Three golden management rules

With the Premier League reaching a thrilling crescendo and a controversial choice for the new England national coach, the time couldn’t be better for me to shoehorn in a clumsy sporting, management metaphor.

Okay I know, nothing new there, you can’t move for sporting analogy when it comes to management – from the endless cricketing sayings, to the former athletes queuing up to offer leadership courses.

I suppose it’s popular to use sport for management lessons because it’s an extreme microcosm of the challenges facing us at work every day: trying to motivate people, dealing with pressure, encouraging high performance, coping with expectations, getting your strategy working and so on and so on.

In the Premier League this year, for example, the role of the manager is heightened even further because the margins are so small. The title this year could be decided by goal difference so every decision by the top managers is scrutinised, analysed and debated.

There’s no doubt that getting the right manager at the right time can have a huge impact on the fortunes of a club. My team, Newcastle United, are currently going for a champions League place despite only being back in the top flight for a couple of years and refusing to invest heavily in players.

It seems that (finally) in Alan Pardew they’ve got the right manager in place at the right time. It’s probably more through luck than judgement after getting through a whopping nine managers in the last eight years.

As a manager (and a manager of managers) myself I’ve always applied a rule of three to all football coaches, which is equally valid for the workplace as well.

For me all good managers should:

  1. First and foremost get results. For footie managers that means winning games pure and simple. In an office I suppose that means meeting all your objectives, selling more stuff or achieving whatever targets the business sets for you.
  2. Have the ability change things when it’s not going well and influence events. On the pitch that means coming back from 2-0 down on a wet Monday night in February. The legendary Bobby Robson had no fear about making a treble substitution at any point in the game or changing tactics completely during the match. For the workplace manager that means being flexible enough to change course if you’re not getting the desired results. It’s also about being resilient in difficult times, enthusing people, trying new things to get results, being innovative and knowing how to take people with you.
  3. Make people better and help them improve. The best football managers can get the best out of their players but also improve them. In the Premiership era that seems to be the most overlooked part of the job because managers can often go out and just buy another £30m superstar. But the very best managers can attract players because they will improve under their tutelage. In corporate life this should really be a manager’s number one priority. If you can develop your employees skills and help them improve, they’ll be able to do their job better but will also grow with the team.

So next weekend, when champions are being crowned and relegation is finally decided, remember to run your club’s managers through the rule of three and see how they measure up. Then, run yourself or your manager though the golden rules to compare.

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