All or Nothing 

Reading the biography of a very successful leader is often disappointing if you are seeking to learn how to replicate their success. Interviews with those who worked closely with such leaders often come up with interesting stories but no really usable tips. Friends and family  simply tell of the contrast between the private person and their public persona. So I had high hopes that a fly on the wall documentary capturing a highly successful manager going about their work would reveal how it is done. After all the viewer was being allowed to see and hear for themselves how on a day to day bases a successful manager went about things. Obviously a PR exercise and so edited to flatter and avoid controversy never the less I was expecting a master class in leadership. I assumed people management would be at the heart of this recipe for success. May be also skill in spotting talent early and certainly some great motivational speeches. 


This is a very diverse team, for many , including the manager, English is not their first language. This may go some way to explain the limited use of language to get messages across. Instructions were basic, team talks were high on emotional content either urging one another on or in recriminations. On one occasion the manager stood back whilst a junior member of the back room staff gave a  forceful  and rousing team talk delivered at such speed and intensity and with such a strong accent that those members of the team whose first language was not English latter admitted they had not understood a word of it. But they understood the passion. 


The managers message, repeatedly stated, was effort and aggression wins the day. His favourite expression for conveying this message was, “ You’ve got to have balls”. 


The manager was “happy” to let team members confront one another in outbursts of frustration because this, “showed they cared”. However the second message was team work , helping each other, supporting each other, covering for each other and not putting a team mate under unnecessary pressure. 


Despite some indifferent and some disappointing performances the manager did not criticise individuals preferring instead to talk about the need for more collective effort and aggression. He did refer to mistakes and the need to avoid making them but expressed his confidence in the skill and ability with in the team. 


The management philosophy could be summed up as keep it simple, keep it positive. Clearly there is more to it but the secret of success remains a secret. 


Blair McPherson former Director , author and blogger 

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