Five Management Lessons we can Learn from Ole

​In my business I often come across managers with one thing in common; they are flying by the seat of their pants! People who are ‘accidental managers’. You know, the great team member who is plucked from their team and given a management role or the talented business owner who finds themselves managing people as their business grows. They have little or no training or development and rely on what they’ve learned along the way from managers around them, good or bad. And if you need a great management role model, we can learn some really crucial lessons from Ole at Man Utd.

Lesson 1 – Nurture your Culture

Many clients say to me, ‘I really want to improve the culture of my business. I want to get it right.’ So what can we learn from Ole? First of all, he had a really clear idea of what he wanted the culture of Man U to be. The thing with culture is that it starts with values; it starts with the values of the person at the top. Ole clearly is a man who has strong values, a really clear idea of how he wants to operate. And how quickly did he get those players to buy in. Despite the massive egos and the big superstar baggage everyone came on board.

It’s always easier to instil a culture from scratch than turn an existing one around. Yet that’s just what he did in a remarkably short space of time.

So great first lesson, nurture the culture you want to build. Think about your values; what do you stand for? Then act them every day.

Lesson  2 – Build Unity 

Prior to Ole it seemed to be ‘the staff and the players’ or at least ‘the manager and the players’. You only had to look at the body language and eye contact, or lack of it. This was reinforced by the manager’s public criticism of his players and team selection. Then the rumour mill started about bust ups and personality clashes. Ole immediately started to build unity in his language and actions;

it’s always, ‘We, the team,’ ‘We, the squad,’ ‘We, the club’.  I absolutely love that he’s brilliant at sharing praise, shouldering blame and reinforcing the positives. Just look at the individuals within that team and how well he brought them together and instilled ‘we are one team; we are united.’

So the second lesson is unity. Make your business one team.

Lesson 3 – Inspire and Motivate

One of the common questions I get asked by people on our Managers’ Development Programme is, ’What’s the difference between a manager and leader?’

There’ll be books written on how managers are the logistic experts, they keep things ticking along. A big part of a management role is making sure that the attention to detail is there, that mistakes aren’t made and if they are, that they’re learned from and so on.

But these days in any business, you have to be a leader as well. You have to inspire and motivate the team, and modest as his media persona is, Ole is clearly a very inspiring and motivating guy. He didn’t immediately crack the whip. I’ll bet when he first met with the squad, he took them into a room and shared his vision of what it was like to be a Man U player and how privileged they were to wear the shirt. That would be his style.

That is something I find that a lot of managers and business owners miss. They miss sharing their vision. ‘Where is this all headed? Where are we all going together as a team and why?’ He inspired and motivated them so well.

He clearly showed them how much he believed in them, and as a result, they believed in themselves. He’s also been great at supporting those who were having a hard time. Look at the difference in confidence in young Rashford who played with his eyes on the ground unable to hit a barn door and then look at the difference under Ole, confidence and self-belief is oozing from his pores. Yes, he recognised this was crucial for success but also just because this was in line with his values, that he would look after his people. He would keep each individual feeling confident and part of the team.

He also treated them like adults. Sometimes, particularly new/young managers feel their role is to be the boss, to talk at people, to tell them what to do. When you have adults or adult conversations with people in your team, when you give them the training and development and support that they need, when you really believe in them and remember that you have a responsibility to help them to fulfil their potential, that’s when you get your team to take ownership. That’s when people start to step up and go, ‘All right. I’m responsible for this. This is my job.’ And you can see that now at United, the team are taking ownership. They are taking responsibility, and they’re acting like adults.

Third lesson – look to inspire and motivate your team to build ownership and belief.

Lesson 4 – Have fun!

It’s become obvious over the last few months that Man U players are enjoying their football again. It’s like a huge weight has been lifted off them and they’re playing with the swagger of teams of old. And Ole himself is chilled and smiling, setting the tone.

We are lucky with what we do, a lot of us, and why not have fun doing it? Why not encourage our teams to have fun? People are at work for so many hours of the day, it’s part of our responsibility as managers to help people enjoy it, not dread coming into work and be managed by us.

Fourth lesson – create an enjoyable workplace. This goes back to culture and values as well.

Lesson 5 – Learn, learn, and then learn some more! 

The final thing that I really wanted to bring up as a lesson from Ole is his desire to learn, his desire to be the best possible manager he can be. And one of the things that stops us learning is our ego. Not for Ole. Instead of Alex Ferguson being the ghost of Christmas past or the old guys in the balcony criticising their fellow Muppets, Ole’s got him in giving talks to the players. He’s brought back Mike Phelan, Utd through and through and gaining from his years of ‘been there, done that’. And you get the impression that Ole is like a sponge soaking up knowledge and experience so he can do the best for the club, the fans and the players. ​

That’s really what I want for each of you. I want you to be the best possible people managers that you can be; the best leaders. So think about the lessons from Ole. Think about your values and your culture. Think about how you can create unity in your team. Think about the development and support that you’re giving, not to the team as a whole, not just to the stars, but to every single individual, however minor their role is in the team.

Think about how much you’re inspiring and motivating the team who work with you. Think about how you’re going to become a better manager, a better leader; what you need to do and the skills you need to develop. Explore where you can learn the lessons you need to learn to keep improving, keep developing, and be the best manager that you can be.

Fifth lesson – keep on learning.

Do one thing: do your team members know how you started and where you’re heading? If not, start by sharing with them the story of your business.

And if you or a manager in your business could use some help then check out our MPL ‘Managers’ Development Programme’. Our structured 6-month online programme is aimed at developing the mindset and the skill set of business owners and their managers.

Details and testimonials here:

Thanks for reading.


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Marianne Page

Marianne is the author of three books, and is currently working on her fourth, whilst regularly writing her blog, we hope you enjoy it :-)


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