Monday, 30 September 2013

Sir Alex Ferguson. Coach Extraordinaire...

Some call him the greatest coach in history. Before retiring in May 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson spent 26 seasons as the manager of Manchester United, the English football (soccer) club that ranks among the most successful and valuable franchises in sports. During that time the club won 13 English league titles along with 25 other domestic and international trophies—giving him an overall haul nearly double that of the next-most-successful English club manager. And Ferguson was far more than a coach. He played a central role in the United organization, managing not just the first team but the entire club. “Steve Jobs was Apple; Sir Alex Ferguson is Manchester United,” says the club’s former chief executive David Gill. In 2012 Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse had a unique opportunity to examine Ferguson’s management approach and developed an HBS case study around it. Now she and Ferguson have collaborated on an analysis of his enormously successful methods.

Alex Ferguson was known as one of the most challenging and uncompromising coaches, and this approach led to huge success. The 8 lessons identified in the HBR are very interesting and quite apt... :

1. Start with the foundation. Centres of excellence were created for promising young players. Sir Alex said “The job of a manager … is to inspire people to be better.” Probably the only EPL manager who tried this seriously.

2. Dare to rebuild your team. Sir Alex constantly looked to rebuild the team and said “… we tried to visualise the three or four years ahead…”

3. Set high standards, and hold everyone accountable to them. Sir Alex demanded his players worked extremely hard, and never be satisfied. He is famous for letting stars go for not giving it their all.

4. Never, ever cede control. Ferguson responded quickly and forcefully, maintaining control, e.g. sacking or selling star players if they became a negative influence. He said “It doesn’t matter if the person is the best player in the world. The long-term view of the club is more important than the individual.” Hmmm...

5. Match the message to the momenttailor your words to the moment. Ferguson varied his approach saying “You can’t always come in shouting and screaming. That doesn’t work.” On feedback Ferguson says “Few people get better with criticism; most respond to encouragement.”

6. Prepare to win through regular practice and repetition of skills. Sir Alex said “If we were down – say 1-2 – with 15 minutes to go, I was ready to take more risks.”

7. Rely on the power of observation. My favourite one, and resonates in our coaching practice as well. Over time Ferguson switched from hands on coaching to observing. “What you pick up by watching is incredibly valuable.” 

8. Never stop adapting, Ferguson said “I believe you control change by accepting it … The most important thing is to not stagnate”.

No comments:

Post a Comment