I see many parallels between the corporate world and sports. I have always been a great fan of all sports but especially Manchester United and Barçelona. I’ve been to three Championship finals to watch United and you can learn a lot from Sir Alex Ferguson. Talent is not a problem when you are running a club such as Manchester United or Barçelona, it is the culture. You should get the guys together and working. The difference between a CEO and a club manager is that the manager has absolute control. A manager can decide to drop this player or that player and then he can be held accountable. But when you are a CEO, you have to carry people along hoping that they will change, it’s not easy to sack people. In professional sports there is nothing called hoping they will change; you will be changed, not them.
There was this match at Wembley, Manchester United against Barçelona. At halftime, the score was 1:1 and all United supporters thought we would win. But the final score was 1-3. Barça played very well and Sir Alex said we lost to the best team in the world. As a leader many times you have to recognise that sometimes your best is not good enough. How do you get to be terrific enough to win as opposed to good enough to compete? For that you look at the statistics of this match. I am a great believer in numbers — if you interrogate a number long enough, it will confess to something. You then take the learning forward. When I looked at the stats for the match, I found Barça had 337 passes and the bulk of those were between Messi, Iniesta and Xavi who were the forwards. United, by contrast, had 170 passes and the bulk of the passes were between the goalkeeper and the defenders. The bottomline — If you are not playing to win, you will never win. That day, I think, United was playing not to lose. Many companies do the same.
I have been to the British Open regularly and a couple of times I walked with Tiger Woods’ coach, Hank Haney. He told me that the thing with high quality talent is that you don’t need to tell them