Building teams

by Gordon on Monday 19th December, 2011

Earlier this year, Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated 25 years as manager of Manchester United Football Club.  During that time, he has played a pivotal role in creating a high-achieving team. (BBC, 3rd November 2011)

Although the individual players’ abilities are vital during each game, as manager, Alex Ferguson is responsible for putting in place the structure around which the team develops its purpose.  He has applied foresight and a long-term view to the role, for example, getting the right scouting network and putting a youth policy in place in order to keep the pipeline of talent growing.

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI), which provides advice and training to develop management and leadership skills across the UK, highlights the key role a manager plays within the team.  This includes setting clear objectives so that everyone in the team understands their part, delivering relevant and timely communication, using appropriate management styles for different situations, and demonstrating leadership by example in order to inspire the team.

Gary Pallister, former Manchester United player, recalls the effect that Alex Ferguson had on the team: ‘As a player, you always felt you were on trial and had to prove to him every day that you were good enough to pull on that red shirt.  If [he] wasn’t at training when it started but then came down later, there was an extra charge of energy in the work because you were very aware the main man was watching.  He was very meticulous, watched his players like a hawk and set out exactly what he wanted from you and the team.’

One of Sir Alex’s other skills was to never let the club stand still, moving players on and building new teams.  He appointed the right coaches around him and was meticulous in preparing the team for European games, using videos to show the way opposition teams played and the systems they used.

Pallister added: ‘One of his great skills was to apply the right man-management technique to different characters and personalities.  He is tough but everyone I know found him to be fair as well.  He was very good to us when the flak was flying.  He told us it was time to batten down the hatches.  He told us he knew where we were heading and we just had to stay loyal and true to ourselves and the other players.

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