit your mistakes, take steps to put the right people in the right jobs (and accept their help) and put right the most obvious error by getting Parkinson out and bringing in the director of football and manager who can take us back to where this club belongs. And if you can’t or won’t do that then, to paraphrase Peggy Mitchell, get out of my club.