1. Of whom was it recently said: “The manager does his groundwork, he’s meticulous. We go into games fully aware of other teams’ strengths and weaknesses – and our own.”
2. Who said: “There is nothing better than hearing ‘well done’. Those are the best two words ever invented.”
The answers (coming later) relate to management – an area shrouded in myth, both in football and beyond.
During my modest career I attended a number of management courses. There must have been shortcomings in either the courses or me, because scarily little of it stuck with me or proved useful. As far as I can recall, just three things:
– The importance of cashflow (the most common reason businesses get into trouble)
– The inescapable need (unless you strike oil) for hard work
– The role of praise and criticism in dealing with people
An elaboration of cash-flow can wait for another day – suffice to say I’m glad David McNally understands it.
As for hard work: fervently as I’ve wished it wasn’t necessary for success, it seems to be. Thomas Edison, renowned as the ‘brilliant’ and ‘inspired’ inventor of his age, would always reject such descriptions. Although the phrase gets attributed to others, it was Edison who insisted that “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”.
In case we seem to be drifting into a business seminar here, let’s bring this back to football. Anyone think the first quote (“The manager does his groundwork…”) was about Alex Neil? It certainly could have been – Russell Martin and John Ruddy have certainly said similar things – though in this case it’s John Terry talking about Jose Mourihno.
There’s no doubt that AN has inspirational qualities – his first intervention at Bournemouth, the ‘wee chats’ that led to vital wins at Watford and Blackburn, the resurrection of Bassong and so on.
But I suspect if we asked him, he’d put more stress on the work ethic and attention to detail that he’s brought to City. A newspaper report of our training in Germany and Austria summed up life at City as it now is: “Every base was covered, every member of the team knew their role as Neil observed from close quarters.”
That hasn’t always been the case in recent years.
I worked in a people business, as football is. By far the most practical, and demonstrably effective, advice I picked up related to managing people. Actually, two pieces of advice:
– Praise in public, criticise in private
– Give praise to criticism in a ratio of at least 5:1
Let’s take a look at the most successful British club manager in history, Sir Alex Ferguson. We know him, right – the man of the half-time hairdryer treatment and flying boots? Well, perhaps not. Players confirm that such tantrums were very much the exception in his management style.
A bonus point for those who identified the second quote as Sir Alex.
It’s perhaps worth listening to the quote in full: “Few people get better with criticism; most respond to encouragement. For a player – for any human being – there is nothing better than hearing ‘well done’. Those are the best two words ever invented.”
I’m not sure Glenn Roeder subscribed to that view. But from the positive, fear-free style we’re seeing under Alex Neil, I’d guess he’s of the Sir Alex school.
Some of these issues were aired in a short but fascinating book a few years ago, The Team, by Mick Dennis of this parish. The book’s eleven chapters gave eleven different perspectives on football from the fan to the chief executive, the agent to the referee.
It also included a poignant note from the author: asked to summarise Mick as a player, some mean-spirited bugger said ‘could have been quicker’. He obviously didn’t understand the balance between praise and criticism. Or maybe I just hadn’t been on the course when I said it.
Mick is about to launch a new book, this time comprising different perspectives on our own club. With chapters by Grant Holt, Iwan Roberts, Bryan Gunn, Michael Wynn-Jones, Paul McVeigh and others, Tales from the City promises to be compulsive reading for Norwich fans. It’s being launched at Open in Norwich on 11 October, with Mick and many of his contributors.