Sir Alex Ferguson

05-11-2015 Damian Hughes 0 comments

In the week of Sir Alex Ferguson's retirement, there have been a number of tributes to his incredibly successful career. I would like to add my own thoughts about what has made him  - and his teams - so good.

I was fortunate to work at Manchester United and one of his greatest attributes was working hard to create a culture which avoided making results-based beliefs. Let me explain.

I often hear people claim, "The reason I have great self-belief is because I am really good at…"

What is wrong with that? It is nothing other than results-based thinking.

The challenge with this is that we might have to wait a long time to get the results we are waiting for. In Sir Alex's case, he had to wait for four years until he won his first trophy. He said, "It would be awful if we could only have self-belief and a positive attitude when things are going well for us. The time we need self-belief most is when things are not going well. Anyone can be positive in good times."

If you think about it, every time someone achieves something for the first time, by definition, the belief has to precede the result. It cannot be any other way and yet too often, we slip into the result-based approach. How often do you hear a sports person being interviewed and say, 'I need one good win and everything will be all right?'

I once ran a session with a rugby team during a period of poor results. We spoke about the impact of their beliefs. One of the senior members of the team asked me if I was suggesting that if they believed 100% that they would win the league, that I would 100% guarantee that a victory.

My answer was a simple "no". It doesn't work like that. But I did give him two guarantees.

1.    A 100% negative, limiting belief pretty much guarantees a 100% negative result. I can't think of a situation where from a starting point of a 100% negative belief, I have ever achieved anything other than a negative result.
2.    A 100% positive and inspirational belief gives me a 100% best chance of achieving the result I want.

Sir Alex Ferguson outlined this philosophy in his own unique way when I interviewed him for Liquid Leadership. When I asked him about Manchester United's success, he claimed that it was based on the belief that "Manchester United never get beaten. We may occasionally run out of time but we never believe we can be beaten."

None of us are born with any beliefs. So, who or what gives us and helps us to formulate these beliefs? The answer relates back to the people with whom we surround ourselves. Are you surrounding yourself with people who help or hinder your beliefs?

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