Don’t crack a nut with a sledgehammer – lessons in leadership

Hammer cracking a nut

I’ve been watching the shenanigans in Manchester this week…the inevitable, if painful climax to a United reign rife with under-achievement, embarrassing losses, and the cumulation of all the wrong sort of records.

David Moyes seems like a good bloke…he is certainly a very good manager, but whether you’re taking over someone else’s business or looking to make changes in your own, there are important lessons to be learned from his ten month tenure at Old Trafford.

1. Don’t start off on the back foot.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it staggering that someone would be told they were taking over a business, a project as big as the one at United, and wait until their official start date to actually get started! As a result, Moyes was on the back foot from the off, having missed out on deals and other business that his competitors were doing in his absence.

The lesson: Get started as early as you can – plan your strategy – start doing your groundwork, and get ahead of the game.
2. Take time to understand what’s working and what isn’t.

United had just won the Premier League by 11 points…were Champions…and yet Moyes seemed determined to change everything…to fix stuff that wasn’t all broken. He’d clearly listened to advice to put his own stamp on things, but simply changed too much too soon.

Teams like continuity, they like to know where they’re at, to feel safe.  Moyes affected all of these things on day 1 when he shipped out the experienced and winning team of coaching staff, and replaced them with his own inexperienced team.  All of the tried and tested systems that the players had worked with, knew and trusted…gone over night…and with it, their respect.

The lesson: Spend time working out where success has come from in the past, which systems are working and which need fixing; learn who the key players and influencers are, and work with them to install the changes painlessly.
3.   You are the leader…lead.

People want to be led by leaders…by people who are confident and clear, who know where they are going and how ‘we will all get there together’. They don’t want to hear that you’re unsure.  They don’t want to hear you talking up the competition. And they certainly don’t want to hear you telling the world that you’re not good enough and you’re all going to have to be replaced!  Moyes did all of these things, and worse still, he had the team…the Champions of England…play safe.

The lesson: As leader you must lead…boldly, courageously and confidently.  All of your communication must be positive and inspiring, clearly outlining what the direction of travel is, and how long it will take for you all to get there.  Yes, of course you must be honest, but leave your fears and your doubts at home, and lead with certainty.

Some say that the job was too big for Moyes…my take is a little different.  I believe that with the right support team around you – people with skills and experience you don’t have – and with the right mentor to work with you, and guide you and act as a sounding board…then no job is too big.

What’s your take?

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