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Otto John raises the ultimate question. Sheehan and Haupt swear each other allegiance.
They meet at the City Tavern, corner of 2nd and Walnut Streets, a stone’s throw away from the Delaware River. From 1774 to 1777 the conspiratorial meeting place for the leaders of the revolution against British rule. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Thomas Paine, Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Rebuilt after a devastating fire in the mid-19th Century.
Haupt, Sheehan and Otto John sit at a round table, in the back corner, next to one of the tall windows typical of that period. The three men make their selections from a menu replicating what the revolutionaries would have had: crab cakes, basil shrimp, Black Forest ham and asparagus, pepperpot soup, country salad, tomato and onion salad, veal Munich-style, rack of lamb, braised rabbit, pork chops, steak with mushrooms. The German influence is unmistakable.
Haupt and Sheehan review and repeat their agreements from the weekend before in New York City. They appear to understand clearly the three fundamental variations which integration can take. For John, however, that’s not good enough. He wants to hear it said, to listen to the actual words used, sense the spirit in which the two CEOs communicate.
They discuss at length. Haupt and Sheehan do, in fact, agree, on the big questions. But, there are nuanced differences. Differences in inclination, in trajectory, if not direction. Whereas Haupt favors Verzahnung or interlocking (deep integration), Sheehan prefers separate-but-equal. Clearly a divergence.
Otto John asks Haupt to reach into his pocket and place any coins he might have on the table, separating the American from Eurozone pieces. Quarters, dimes, nickels, pennies. What does Haupt see on those coins? On the front side of the quarter Washington’s profile, the year of its issue, at the top the word “Liberty,” left under the chin in smaller print “In God We Trust.”
On the reverse side an eagle, under which one reads “Quarter Dollar,” above “United States of America,” and smaller above the eagle’s head “e pluribus unum” – out of many, one. The dime, the same. Franklin Roosevelt’s profile. “Liberty.” Year on the back. Then, “e pluribus unum”. Thomas Jefferson on the nickel. Abraham Lincoln, for many America’s greatest president, on the penny.
“Out of many, one”, says John, “refers to USA as a melting pot of many peoples, many cultures. Is it any different with us Europeans? We too are striving towards a union, see only advantages in it, but want to maintain, at least to a certain degree, our individual regional identities. We want to protect and defend our traditions and customs.
It’s the same with the Americans. Their first reaction to integrating how the two companies do business will almost always be either variation three, separate-but-equal, or variation two, a step-by-step move to an integrated approach. But, it will rarely be variation one, full and deep integration. You see, we Germans feel comfortable with norms and standards. A paradox actually, for we are made up of so many cultures: Saxons in the North, Prussians in the Northeast, Bavarians in the South, Alemannen and Swabians in the Southwest, Rhinelanders in the West.
Haupt and Sheehan listen carefully. “Two points. First, your fundamental inclinations are different. Second, you did not anticipate these divergences. You assumed similarity, unity, same thinking. Beginning now you two must time and again come together and compare notes, compare thinking, do an alignment-check. And remember, it’s the nuanced differences in approaches, thinking, direction, especially in critical and fundamental areas, which have imbedded in them the danger of a drifting away. So, remain vigilant.”
Haupt and Sheehen nod. They both order a green tea. Otto John a beer. He waits until the waiter returns and all have taken a sip or two. All are quiet, reflective. John then looks at both men in a way signaling that he has a question for them.
“Herr Haupt, what is the spirit driving Integration II? Is it a takeover or a partnership?”
An essential, yet potentially explosive, question. A direct challenge. Perhaps the most critical of all questions. It’s clear to all three. This is a hugely complex question. Not easily answered with a simple, black and white, facile response. From John’s point of view, however, it needs to be addressed. To both CEOs. Openly.
It’s late. Haupt’s body clock reads well after midnight. Although he doesn’t want to dodge the question, he chooses not to respond in detail. Instead, he goes to the heart of the matter.
“Factually, in reality, it is a takeover. To call it a merger of equals would be a trick. Dishonest, immoral, counter-productive. But,” he stresses while raising his index finger as if to remind and warn himself, “the spirit which drives our work must be one of partnership.”
He then looks at Sheehan, speaking softly and carefully, from the heart: “In the spirit of brotherhood.” Jack Sheehan is silent, calm, settled. Is Haupt aware of his choice of words? Philadelphia, from the Greek philo – to love – and adelphos – brother. The City of Brotherly Love. Their eyes remain in met position. John remains perfectly still, knowing fully well that he is witnessing two CEOs making an agreement, a solemn promise.
Sheehan inhales deeply, slowly, thoughtfully. “I’ll do everything I can, Christian, to make our partnership work. You bought us. That is a fact. But, let’s begin today working as a team. I promise you here and now that I will do everything I can to get my people to accept that reality. You, however, need to ensure that your folks see and treat us like equal partners and teammates.”
Their statements are brief, to the point. Dramatic, not melodramatic. Both men are calm, settled. They can work together. Both spoke from the heart. No double-meanings, neither in choice of words nor in intention.
John waits a minute or two, then signals to the waiter. The dessert menu. Haupt, mint chocolate chip ice cream. Sheehan German chocolate cake. John American apple pie. Three athletes. Three orders of sugar and fat. “Man gönnt sich ja sonst nichts,” Otto John thinks to himself.
Soccer or football. How do Germans and Americans lead? How do they want to be led?
Again Haupt is awake and up early. Breakfast isn’t being served, yet. Time for a run. Up 20th Street towards Logan Square. Left onto the Ben Franklin Parkway to the Philadelphia Art Museum. There in just over ten minutes, Haupt runs up the seventy-two steps to the entrance, turns to face City Hall and the Center City skyline, raises his hands over his head while running in place, exhaling the heat his body has produced on this wintry morning before dawn.
He can hear the music in his mind. Rocky Balboa! The Niemand (nobody) who takes on the champ and wins. Against all odds. Haupt heads back down, turns left, half-circle around the museum and heads along the Schuykill River on the running path next to Kelly Drive, named after Grace’s famed father – triple Olympic gold medal winner in rowing and wealthy founder of a successful construction company. The air is clear and cold, Haupt feels solid, strong, wants a solid and strong Sheehan and America.
The Union League. 140 South Broad Street. Two blocks south of City Hall. Established in 1862 by Philadelphia’s captains of industry, its goal was to raise funds in support for Abraham Lincoln and the Union against the Confederacy. War. Between brothers. Never civil. The money poured in. Hospitals were built, personnel trained and equipped. The North prevailed. The Union League continued its political activities, reaching deep into the South, supporting the newly created Republican Party. 2009. The Union League continues to be the meeting point for the business leaders in America’s Delaware Valley.
A small meeting room has been reserved. Thick carpet. High ceiling. Tall windows with even taller drapery. A square table in the middle of the room. Two flipchart stands with paper and markers. A quiet work environment.
Otto John states the question: “What makes for effective leadership? In teams. We’re interested in the hundreds of daily interactions between team-lead and -members.”
Haupt and Sheehan welcome the opportunity to engage about such a foundational topic. Workshop atmosphere. Each jumps up, grabs their flipchart, heads for a corner of the room and begins reflecting. John adds: “Respond to this question from the thirty-thousand foot perspective and totally independent of industry.
In other words, what does it fundamentally mean in the U.S., Jack Sheehan, and in Germany, Herr Haupt, to lead people? I mean the very concrete relationship between the person leading the team and those working in that team. That day-to-day interaction, and not some theoretical discussion about great leaders such as Alexander, Napoleon, Washington, Bismarck.”
Haupt and Sheehan need no more than twenty minutes. They write, reflect, re-write. John observes, doesn’t make comments, but tosses in a question or two.
Haupt writes: formulate strategy with direct reports … provoke open and critical discussions … define targets and tasks clearly, but allow freedom to execute … select the best people and continually develop them … protect the team from corporate-internal politics.
Sheehan’s flipcharts read: clear and motivating communication … maintain team cohesion … focus on execution … set strategy with key advisors … assist on tactical level … stay flexible … stay in close contact with the team.
Haupt and Sheehan sit back down. John pushes the flipcharts to the side. “Ok, let’s get into this topic a little deeper by comparing football and soccer coaches. Did either of you play soccer?”
Haupt nods. “Sure. Just about every boy in my generation played at some time. I was a member in a football club. In grammar school. Was great fun. Later in high school I simply didn’t have the time.”
Sheehan: “Never. My children play. When I was growing up we knew the name Pele. That was about it.”
“Herr Haupt, what levers does a soccer coach have at his disposal in order to influence the outcome of the match? During the match?”
“He can substitute three players. Yell in instructions. Give guidance during half-time.”
“Can he call specific plays?”
“No. On penalty kicks and corner kicks the team can execute certain plays, but you can’t call set plays during the game.”
“And when the coach yells in instructions, to whom does he yell?”
“Usually to the captain, the playmaker.”
“And where is he standing at that time? Near the coach?”
“Rarely. Somewhere on the field, usually in the middle.”
“How far away from the coach?”
“Certainly not near.”
“Which means, if the fans are making a lot of noise, if the playmaker is far away, he really can’t hear what the coach is screaming, right?”
“Most likely not, no.”
“And what happens if the trainer yells too loud, puts full effort into giving signals and instructions by any means?”
“Well, he could be penalized, in some cases ejected from the game.”
“One more question. How many assistant coaches does a soccer coach typically have?”
“I don’t really follow soccer any more, but I think one or two.”
John noted down Haupt’s responses. A rather short list.
“Jack, what does the football coach’s situation look like? What levers does he have to influence the outcome of the game, during the game?”
“A whole bunch. He can substitute players.”
“How many? When?”
“Unlimited. Between individual plays, during changes of ball possession, during time-outs.“
“Time-outs. How many are there?”
“It’s been some time since I last played or followed the games carefully. I think two or three per half. Then you have three time-outs between quarters. The half-time break is particularly long. Twenty minutes.”
“And the tv time-outs?”
“Oh yeah, commercials. Without those no one would be able to make any money. There are a lot of those. Some short, thirty seconds, others up to two minutes. And they happen all the time during the game.”
“Ok, in what other ways can a football coach influence the outcome of the game?”
“Play-calling. Of course! The head coach and his assistants call the plays.”
Haupt is not familiar with American football, as the Germans call it. It’s always appeared to him rather chaotic and really brutal, not really a sport. As a German, John knows what Haupt is thinking. “Explain to your colleague exactly what you mean.”
“Without going into the details, Christian, we can watch part of a game tomorrow on television. The game consists of set plays or moves, like chess. The coach determines what plays are executed. The quarterback, or playmaker, can modify those calls, but not too often. Each player on the field – on the offensive side – knows precisely what they are supposed to do in each play. The players have practiced these individual plays time and again. Sixty, seventy plays, perhaps more. They memorize the playbook.”
“What do all the assistant coaches do?” John asks going deeper. “The coaching staff is large, up to ten or more specialists. They coach during the game. If, for example, you lose possession of the ball, the offensive team comes off the field. They catch their breath, drink some water. That’s when their offensive coach does his work.”
“Meaning he coaches right then and there, during the game, just like in practice. Can an offensive coach actually call in plays?”
“Sure. That’s what he gets paid for. All the coaches follow the game very carefully and give tactical instructions. Depending on how the game evolves, they can alter the overall strategy, thus the tactical approach, the plays.”
John summarizes: “Ok, let’s look at the levers a football coach has. Unlimited player substitution. Play-calling. Time-outs. Coaching during the game.”
Sheehan throws in another lever. “Wait a minute. The coach can attempt to influence the referees. He yells at them, jokes with them, flatters them. It’s a high art form. Oh, and the way in which plays are called is fascinating. An assistant coach sits way up high in the press box and observes the opposition looking for holes and weaknesses, then communicates to his coaching colleagues on the field. They, in turn, discuss within a very short time-frame, maybe twenty seconds, what the next play should be. Then one of them instructs the quarterback.”
“And how exactly does the quarterback get the instructions?”
“With the help of technology. When I played many years ago, substitute players went in and out with the plays. Then folks moved to hand signals. These days they use technology. The head or quarterback coach simply talks to him directly. Their helmets are wired for communication.”
Haupt is astonished. “That’s a sport which is totally dominated by the coaches!”
John responds. “That’s precisely the point, Herr Haupt. The football head coach with his assistant coaches are the key players in the game. They simply are not permitted to step onto the field. The coach dictates, conducts, determines what is done, and how. He and his coaching staff lead not only strategically, but also tactically, making adjustments and changes at any point.
The players on the field respond accordingly, as they are told, with discipline, to the plan, as trained in practice. Diverging from the plan, from individual instructions is allowed by only very few players and only in certain circumstances. Communication between coaches and players is constant, specific, detailed, and with the help of technology. The coaches actually coach during the game.
In soccer it’s vey different. The soccer coach is a teacher. In fact, that’s his job title. Fussballlehrer. Literally, soccer teacher. When someone decides to become a career soccer coach in Germany they have to go through extensive theoretical and practical training. They attain official certification. You see, the soccer coach really does 90% of his work before the match. Once that match begins he does not have all that much influence on its outcome.
Compared to a football coach he is quite powerless. You can see their frustration on the sidelines. They know precisely what their team should be doing at any given time, but can’t do much about it. It’s the players on the field who have to read the situation, to convert strategy into tactics, and in a situation in permanent flux, permanent change. The communication between soccer coach and players is minimal. That’s they way the rules are written. Football, and it’s the same in basketball and baseball in the U.S., is, as we have seen, totally different.”
“That explains a lot of what I have observed and experienced over the years,” says Haupt. His American colleague agrees: “Me, too. Amazing.”
“This is fascinating stuff,” continues Otto John. “I enjoy it immensely, as you will, too. We’re identifying our national cultural hard-wiring. Not in the sense of biology, though, DNA and such. Human behavior is far too complex for the natural sciences. What we’re interested in, what we want to understand is our differing, our divergent inclinations and preferences. I like to use the image of bell curves.”
“Yes. You see, we’re not interested so much in where you are, Jack, in your leadership logic on the American bell curve. That would be a purely inner-American question. Just as it would be an inner-German discussion to look at how Christian leads. We’re interested in where the two bell curves, the American and the German, are in relation to each other. Where they don’t overlap, where the gaps are. Overlaps are uninteresting. Those are commonalities. They work.
Instead, we want to focus on the differences, on the divergences. Where do the two logics, American and German, diverge? These we want to identify, understand and manage. You see, it’s in these differences in fundamental approaches that we have both the potential for problems: miscommunication, friction, colleagues working against instead of with and for each other – but more importantly the potential for tremendous synergies, for combining the inherent strengths of two extraordinarily capable peoples!”
Otto John remains still, reflects. In tightly written White Papers he has spelled out these divergences in German and American national cultural approaches. His original plan was to give Haupt and Sheehan his White Paper on Leadership after laying out for them how he could support Integration II. As a little bedtime reading. He decides to give them an abbreviated version now, however. He wants them to get a sense for how he understands these complex topics, and also to sensitize them to the overall complexity of the challenges, and opportunities, ahead.
Back to John Otto Magee.