What Business Leaders Can Learn from Sir Alex Ferguson?

November 15, 2013 | Valerie Wong

Running a football team and running a successful business can be quite similar in some regards. With that in mind, we can turn our attention to Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the greatest football managers the world has known so far. How did he manage to succeed and what is his approach to leadership? By learning how some of the most successful people in the world handle things, you can in turn learn some valuable lessons that can be applied to your business.

Deal With Problems Right Away

When Ferguson became Manchester United's manager back in 1986, the team was much worse than it was today. Ferguson had concerns about the level of fitness of his players and their tendency to drink too much. But as history has told us, even a team that is doing very poorly can improve over time.

Rather than simply sit back and accept that he had a sup-par team, Ferguson decided to take action in an effort to help them improve. His approach is to tackle all problems that arise head-on. While nobody enjoys being criticized for their mistakes, Ferguson believes that it is necessary to point out problems and deal with them right away. He would do it right after the game was over, instead of waiting until tomorrow. This can be a valuable lesson for those in the business world. If you let problematic situations go on unchecked, they might grow even bigger and have a much more negative impact on the organization as a whole.

Keep the Best of Your Staff Members

Ferguson has pointed out that one of the biggest reasons behind his team's success is that he had great support staff, which have been around for longer than he was. As a business owner, this means appointing the right people to the right position, then building a strong and positive relationship with them. A company that has a high turnover of their senior management staff could be a company that is having serious trouble with its corporate culture, which means that this is an issue that would need to be addressed rapidly.

Know How and When to Motivate Team Members

While criticism is necessary and important, so is praise. Sir Alex Ferguson realized this early on in his career and would deliver positive messages of encouragement and praise to players who have done well. This works very well for sports teams, but is also important in the business world. If the only interactions you have with your employees are of a negative connotation, your team members will also adopt a negative attitude. But on the other hand, being praised when accomplishing something good will help your staff perform well at crucial times.

Make Changes When Necessary

Ferguson would often rebuild Manchester United by changing the roster based on the players performance. Sometimes letting go of seasoned players on the team was a difficult choice, but it had to be done in order to ensure the team's future. In business, you must be prepared to make the necessary changes and optimize your resources. Try doing things in a different way, or adding different people to your organization to see what results it would give you. While it may not bring immediate measurable change, it is far better than doing nothing and being stuck with a business that is delivering mediocre results.

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