Tag Archives: management

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At least a million lines have been written about leadership and Sport. Strangely very little has been written about one of the greatest achievements in sporting history and the manager that made it happen. In May 1967 Glasgow Celtic Football Club became the first club in Northern Europe to win the European Cup and the players all agreed that their manager Jock Stein had been pivotal to that success. Mr. Stein’s character was formed in a hard living mining area of post war Scotland where honesty and straight forwardness were survival tools, but he is also someone that we can all take some inspiration from. Any leader can make people do things but it is a very different type of person who makes you want to do it and Jock Stein was one of those men.

Just how did Mr. Stein get his players all aiming the same way and working as a team? Well we have to look at what he inherited as a football team before we can see how he fixed it. Prior to Mr. Stein’s arrival at Celtic Park they had good players and a fantastic support but inconsistencies were the order of the day. They had not won anything significant in years and the team selection was all over the place. They had a wonderful man as their manager, Jimmy McGrory who had been an outstanding player but he was constantly being undermined by the chairman. So let’s look at this from a modern management perspective.

The problems included: 1. An under performing team. 2. A lack of leadership. 3. No team spirit. 4. A lack of technical knowledge from management.

As you would agree these failings are each able to kill a project of business on their own. Having them all at once is nothing short of a disaster. The saviors of the day came (arguably) in the shape of the support. Their increasing frustration at the interference from the chairman leading to poor results led them to vote with their feet. They simply stopped coming to see games. Not in droves I hasten to add but in enough numbers to make the money men see a drop in revenue. Again arguably this led the chairman to make his decision to change manager. Now, if you were approached to take over this team what would first first decision be? Would you insist upon clear goals (every pun intended) ? Would you demand a big salary because it was a big job? Would you get the consultants in to determine the job in hand? All good options but Jock Stein made one thing clear and made it clear even before he took the job: Team Selection, training and the buying and selling of players were HIS responsibility and his alone. In short he fixed a major management problem before he even took the job. Jock Stein was now to blame for every failure and to be applauded for every success. This sounds simple and in retrospect it is, but in those days this was unheard of and it became the new way of thinking for a lot of people from then on.

With the lack of leadership solved Mr. Stein had to start work on the other problems. Almost immediately he moved the playing position of an under performing member of Celtic’s forward line. Bobby Murdoch had been a decent forward and had been tried in a  few other positions but Mr. Stein seen something that few others had. By moving Bobby into a controlling midfield role he had created one of the best footballers that Europe has ever seen. He became the powerhouse of that team and is still talked about with reverent tones today by those in the know. This (amongst many other changes) showed Mr. Steins technical skills and that they no longer had a lack of technical knowledge from management.

Now he took the team away on a pre-season tour of the USA where he got each player’s strengths and weaknesses highlighted and discussed with the other players. Each person in the team was told what their job was and in no way did they misunderstand their roles and responsibilities. Training became team oriented, ball skills were worked on and each player was given points to improve their game. No small groups were allowed to gossip and no moaning and complaining was tolerated. In this way a team spirit was created and a will to win was born. This team that went on to become known as the Lisbon Lions were quite simply the best in Europe and management disasters had been replaced by leadership excellence. Please note that I am over simplifying Mr. Stein’s achievements here for the sake of clarity in a management/leadership blog. His skill and character had to over come many issues and he did so with quiet dignity and superb aplomb.

I would like to finish with a quotation from Danny McGrain who was a great servant to Celtic Football Club and worked with Jock Stein for many years. In his foreword to the book, Celtic The Jock Stein Years by Graham McColl Danny writes:

“As soon as Mr. Stein asked you to do something you would find that you could do it because you had such belief in his judgement. You knew that we would not ask you to do anything of which you were incapable.”

Any leader in the world would be proud to have these words said about him……..

Jock Stein Leader

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Disparate Teams. Disparate Cultures. One problem.

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Very early in my leadership journey I was given a team of people that my line manager told me where: ‘impossible to deal with’. This was Glasgow during the heady days of the 80’s and I had to bring together a disparate bunch of people who had plenty of problems. They would not listen to new ideas, in fact they just would not listen to anything. Despite many attempts by previous managers to focus this team nothing had worked. Drink, drugs, absenteeism and fighting were par for the course and the only reason that these guys had not been fired was because they were a valuable bunch and we needed them.

What books could tell us the answers here? Where was the management guru that told us how to deal with this situation? Well as part of becoming the ‘Dynamic Leader’ that certain training courses can provide the path to, I had to learn a simple fact. There was no communication. These guys had lost their way and the company had almost totally written them off as a ‘bad bunch’. The saying at the time was that: “They are brilliant, when they are sober”. I had to get them back and I had to figure out how to communicate with them. Now, as people, we judge others based on our own life experiences and beliefs. It’s natural because it’s our only frame of reference. The problem is it is like comparing apples with oranges. Because we are all a product of where we are born, when we are born, and the culture we grow up in, we all see the world differently. We have different beliefs, values, and ethics and different ideas of right, wrong, good and bad.

In addition to different beliefs, we have different communication styles, how we like to send and receive information. Because of these differences, when we judge another person on what we believe and the way we like to communicate we are setting the subject up for failure. As leaders this leaves us with two options: 1 Be frustrated because most everyone around us does not do, act, think and feel the way we think they should. Or 2 Learn the belief systems and communication styles our people employ and how to interact with each individual so they understand what you said, why you said it, and most importantly—they like the way you said it!

In essence I found out what I didn’t know. But now that I had this gem of information I also knew how to get out of the jam I was in. I began by focusing on our core commonality. Whilst we had everything from religious divide to sectarian rivalries we also had some common goals and that was where I started. Employing different communications techniques for individuals in teams sounds like hard work but the results can be astounding. I reviewed each team member individually and worked out a plan relevant to each unique cultural viewpoint that fitted with the overall plan. We focused on results and got senior management to ‘buy in’ to provide a relevant bonus for the team effort. Within a few months (let’s face it there is no quick fix) we were on track. Simple communication allied with understanding of the separate cultural issues had resolved the problems.

With people, there is a method to the madness! There is a way to understand them and even enjoy the interactions. The work place can be highly productive and pleasant. It’s a matter of learning how we function as people and adding the skills that make the interactions easy, effective, and enjoyable. Remember, we all start out not knowing what we don’t know, but successful people, look at their goals and determine what they need to know then seek it out. The tools to help you create highly effective and successful teams are out there.

As a footnote: my team were eventually pretty successful but we did lose people along the way. Some things simply cannot be fixed but I did get several wedding invites and made some life long friends. I would be delighted to hear your views and comments below…..

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I’m Great. I was the best engineer so obviously I am a great manager.

 

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WRONG

When I was promoted all those years ago due to my technical skills I honestly thought that the above title statement was true. My boss had promoted me because I was good at my job and he thought I was good enough to lead. Good grief were we both living in la la land (not literally this was Glasgow in the 80’s). SO after I had celebrated my greatness with my friends and family I settled down to lead my team. The first day was fine and everything went well. Even the second and third days were pretty good. After a few weeks I could see the cracks opening up in my skill set. For some reason that was unknown to me my engineers were not operating with the strict logic that I applied to my engineering job. As a manager I was starting to see that people were not computers and they did not follow Boolean or any other kind of logic. I was ‘herding cats’. Setting them off in one direction was easy but after 5 seconds they had all ran off in different directions.

What did I do? Well this sounds simple but it is the step where a lot of new leaders fail…I asked for help. Over the years I have seen many, many managers fail to take this step and ultimately fail as leaders because of it. As I was working for a large UK electronics company (not naming names to protect the guilty), I had plenty of options about where to go for help. My first port of call was the manager who had promoted me. He was as much use as a chocolate teapot. Not surprising really as he was the one who had made a blunder by promoting me and just ‘letting me got on with it’. Next person I tried was his boss and he was even worse – Do not bother me. Are you so bad at your job that I have to fire you? – Just get it done. Where 3 of the cleaner replies from him. Please remember that in those days there was no email – I was getting these rejections right into my puzzled face. Eventually I found a manager in a similar role to mine who had also been an engineer first and he had been successful. Even though this guy did not even work in my building I contacted him and we agreed to meet. Unbeknownst to me, the green behind the ears raw manager, I had made my first real step to ‘Learning Leading’. – I had found my Mentor.

His first question was easy: Have you read any management books? No I had not. He then asked me: When you learned about engineering, did you read any books? Yes, hundreds. His next question was the one that that dropped the penny: So why do you think your a better engineer than a manager? My answer: Because I’m dumb and I should’ve thought of that….. My first real lesson in leadership was over but the Learning had begun.

Reading books does not make you a leader but it does highlight a very important concept. Leadership is a subject that has to be learned. Real leaders in history come across as natural which makes us think they were born that way. They were not, they studied their subject or subjects very hard. They researched options and analysed results and they made plenty of mistakes — but they Learned from them.

I was still ‘Herding Cats’ with my team. They were all over the place but with some knowledge and mentoring I was on my way.

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