United boss Chris Beech has been spending some of the lockdown period over the past few weeks in esteemed company having taken advantage of the League Managers Association online seminar service, which has been hosting a series of special events.
The last two speakers have come from very different backgrounds, with international Rugby Union coach Eddie Jones and retired four-star General Stan McChrystal, former commander of special forces in Afghanistan [JSOC], giving their perspectives on leadership and management.
“Both talks have been held online on the last two Fridays and they’ve been really enjoyable,” Chris said. “Even though a lot of us watching actually passed our pro-licence quite a while ago, in my case 2011, the LMA still run CPD events like this so that ideas can be shared.
“These last two seminars have given us the chance to listen to elite-minded people who are either at the top of their game, or who have been very recently. It was particularly interesting to be able to compare somebody like Eddie Jones, who has coached the best of the best in his sport, to a military man who has literally had to make instant life and death decisions in war zones.”
Speaking about the leadership and management skills which were discussed, he told us: “Listening to anybody who has had different experiences is always fascinating, and you’re always going to hear something that hits home, or that confirms what you were thinking anyway.
“The really interesting thing is that you quickly realise there’s a lot of common ground, particularly when they start to talk about discipline, mutual respect and hard work as being important to what it is you're trying to achieve collectively, and in how you develop your own leadership and management traits.
“Both of them spoke a lot about creating the right kind of environment, where everyone feels driven, focused and comfortable with what they’re being asked to do, and where there is a real sense of team and individual purpose.
“Whether it’s leading an army, challenging in the six nations or the World Cup or getting a group of League Two players ready, these very different working environments have a lot of commonality and that’s why hearing from people who are the best at what they do, and in how they do it, will never be a bad thing.”
As for pointers he picked up, he commented: “Eddie said at one point in his seminar that he’s still learning something new almost every day. A different scenario or situation crops up that has to be dealt with, and all you can do is apply your knowledge and experience and get on with resolving it.
“Trying to find a way has very much been my approach over the years, so that resonated with me. Both men made it clear that if you stick to your key principles, and keep your message clear, you’ll be well received. Problems and issues will crop up, of course they will, but it’s using your management skills in a measured way that tends to bring you over any obstacles you face.
“As for the General, as I said earlier, his decisions really were life and death. Most of us can’t relate to the kind of thing he faced where his soldiers were coming under attack, or they were preparing to mount an operation and he had to decide who did what and when, with the consequences of bad choices being very real.
“He explained that it called for a very clear mind and a trust in the training and experience he had, which meant he knew the capabilities he had at his disposal inside out. By having an environment where he was consistent, trusted and respected he was able to get the kind of reactions he needed at exactly the time he needed them.”
“They were really good talks and I’ll certainly be logging on if the LMA have any more lined up,” he continued. “Mostly they confirm much of what we’re doing anyway because, when you think about it, every single one of us has massive decisions to make every day of our lives.
“Almost everything we do is hit with obstacles and we deal with it using the traits these talks highlight. That’s why it’s good to hear it from experts like these and the LMA have done well to provide us with access to them.”
And with the current stance from the EFL remaining that United’s 2019/20 season will be completed, if it is safe to do so, he said: “I’d like to thank everybody associated with our club for their patience and understanding.
“Sometimes we haven’t said too much because the situation has been changing almost by the day, and we know that can be frustrating. However, I also know that everybody has taken the same approach in that the most important thing here is to beat the virus.
“Everything else is almost a side issue, and I still find it absolutely fantastic to see how Carlisle fans up and down the country, along with the rest of the public, are showing so much respect towards the NHS and the other key workers.
“We now beep the horn at our house on a Thursday night, just to make it a bit louder, because I think that show of support is important.
“This is a tough situation for us all, but we’re doing the right things for the right reasons, however hard that is for us personally. That really is fantastic.
“Please keep following the advice from the authorities, stay safe, let’s get through this and hopefully we’ll see you all soon.”