One of, if not the greatest Coach/manager retired from the front lines of Manchester United a few months back. His game victories and ability to pull goals ‘out of hats’ in the last dying minute of a game has been nothing short of miraculous.
You think it is luck but a Harvard Business School professor Anitia Elberse took on an assignment to try bottle Sir Alex’s formulae of success. Here are 8 lessons you can learn from the great Sir Alex Ferguson
Start with the foundation
Alex in the mid-eighties had a vision for the club. That vision was not to buy the best top player like most clubs do today but rather set up two ‘centres of excellence’ and recruited players, even as young as 9 years old. He set a mandate to scouts to bring him the best of the best and among those talents where David Beckham and Ryan Giggs.
Ferguson believed this allowed for players to bond, build spirit and create a fluency. The future success in building a great club is making sure you have a strong foundation and a supply chain to the first team.
Dare to rebuild you team
Ferguson has been credited with assembling five distinct winning squads over the years and this has been attributed to a keen sense of player’s life cycles. It all boils down to what degree of value a player is bringing a team at any given moment. The minute the value did not benefit United, the player would be traded.
“He never really looked at the moment, he’s always looking into the future” Ryan Giggs told HBS. Ferguson believed that any great team has about four years before the life cycle changes, this is why it is so important to look to the future in planning.
Set high Standards
One of the most important philosophies of Ferguson is instilling value in his players. His goal was to inspire them to strive to do better and never give up. United had a level of standard set but Ferguson, and if you wanted to be a part of United, you had to eat, sleep and breathe the culture. Ferguson said that he never had a bad training session, it was all about quality, high focus, intensity, concentration and speed. Off the pitch was no different with motivation talks, tactical talks, team building exercises and preparation.
“I had to lift players’ expectations. They should never give in. If you give in once, you’ll give in twice” The goal with setting high standards is to make sure everyone, including the guy who cuts the grass to subscribe to belief. Players should not feel they have to always push to give a high standard each practise but rather believe this is the norm that is expected of them.
Never, Ever Cede Control
“You can’t ever lose control – not when you are dealing with 30 top professionals who are all millionaires,” Ferguson told HBS. “And if any players want to take me on, to challenge my authority and control, I’ll deal with them.” If anyone violated his code of ethics, they were dealt with accordingly, as Roy Keane soon found out when his contract was terminated for publicly criticising his team mates.
Ferguson firmly believed that if players decided how the training should be, what days they should have off, what the disciplines should be, and what the tactics should be, then Manchester United would not be the Manchester United we know. It’s all about keeping control and making sure your personality is bigger than theirs.
It is hard to bottle years and years of experience, people have tried to bottle billionaire Warren Buffets’ success principles but have failed miserably. The important thing to remember here is that Ferguson’s eight principles of success are key ingredient in making any club a success but it is often the finer processes that are not spoken about that support and strengthen the principles.
Take time to reflect on his principles and see how these principles have made Sir Alex a legend, and can benefit your club environment. Look out for next week’s article on the final 4 principles of Alex Fergusons success. Tweet me your thoughts and views @SeanVStaden