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Live: Manchester United legends give their take on teamwork and leadership

9 Mins

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The link between sport and business is gaining momentum. In two recent blog posts, it was explored whether the marginal gains approach used by Britain’s cycling team could be applied to business and how exceptional coaching produces exceptional performance, using Andy Murray as our case in point. 

Arguably the biggest comparison, however, is that of teamwork. Team sports are an ideal example of teamwork in action as it is natural action with minimal thinking. In team sports having skills gets you onto the team, but a winning team is determined not by skills alone but the way team members play together.

Football is one of the best examples of team play. Each person on the team has been selected due to a skill, given a responsibility, afforded leeway in carrying out their role and expected to perform for the common goal. And the best team to learn from is Manchester United.

Coincidentally, three of its legends will be giving advice on creating a successful team starting at 10:45 on Twitter via HCL Technologies – and here we’ll reveal their tips. Stay tuned to hear advice from Bryan Robson, the former, and longest serving, captain of Manchester United – aptly nicknamed Captain Marvel.

Giving further advice will be Denis Irwin, who is regarded as the joint most successful Irish footballer in history alongside Roy Keane, and Andrew Cole, noted for being the only player with a clean sweep of the English Football League awards.

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(11:00) Bryan Robson is taking Twitter by storm and has answered his first question: “What are the three things you would like to highlight for a budding leader in the digital age?”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, being able to innovate is highlighted as being key. In the new digital economy, long-established ways of doing business are quickly becoming obsolete and disruption is taking place across every sector. As such, digital innovation has become fundamental for driving growth and transformation and is changing the business landscape as we know it. 

As technology cycles become shorter and shorter, the pace, size and complexity of this change keeps intensifying with an ever growing number of businesses facing the threat of being superseded. It also helps being the boss of a digital leader as their firms outperform competitors in terms of growth, profits, and market valuation. Gartner predicted that by 2017, 20 per cent of all market leaders would lose the coveted number one position to a company founded after the year 2000 because of a lack of digital business advantage.

His next pointers are man management and delegation – the latter of which is crucial to running an efficient business.

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(11:40) Of course, with teamwork in mind, the question of how to foster a tight connection between colleagues was bound to arise.

Forging relationships on the field is a must. As was highlighted before, the sport focuses on your ability to act instinctively as taking your time to ponder your next move could end up in a scenario where the ball is taken by the opposing team. As such, knowing all members have your back, and having the right amount of trust in them, is paramount.

While in the business world there is arguably far more time to think, the ability to work as a team is crucial to the success of any company. Denis Irwin proposes you grow closer to colleagues by two means: having integrity and being honest. This all amounts to building trust.

For a team of colleagues, trust can increase productivity by altering how we react to motivation to achieve results. Trust also plays a surprising role in communication –we’re more likely to hold back our own feelings about an issue when we don’t trust the person we’re sharing information with. This can affect how the other person understands the issue and can further break down trust in that relationship.

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(12:00) The term “team building” has become a buzzword in recent years, and has many connotations. In terms of corporate development, team-building exercises are important not only for the immediate experience of the activities performed by the team, but also for the group skills, communication and bonding that result. 

The main goals of team-building are to improve productivity and motivation. Taking employees out of the office helps groups break down political and personal barriers, eliminate distractions, and have fun. The benefits of team-building programs are so significant that many corporations have incorporated such strategies into the standard training curriculum.

But how do you best build team unity off the pitch? This was the most recent answer posed, and Denis Irwin took to answering it. The best way to do so was found to be through team bonding days, he said.

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(12:20) The topic of teamwork also poses one important question: “How do you build a successful team?”

Irwin’s simple response said it all: “Vision”.

Vision, in this case, means being able to excite the team with large, desired outcomes. Large outcomes in turn mean devising goals that attract missionaries.

Back in the 1980’s Microsoft’s vision of, “A computer in every home running Microsoft software” may have seemed absurd to most. In fact, it was likely there were people within Microsoft trying to water this vision down. Yet it is this rallying cry that has driven Microsoft’s success.

Similarly, the spirit of your vision statement will drive the behaviours, creativity, commitment, engagement and determination of the people within the company and give them one unified goal to work towards.

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(12:38) When it comes to leadership, many have pondered what the best methods to success are. However, the response always varies, as does research. As such, how to achieve leadership was a question shied away from by the Twittersphere.

Instead, many called out to Manchester United’s Captain Marvel to find out the biggest lesson he learnt from his days on the pitch.

While a recent interview with Amit Singh, president of Google for Work, highlighted the need for bosses to admit they can’t do everything and that it doesn’t take much to reach out and connect to people, Robson suggested fostering and understating the value of team spirit had been his key takeaway.

This concept has appeared several times for Manchester United’s team in terms of takeaways. In a blog, Sir Alex Ferguson maintained a siege “us against them” mentality was created to foster a great team spirit.

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(12:50) Finally, the last piece of business advice came from Andrew Cole, who asked what the best tip was he had ever received.

“Always work hard and turn up on time,” he said.

Indeed, you do not come across success just by hoping for it. To achieve true success, you need the strength of mind and body to struggle and work hard to reach your fullest potential. You need the right attitude, self-discipline and the ability to put your goal before your own needs, if you are really driven towards reaching success. 

There is, after all, no substitute for hard work, and as Henry Ford said, “The harder you work, the luckier you get” – the more successful you get!

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