Sir Alex Ferguson: Keys to Successful Professional Coaching

 Sir Alex Ferguson Keys to Successful Professional Coaching: What makes Sir Alex Ferguson the Manchester United Manager such a successful and remarkable coach? Roger Bennett, who blogs at “The Relegation Zone” sheds some light on the iconic coach in his review of a new case study written by Harvard Business Professor Anita Elberse entitled, “Managing Manchester United.”

Bennet puts Ferguson’s success in context:

“The United manager celebrates his 26th year on the job while those around him appear as secure as a kindergartener’s milk teeth. Thirty percent of Premier League managers last less than a year. Since Ferguson was appointed in 1986, Manchester City have had 19 men fill the role. Liverpool have had 10. As he approaches his 71st birthday, Sir Alex has defied countless predictions of his demise, and in Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and now Manchester City, battled enough rivals to fill out a comic-book movie franchise. “

Longevity of this sort, not to mention results, does not happen by accident.

Bennett details what separates the manager from others, highlighting Ferguson’ great strengths and his complexity.

He is at once a very mature leader, considered fair by staff as well as players, but he also admits to being controlling.

He leads by building clear structures within the the organization and develops athletes within the club, but also comes across as very adaptable and open to new ideas.

One consistency within the portrait is Ferguson’s belief in creating a structure to build upon. He quotes Ferguson:

“The first thought for 99 percent of newly appointed managers is to make sure they win — to survive,” Ferguson is quoted in the report. “They bring experienced players in, often from their previous clubs. But I think it is important to build a structure for a football club — not just a football team. You need a foundation. And there is nothing better than seeing a young player make it to the first team.”

This reminds me of some of other great coaches, like the great Bill Walsh, or Earl Weaver, or legendary Stanford basketball coach Tara Vanderveer who also built their programs systematically and with an emphasis on organization.

I enjoyed reading the case study itself.

His early years both as a player and those spent developing Manchester United where he had to change the culture and build a new foundation, are among the most interesting. Definitely worth reading the case study itself.

“Managing Manchester United” is available for purchase for only $6.99 at the Harvard Business Review.