Businesses and organisations become successful because of their people, and the people that have the greatest impact on organisational performance are those that lead and manage it.  After all no one ever won the Premiership with a second rate manager or a set of average players.

To be successful managers need the right balance of leadership and technical skills to fulfil their roles.  Anyone who followed the highs and lows of Brian Clough’s managerial career will know how successful he was with Derby County and Nottingham Forest, yet failed dismally at Leeds United, (which was subsequently the subject of a book and a film).   But what caused this?

There are a number of key actions managers need to take to gain commitment from their staff and to them motivated and engaged in their work.  The organisations that have the most committed staff are where their managers:

  • Are clear about what they expect from their staff.
  • Trust their staff to do their job and give them the freedom to make their own decisions (within set guidelines).
  • Involve their staff as much as possible for example around decisions that affect their staff personally.
  • Listen and pay attention to what their staff say.
  • Role model what’s important, for example balancing work and home life,
  • Support their staff to develop transferable skills.
  • Respond flexibly to the needs of their staff.

It is probable that Brian Clough did not adhere to all these principles while at Leeds.  While he was clear about what he expected from his team, he wanted them to play ‘his way’ and he probably did not want to listen to their views or opinions.

However, in organisations the above skills and behaviours can be developed by managers and leaders given the right support and relevant management training.

Interestingly, in organisations where managers and leaders do not have the necessary skills to gain commitment from their staff, they suffer from:

  • High levels of staff turnover and absenteeism.
  • Staff generally disengaged and working ‘9 to 5’.
  • Poor communications.
  • A general lack of trust and cooperation.
  • Managers and staff playing politics for their own personal gain rather than that of the business or organisation.
  • Organisational changes taking much longer than planned.
  • Poor levels of organisational performance.

A number of which Leeds United suffered from when under the short tenure of Brian Clough.

Ultimately, an organisations performance is dictated by the level of commitment and motivation shown by its staff.  Managers and leaders cannot be expected to gain commitment if they don’t know how to or don’t have the skills to do it.  The training and development of leaders and managers must therefore be a vital strand of any organisation’s strategy wanting to improve performance.