Sir Alex Ferguson is universally recognised as one of the greatest managers in football history. In 38 years of management, he amassed a staggering 49 trophies. As well as a highly successful period at Aberdeen FC, followed by a spell as the head coach of the Scottish national team, Sir Alex transformed Manchester United FC into the footballing and commercial giant it is today.
In the following article, Hassan Mushaid discusses the leadership lessons that can be learnt from his record-breaking career and how these can be applied to dentistry.
Dental Marketing Consultant
Creative Director, The Creative Composite
Hassan is a qualified dental nurse who has worked in every role for some of the UK’s leading dental practices. Voted for three consecutive years on Dentistry’s most influential list, he is also the Creative Director at The Creative Composite which is was recently named one of the world’s most read dental bogs!
Hassan has built up a reputation for being one of dentistry’s most tenacious dental marketing consultants offering services from Website Design, SEO, Social Media Marketing and Marketing Strategies. The Creative Composite – Dental Marketing Agency UK.
Not too long ago, a good friend of mine highly recommended ‘Leading’ by Sir Alex Ferguson to me, as I was having difficulty managing people in an environment I was not familiar with. He thought it would greatly help me to overcome the challenges I was going through.
I have read ‘Leading’ three times now and I am still finding management ‘gems’ that I can implement within my own team to help me increase their performance. These gems are universal to the management of any team within any industry and I wanted to share them with the dental industry so that you can benefit from them, in the same way, I have!
For those who don’t know of Sir Alex Ferguson, he is arguably one of the greatest football managers of all time and was a manager of Manchester United from 1986 to 2013. During this time he led the team all the way to the top, winning the Champions League, the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League trophies simultaneously and dominating the sport.
Throughout his career, Sir Alex Ferguson was labelled as an ‘out of the box’ thinker who took diet and team drinking habits very seriously. His approach helped him to successfully manage a team of well-paid and top performing individuals, as well as other team members who help support the squad.
This reminded me of dental practices, where those in charge manage dental associates, as well as the rest of the team who help the dentists perform their best. At Manchester United, the support team included medical doctors, physio’s, dieticians, trainers etc. and in the dental business, these support team members consist of dental nurses, principals, treatment coordinators and receptionists.
All on the same mission to make the club, or a dental practice, the best it can be.
There are tons of management gems in his book so I will pick out a few that I think will be the most useful and easily implementable within your dental practice.
I will break it down by key points and action steps that you can take to implement them easily. All points can be applied to the dental industry and I personally have experienced the first-hand results of implementing these tips.
Sir Alex Ferguson took a big risk and was ridiculed for signing young players aged 17 and 18 such as Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, the Neville brothers and David Beckham to name a few. However, these players went on to play for a number of years and took the team all the way to the top.
Action Step – Hire potential rather than experience. Potential is hard to find but if you nurture it correctly, you have a loyal top performing member of your team for years to come.
Sir Alex Ferguson went out of his way to remember the names of everyone involved in the club, from cleaners to catering and laundry staff, and would regularly converse with them. It showed he cared and made the team feel a part of the TEAM.
Action Step – Make a conscious effort to remember everyone’s name and have a non-obligated chat when you see them. It goes a long way.
Sir Alex Ferguson would always learn the history of each of his players and try to find the fire or drive within them that motivated them to work to their best. He always picked drive over talent as a drive is something you can’t learn, which was evident in his young signings. He would then remind them of their fire/drive to get the team constantly performing at their best. This small tip changed the whole behaviour of the team!
Action Step – Learn everything about your team and keep their fire fuelled to make them perform at their best. Find out what drives them and help them to achieve this.
Sir Alex Ferguson would adapt his communication style to each individual within his team, as each player was their own unique character. For example, Eric Cantona was a very emotional player who would really take things to heart and enjoyed being spoken to often whereas Ryan Giggs reacted more with an aggressive tone. Not something you might expect!
Action Step – Privately when speaking with your team members, speak in a tone and style that suits them to help drive the message home. Understand their character and adapt your communication accordingly.
Sir Alex Ferguson was never invited to any weddings or personal events of the players, whereas some of the other management team were. They knew the distance he wanted to keep from them. Once you cross the line into the friend zone, there is no going back and your message is always taken light-heartedly.
Action Step – Keep a distance from your team, be there to support them through thick and thin and help them with any problems they may have that affects their performance, but do not become their friend, because when you do attempt to deliver a serious message it will be taken emotionally instead of logically.
The most powerful words at United were the words ‘Well Done’. Sir Alex Ferguson would always say well done to each player when they succeeded or not. It created a feeling of being acknowledged for the effort the team put in and subconsciously would fuel the team to earn Sir Alex Ferguson’s approval.
Action Step – Always and I mean ALWAYS, compliment your team for the hard work they put into anything. A lack of acknowledgement is often the cause of team members changing jobs, but being shown they are appreciated for the effort they do put in shows you are going the extra mile.