With his inept attempt to swerve the blame and direct it to a Uruguayan referee, Fabio Capello might well have made his farewell speech from the England football team. With a large cheque winging its way to him, he will be crying all the way to the bank if he goes of course, but it could all yet be so different if the Italian maestro of club coaching had shown a little more grace. Abetted by a ridiculous contract dangled by the Football Association that ensures a thunderous pay-off, a frank admission might well have clinched his remaining in the job and perhaps build a foundation for an overturning of recent wretched form in the UEFA European Football Championship two years hence. In football, many stranger things have happened.
There's nothing wrong in screwing up -- we all do it. But having the strength of character to admit to failings and correct them is a relatively rare capability. Capello's World Cup contenders appeared tired, made individual errors, were unlucky in the linesmen's oversight but they also appeared directionless and unable to change the course of a game through substitutions or tactical changes. In this, at the very least, Capello was surely culpable. It was interesting, however, to compare the feted hard man of management's abnegation of responsibility to that of his fellow countryman Marcello Lippi when Italy were surprisingly eliminated by Slovakia.
"I take full responsibility," Lippi said. "If I was part of the success in 2006, I have to take the blame for this failure too. If a team shows up at an important game with terror in its heart and head and legs, it must mean the coach did not train them as he should have done. I thought the men I chose would have been able to deliver something different but obviously I was wrong.
"The players didn't play right, they didn't press, they didn't build, they didn't do anything. I still have belief in the players but no one would believe that was the real Italian team, the one you saw out there. I don't want to play the victim but the leader is always responsible. I refuse to believe we are as bad as you saw tonight - I didn't think we would win the World Cup but I thought we could perform better than that - but this is clearly not a fantastic moment for Italian football.
"I deeply regret not being able to prepare the team properly or find the right mix of motivation. I don't know why we only played in the last 10 minutes and I am sorry for the choices I made, what else can I say? I am extremely sorry for all the fans who came to watch us, and I can hardly express how sorry I am to end my time with the association in this way. I really would have expected anything but this."
I spoke recently to a well-known CIO who is the veteran of several SAP deployments. I suggested to him that when he first created an ERP platform the task was regarded as a make-or-break for IT leaders' careers. He agreed but said that his first deployment had been a disaster, earning the contempt of the board of a well-known FMG giant. Had his job been in doubt? Certainly, but by successfully delivering a subsequent platform he had won back respect -- and with interest added because he had not shirked responsibility.
"If you mess it up, you hold your hands up," he said. "Management respect people who have had the scars of battle as well as the laurels of victory. What you can't do is play the blame game. That won't wash."
Very true and I think about British Airways CIO Paul Coby after Heathrow Terminal 5, actually taking on more responsibility than was necessary and declining the temptation to point fingers. Accepting the flack when it's flying can be unpleasant but it is also a mark of character and can even be converted through an odd, alchemical process to a net positive.