Managers, Money and Meetings

It has been a very busy weekend and driving back home yesterday from a day out, sitting in a traffic jam,  I thought about today’s topic.

It became a toss-up between two.

The first was a reflection on great managers, whether in business or sport, of course, raised by the unfortunate and sudden illness of Sir Alex Ferguson the legendary ex-manager of Manchester United.

The second was a revelation from the world’s richest man (well he may be second right now but what is a few tens of billions between friends) Jeff Bezos who told a conference that Powerpoint has no place in his meetings.

Let’s do both.

Of course, we wish Sir Alex all the best for his future health and hope to hear of a quick recovery.

Thinking of him allows me to raise one of my pet subjects. Professional footballers, at the big clubs, earn a fortune and it is only very recently have the managers been paid nearly equivalently. That always struck me as stupid. The manager may not kick the ball on a Saturday afternoon but what we have seen over and over again is that there are managers that are successful and win multiple trophies. Sir Alex was one of those. The importance of the manager has been underrated.

Great managers, in any profession, have skills which are both organisational and motivational, but they also have that extra something which is hard to define. Of course, first, in sport, you need great athletes and in business, you need other competencies. But most importantly you need your personality to imbue the attitude of your team.

I don’t have the statistics but it was quite remarkable that Sir Alex’s team would score and win games in the very last minutes of a game. It was his personality on the side that drove his team onwards.

And that brings me to Bezos. He announced in a recent conference that he has banned PowerPoint in meetings. For him, meetings start with a six-page, reasoned memo distributed to the participants and they spend the opening half hour reading it in silence. In his words “a six-page memo that’s narratively structured with real sentences, topic sentences, verbs, and nouns.”

Now I am not sure that I fully agree with him and the most important thing is that either the memo or Powerpoint is relevant and properly constructed. I can see in either scenario, in quiet reading or a presentation, many will drift off and not take in anything. But it is not for me to argue with someone worth 100 billion dollars, or thereabouts.

My observation though is that I am really happy that my life is no longer dominated by meetings. They were the bane of my life. It was a time ago when Ben was probably no more than 7 and we were walking home together from school. We were with one of his school friends. They were walking a few feet ahead of me. ‘What does your Dad do?’ Ben was asked.

‘He doesn’t work,’ Ben answered. There was no hesitation. ‘He only goes to meetings,’

No truer words.

Somewhere I think there may be a link between these threads, but I will leave that for another day.

Today is a public holiday and there is much to do on another super hot day.