Sir Alex Ferguson is undoubtedly one of the most successful and longest-serving managers in football. For over a quarter of a century as their sole manager, Manchester United went on to bag 38 trophies. Sports enthusiasts all over the world recognize his brilliance and leadership skills even after resigning as a football manager.
Not only sports players can learn from Ferguson, but all aspiring team leaders can. Below are 8 lessons from the legendary manager that can help any business head run a company and make it the best that it can be:
- Motivating the employees might be the most important job a manager has. Ferguson knew exactly when and how he has to give the speech. A player once recalled the manager’s words as “one of those inspirational speeches that turn fearful men into world-beaters.”
- It goes to say that a team should function well above all. No one, not even the most talented, is worth risking that. Once when United’s captain Roy Keane publicly criticized the players, Ferguson decided to end his contract.
- Treat everyone in the organization with respect. Ferguson aims to create a ‘family atmosphere’ where every person, from the star player right through to the staff, feels valued as a member of United’s team.
- Younger members learn best when working alongside experienced employees. The manager was known to give special attention to their youth program. He ensured that young players warmed up with the senior players daily in order to encourage unity and teamwork.
Running the Team
- Resources are limited so plan ahead of time and expect trade-offs. “I work sometimes two games ahead — I might rest key players for a game that may be less important. There is a risk element in doing that, and it can backfire, but you have to accept that. You have to trust your squad,” Ferguson described how he managed to handle competing demands.
- Spend most of your time focusing on your own company instead of your rivals. While it’s best to look around your shoulders, don’t let the competition blindside you into doing what’s best for your own team. Ferguson admitted to doing both: “I tend to concentrate on one or two players of my opponents — the ones that are the most influential… The rest of the time I concentrate on our own team.”
- You can’t do everything by yourself so delegate. The renowned manager learned to leave more of the training sessions to his assistants over the years. “As a coach on the field, you don’t see anything,” he explained. Taking a step back allowed him to observe the players and their performance better.
- Embrace inevitable change and adapt to new technologies. Ferguson had to be flexible since the world of football changed dramatically in his 25 years at United. The manager expanded his backroom staff, even appointing a team of sports scientists to support the coaching staff. United provided a Vitamin D machine to help the players counterbalance the lack of sunlight in Manchester. He also gave players one-week breaks in the winter months to replenish their Vitamin D. Ferguson also championed the use of player vests fitted with GPS systems, enabling them to analyze a player’s physical performance just 20 minutes after training.