Delegation and observation
The best thing I ever did. - Sir Alex Ferguson
In the same way that you benefit from hiring a consultant for an objective analysis of your business, Sir Alex believed in delegating the day to day, so he could focus on observing from a distance.
At the beginning of his management career, when he wasn’t much older than his players, he was on the pitch and involved in all the coaching sessions. But by the time he got to Manchester United, he'd learnt the power of observation. He was still there but not amongst the team so he could see the things a coach couldn’t.
The key is to delegate the direct supervision to others and trust them to do their jobs, allowing the manager to truly observe. - Anita Elberse, Harvard Business Review
If you apply this strategy to business, you'll notice things you didn’t see before. Because before you were too involved in the work, in getting things done. From a distance it's easier to look at things objectively, see where the pinch points are, see what needs to be improved and where the new opportunities are.
The ability to see things is key – or, more specifically, the ability to see things you don’t expect to see. - Sir Alex Ferguson
Adapt or die
Quite dramatic I grant you but it’s true! Think how much football has changed since Sir Alex led St Mirren to Scottish First Division victory in 1977.
Shorts are longer, hair is shorter, collars are smaller and players salaries are obscene. Two years after this photo was taken, Peter Shilton became the highest paid player in Britain earning £1,200 a week (July 5, Telegraph), equivalent to £5,800 today. Compare this to the £80,000 per week Pele was earning when he was at Southampton!
For more on how a club makes money today, read ‘One foot in the future’. Politically, economically, socially and technologically the world is a totally different place from the one it was in the 70s. To succeed, any business leader has to adapt to these changes before they happen.
I believe you control change by accepting it. - Sir Alex Ferguson
It’s as if Sir Alex thrived on change. As soon as he got to Manchester United he created change. He played much younger players than had been played before, and more of them. Read 'Good management from Sir Alex Ferguson' for more on this.
He instilled a sense of competition between players – he had four top centre forwards competing for two positions. This had never been done before. I imagine with egos on the team this was a great way to keep them on their toes, ensuring they took nothing for granted and always gave 100%.
As advances in science and technology were made, Sir Alex was quick to jump on them too. He employed sports scientists to support the coaches and, as recommended by them, had vitamin D booths installed at the club. He also used GPS vests to analyse performance 20 minutes after training.
As social changes meant a focus on our own wellness, Sir Alex was introducing yoga, optometrists and onsite medical staff. Not just out of the goodness of his heart but because it made good business sense.
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