He says he put his faith in youth and mental toughness. No doubt that over simplifies his approach but it’s a good starting point. I have a theory that the truly exceptional manager has little to offer the rest of us by way of copying their methods because of their exceptionalness. You can’t copy greatness. The point being their methods shouldn’t work and as a general rule they don’t work for us mere mortals.
For the first game of the season Sir Alex Ferguson’s team selection surprised a lot of commentators. He picked a group of youngsters direct from the youth team leaving a number of experienced internationals on the bench. The team went on to lose prompting the now famous quote from a former professional and well know commentator, “you don’t win anything with kids”.
Sir Alex stuck with the kids and the team went on to win the league and dominate Europe for a decade! But it shouldn’t have worked this was the equivalent of the chief executive replacing half their senior management team with young , talented , graduates direct from university whose only experience of business was a work placement.
On further exploration the reference to mental toughness is frightening more like SAS training with the emphasis on discipline, unquestioning obedience, total dedication and brutal feedback. In fact to many the management regime is characterised by the infamous, “ hair drier treatment”. This involved the manager putting his face so close to the individual that their noses were almost touching and yelling abuse at the top of his voice. This was carried out in front of the whole team.
When asked about this the manager said he picked on one individual in front of the others knowing that non of them would dare make a mistake or disobey his instructions for fear of getting the same treatment.
Maybe he only got away with this because of their youth, easier to mould and intimidate than the older more experienced members of the team. Many at the time felt his methods were justified by the success they brought. Clearly any one trying to copy these methods in the modern workplace would quickly find such behaviour wasn’t tolerated.
So the rest of us must rely on the more traditional ways of providing development opportunities for talented “ youngsters” and develop mental toughness or “ bounce back ability” through confidence building, encouragement, support and the occasional quiet word in private.