The role of General Manager in professional sport ranks at the top
of the corporate ladder. A general manager is responsible for hiring head coaches, administrative personnel, compiling the team roster according to league salary caps, and determining standards for scouting prospects.
A manager of a sports team is the captain of the ship. They steer the boat towards success. The crew is the team, and they will do anything to ensure the boat reaches their destination. The captain must lead by example, demonstrate discipline, and communicate effectively to the crew.
Here are 4 key points managers use to create their championship teams:
A great example of a General Manager is Brian Burke. Brian was a decorated General Manager in the National Hockey League. He won the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, as the GM. Brian was known for his demanding attitude, and being bluntly honest. When it came to the job interview he would tell the owners one thing, “If you hire me there are two hands on the wheel, and they are both mine.” Brian is the type of manager that demanded ownership of the team during the season. He would share his vision with his staff and everyone did whatever it took to complete that vision. He understood that the only way to succeed is to go all in, and with that comes immense pressure. Mistakes and failures come along the way, but the reward at the end would be all worth it. Brian was the first one to mention when he made a mistake, or when he was successful. Employees loved working for him because no matter what, he would take ownership of his actions. At the end of the day, everyone is human, but it’s those who move on and learn from their mistakes that make them great.
Implement your Vision:
The sporting industry (and business in general) is high stress and competitive. You live and die by the sword. The most successful managers shape the work environment to what they want it to be. By altering the environment to fall in line with the vision of the organization, this creates team comradery and now the manager’s vision is the team’s vision. There is a great saying that “you are only as strong as your weakest link.” Every player must understand the vision, and the path to get to their ultimate goal. If the vision is not understood, that player will become a weak link and the organization will ultimately suffer.
Understand your Strengths:
Managers in sport all know where their strengths lie. These strengths can come in many forms; your top player is a strength, having your ideal coach is a strength, but the most powerful strength a manager can provide to the team is culture. The force that binds the organization together, the strength when faced with adversity, moulds the team closer to push through the impossible. The LSU Tigers just had one of the most memorable seasons a team can have in college football, ending their season with an NCAA Div 1 National Championship. Their coach/manager, Ed Orgeron, focused on team culture more than anyone. A great example is, before heading out to the field, the team would always clip their helmets on at the same time. This sound is the sound of, we are united as we are about to go to war. The team would rally behind this symbol of unity, and at that moment the team knew they were fighting as one. Everyone knows the famous saying, “the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.” Coach Orgeron instilled a culture that proved to be unstoppable.
Own the pipeline
As a manager owning the pipeline is essential for overall team success. The manager coordinates and plans every role within the organization, and how the players are brought up. For example, an NHL General Manager drafts his players. Before the draft, the players are put through numerous tests. These tests analyze their on-ice performance, off-ice performance, judging their character and personality traits. Once the player is drafted he is at the start of the pipeline. The manager will decide where the best fit is for the specific player. A manager’s main goal is to put everyone in a position to succeed, as individual success leads to organizational success. Placing the players in the right spots gives the team the best chance to win. The 2007 Anaheim Ducks proved this to be true. They had two great prospects come through the same year, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. They were both highly touted coming in, and everyone knew it. The manager at the time was Brian Burke. Burke made the decision to send both the players down to their AHL affiliate team to grow as leaders. Halfway through the same year, each player was called back up to the NHL team and were effective instantly. The team ended the year as Stanley Cup Champions. Burke knew what he needed to do, Burke made a decision and followed through on his decision despite any opposing views. The decision was made for the team and not personal benefit.
One does not have to be a manager of a sports team to utilize these four keys. The greatest managers in the world are the ones that can implement a vision by giving their players/employees ownership of their department. Whether in sports or in business we are all in the people business and managing people is the #1 skill/lesson to learn as a manager.
If you are a manager, know that your people are your biggest asset. Manage them in a direction for personal success, allow them to grow within their role, and watch them surprise you every day. When someone has a feeling of ownership over something, they will do what they can for it to succeed. The task may be something small but it takes building blocks to lay a foundation.
Every strong building needs a strong foundation, just like a company, and just like an individual. Once a strong foundation is achieved, the growth is limitless, both personally and organizationally.