I’ve been either attending or watching Manchester United matches since the early seventies and undoubtedly the most successful sides were managed by Sir Alex Ferguson. He comes across as a difficult man to predict and I’m sure his players over the years must have wondered what he was going to say or do next. However, having suffered the highs and lows of following United, I can fully understand that stress and pressure must have played a huge part in the times when Sir Alex would fly off the handle.
I watched the recent BBC programme when Nick Robinson interviewed ‘Fergie’ about leadership and I’m sure I’ll find his newly launched book equally as stimulating. At one stage a group of students were asked to consider the range of emotions from ‘love’ to ‘fear’ when considering the relationship between a subordinate and their manager. This could be a footballer or equally an office or factory worker. The over-riding description from ex-players, to competing managers and football club owners was the word ‘Respect’. This falls directly halfway between the emotions of love and fear.
There are of course lessons to be learned for all of us trying to run a business or manage people. The same rules can apply to a client/supplier relationship too. We have to gain respect by demonstrating knowledge, sound decision making, creative ideas, being compassionate, working hard and understanding the viewpoint of the other party as well as our own.
I also respect United’s latest manager Louis van Gaal, but solely because of his past achievements. At United he hasn’t delivered yet. He comes across as arrogant and very determined and I wonder if current players lean towards the ‘fear’ end of the spectrum when considering his management skills. He still has to win over the bulk of the club’s supporters with success and a style of attacking play which they expect.
The same process applies in the client/supplier relationship. It’s about demonstrating understanding, having time to develop mutual respect and working very hard to get the desired results. That way two businesses can enjoy growth and the inherent benefits. Sir Alex Ferguson’s success demonstrated this brilliantly: not only did his teams win many trophies, but also due to commercial success Manchester United have grown into one of the biggest clubs in the world.