A few years ago a recently retired Sir Alex Ferguson embarked on a series of business talks to share his lessons on leadership and management.
It was a curious moment.
Here was the working-class Govan boy, a titan of British football, lecturing the City’s top executives on how to run their business and manage their staff.
Ferguson had long cultivated an uncompromising and confrontational public persona. It was perhaps then surprising to hear of his softer man-management methods – the ‘arm around the shoulder’ moments – that were equally as important, though less headline-worthy, as his fabled hair-dryer treatment.
Now, don’t laugh, but footballers are complex – just like you and your staff. With mental health so often in the headlines these days, it’s important to remember that we’re all wired differently. This recognition was essential to Ferguson’s enduring management success and evident in innumerable anecdotes.
His successful management technique can be boiled down to three key principles:
- The best managers are good listeners and go the extra mile to understand the people around them.
- The best managers set out a clear management strategy but, at the same time, know when and how to adjust their methods.
- The best managers build a bond of trust and loyalty between them and their staff.
If we take a look at today’s A-list cast of Premier League managers, there’s an array of contrasting styles and methods at play, but all of them adhere to these principles. If you look at the best business managers, they will too.
This is all at risk of making management sound incredibly simple.