Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Management Secrets of Sir Alex Ferguson

A great article in today's Financial Times by Simon Kuper on Manchester United's legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson (Why Ferguson remains at the top of his game).  Kuper writes that Ferguson doesn't have a brilliant understanding nor is he a genius.  What Ferguson excels at is management - - the handling of people.

Kuper identifies some of Sir Alex's management secrets:
  • Identify yourself with your company's brand.  Ferguson is the embodiment of the club's values - - the "keeper of the temple" - - the cause has become almost unthinkable without him.
  • Hone your strongest character trait into a weapon.  Known for his temper and famed "hairdryer" treatment - - he has learned to switch it on and off for maximum effect.
  • Cultivate every interest group inside the company.  Per Ferguson - - "Even if you hate your chairman, you have to find a way of getting on with it" - - board's, players, fans, and sponsors all have to be onside.
  • Gather information everywhere.  Ferguson knows everyone in the context of soccer - - he "hoovers" up information all the time.  Cultivate contacts unto death (a performance metric is the number of funerals you attend!).
  • Seek total control (but recognize when you cannot have it).  Ferguson views leadership as requiring three main qualities - - control, managing change, and observation.  Ferguson has a simple equation for control - - control = fear + information.
  • Do not let other people cause you stress.  Feel pressure?  Ferguson had the following advice - - "You know what I do in those circumstances?  You've got to literally imagine you are putting blinkers on.  People want to get into your space.  Only you decide who gets into your space."
  • Remember that crises blow over.  Tomorrow will be better than today - - Ferguson never adjusts his strategy because he knows crises pass.
  • Always be unsatisfied.  Satisfaction is fatal - - every trophy he wins is just a notch towards a target he never wants to meet.

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