Managing People No More Mr Tough Guy

Writen by Alan Fairweather

I believe the media and our culture sends the wrong messages about how to manage people and this makes it difficult for Business Owners and Managers.

We've all heard the old cliché "nice guys don't finish first" and that has a huge impact on how managers deal with their people. We're led to believe that successful managers are tough, courageous "no nonsense" type of people. And if you're weak or soft with your people, then you'll get walked on and taken advantage of.

A manager will often look at "successful" managers in business or sport to try and understand what makes them successful. The media often portrays these people as tough guys who drive their people by the force of their personality, shouts and threats - no wimps allowed.

Jack Welch the ex CEO of General Electric writes in his book "jack" - "Strong managers who make tough decisions to cut jobs provide the only true job security in today's world. Weak managers are the problem. Weak managers destroy jobs".

Now that statement may be true however it leads managers to believe that they most certainly have to be strong. There's no way that a manager wants to be perceived as weak. However, it's how you define tough and strong that decides how successful a manager you'll be.

We're all aware of the big tough sports coaches who run successful teams. In the United States the legendary Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman, often billed as the greatest coach in hockey, was well known as a relentless, heartless and humourless task master.

Another legend, football coach, Vince Lombardi, was known to work his teams hard. He pushed his players and made them repeat plays over and over till they got it right. He yelled at his teams for any mistakes, even after games they had won. One of his famous lines is - "Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing." He had rigid rules, imposed discipline and had no tolerance for mistakes.

Sir Alex Ferguson, Europe's most successful soccer coach was once in the news due to a dressing room incident at Manchester United. The team had just lost a game that he felt they shouldn't have lost and he was letting the players know how he felt about that. Apparently, in his temper, he kicked a football boot across the dressing room and hit one of his star players, David Beckham, just above the eye.

Unfortunately the media presents these situations and character traits as what makes a successful manager. Managers and particularly those new to a leadership role, try to model themselves on those that they read about and see on TV.

In a recent seminar I asked a young manager why she thought Roy Keane played so well under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United - "It's because Alex regularly kicks his ass" was her reply. Now Roy Keane is a real tough guy player known for his hard and uncompromising style on the soccer field. I asked this young manager how she thought Roy would respond to having his ass kicked regularly. She didn't seem to have an answer to that.

Here are some other comments I've read about successful sports coaches and managers -

John Wooden -
"One of the true gentlemen in sports or any other walk of life" "He taught them to be good people, good sports and still be competitive"

Scotty Bowman -
"A great sense of humour that people never see" "Deep down, a caring man"

Mike Krzyzewski -
"You cannot mistake the fact that he loves his players. He cares about their schooling and them being model citizens" "Coach K still puts up the wins proving once and for all nice guys can finish first"

Wayne Graham, baseball coach, Rice University:
"A demanding coach is redundant. If they are going to be happy with you and produce, they have to know you care"

Managers are misreading the signs sent by the media and our culture and it's creating difficulty for them. Some managers can adopt the tough guy approach very easily but most feel uneasy with it. The ones, who're uneasy, in an attempt not to be seen as weak, then manage their people in a way that makes them as a manager feel uncomfortable. This ultimately causes problems with their teams. I think we should look at what really makes a successful manager and it certainly isn't just about being a "tough guy."

Discover how you can generate more business by motivating your team! Alan Fairweather is the author of "How to get More Sales by Motivating Your Team" This book is packed with practical things you can do to get the best out of your people. Visit


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