We already covered some of the leadership tips and tricks that executives in all fields could take from Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the greatest managers of professional football in history, if not the greatest. We’ve got more advice to share in this article, and, as with the last, put your preconceptions about professional sports being different to other industries to the side; all of these management techniques below will apply to you every bit as much as a football manager.
For more information, or more in-depth insights into Sir Ferguson’s techniques, be sure to read his book, Leading.
Set high standards, but be fair
A well-run organisation needs to set high standards of its team, and expect the very best results from them. At the same time, those expectations need to be fair, and avoid piling too
much pressure on individuals, which can lead to detrimental results.
In other words, the key goal should be to make the expectations positive and validating to individuals. A leader should also avoid setting expectations that are too grand in nature – for example, to expect a team to go on an unbeaten winning streak of a certain number of games. Instead, make sure the team is properly prepared to perform in the next upcoming match. By breaking goals down like this, they feel more manageable, and then team members will feel better about targeting them.
It’s also important to avoid getting cocky. When things are going well, it’s easy to get complacent, but the next challenge is inevitably just around the corner, and complacency can lead to panic when things stop going smoothly. Keeping the team performing at their peak is critical for avoiding complacency.
Get a good measure of people before you hire them
Interviewing people to add them to your team is a critical skill that managers need to learn. If during the interview process the candidate is guarded and uncomfortable, it will be difficult to get a “read” on them. If you’re instead able to get them to relax, they will start to open up, be more forthright in answering questions, and you’ll get a better sense of their enthusiasm for the work and how they’ll fit in with the rest of the team.
And, if you can, observe the person in action; nothing tells you their capacity to work a job quite like watching them work yourself. For this reason, it’s important to develop good contacts outside of the organisation so that you can leverage word-of-mouth recruitment.
Be good at time management; take time away from work
As a manager, you’re going to be busy. There are meetings, team management, reporting, and other critical tasks that you’re going to have to work through, and if you haven’t got a good time management system in place, you’re going to find the pace of work outpaces your ability to keep up.
It’s important as part of the time management strategy to also schedule time for yourself – both to spend time with your family, and for your own personal hobbies and pleasures. This helps you with your work, as you’ll often find that the time away from work can give your brain the time it needs to start thinking innovatively. Looking at a problem after having some time away from it will also tend to show you the solution. If you try and be “switched on” at all times, you’ll quickly find that your productivity, focus, and cohesion actually falls.
Get really good at communication
Without excellent communication skills, being a leader is next to impossible, and you need to be able to communicate in a number of different directions; to your team, to those you report to, and to the customers and clients.
A good communicator is transparent, honest, respectful and forthcoming, regardless of who they are dealing with. They’re also available; without keeping a continuous line of communication open, people can begin to feel that information is being held back from them.
A good communicator is also clear and concise. Overly verbose people are not great communicators because they tend to lose their audience, and that leads to misinformation. Communicators that use language that is too obscure or complex also create confusion. The best communicators can take complex ideas and package them up in a palatable manner so that everyone walks away with a fundamental understanding of what was said.
A good communicator will also remain positive and not sound rehearsed. Reading from a page of notes tends to make the listener feel cold, like there’s no strength or belief in what’s being said. Being negative, meanwhile, exasperates any problems by further discouraging the listener. Through challenging times the best communicators outline a solution to the problem and does so with a confidence that everyone else knows that the solution can be achieved.
Your goal should be to reassure everyone in your organisation that they are valued, that their livelihoods and careers are not at risk, and that the contributions that they make to your organisation are meaningful. That kind of positive feedback and reinforcement will help to inspire them to even greater heights.
As with everything, being a great leader is a learning process, and finding examples of great leadership to emulate is how many of the great leaders learn their craft. Certainly, Sir Alex Ferguson’s insights on leadership are as enlightening as they come.