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Standout Leadership Technique From Phillies Coach Charlie Manuel

He was fired on Friday. But Charlie Manuel was the most successful coach in Phillies history. Here's why.
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Last Friday was a very sad day for Philadelphians. Charlie Manuel, the manager of the Phillies, was fired. How sad was this? Well to me, this photo pretty much says it all.

I saw Charlie Manuel once at the Philadelphia International Airport. It was a cold February morning and we were both on the same flight to Tampa. Charlie arrived at the gate, like me, about an hour early and sat with his girlfriend only a few feet away. I, like many of the other passengers who arrived for the flight, at first didn't recognize Charlie out of his baseball uniform. But once I did, I started to pick up a buzz. Sure enough, the fans began to slowly flock in his direction. People came up to him and asked questions. One guy about my age just wouldn't leave him alone; he plopped on the seat next to Charlie and never left it. Others requested photos. And Charlie? He just talked and talked and talked. About baseball. About the Phillies. I overheard everything. He didn't mind the intrusion at all. He basked in it. His girlfriend just read her book, oblivious to the commotion. Charlie clearly loved his job. And why not? He was good at it.

During his eight-plus years with the Phillies, Charlie Manuel amassed a record of 780 wins and 636 losses. He was the most successful manager in Phillies history. Under his leadership the team won five division titles, two national league trophies, and its first world championship since 1982. The players loved him. The fans loved him. And yet he was so un-Philadelphia. He was a farm boy. He was slow speaking with a country accent. He seemed like he just fell off of the turnip truck. But the Philadelphia fans, brutal and unforgiving, soon opened up their hearts to him. They learned not to underestimate him. Charlie not only loves baseball but he knows the game better than anyone. And he's dumb like a fox too.

The Secret to Coach Manuel's Success

But those weren't his only qualities. Charlie would be a successful manager no matter where he worked. He would be a profitable business owner no matter what business he ran. Why? Because he knows how to manage people. And successful business owners are experts at managing people. They know how to get the best out of their players. And the ones I know are like Charlie. They may not have his temperament. They may not have the same kind of personality. But they all share the same value system. And, like Charlie, most agree on at least two key rules when it comes to managing people. Charlie's rules.

Charlie Manuel Rule No. 1: Show Up On Time

In Charlie's world, people are either late or on time. There is no such thing as early. Manuel would arrive at the ballpark hours before the game. He, like me, would go to the plane's gate 60 minutes before boarding. Life is like that. People have things to do. Being late is just plain inconsiderate. And when you run a business it really all comes to this: if you say you're going to do something then you do it. If you promise to be on time then you be on time. If you promise to pay a bill within 30 days then you pay it like you promised. If you commit to providing a service or delivering a quality product then you live up to that commitment. If you tell a customer that a project will be completed on time then you complete it on time. There are too many people in this world who don't do what they say they're going to do. These people ultimately fail at business. Because who wants to trust someone who doesn't live up to their promises? Successful managers are like Charlie. They live up to their commitments. They are reliable. They can be counted on. They are responsible. They set this example for their employees, customers, partners, suppliers, and families. These are the types of people that other people want to do business with.

Charlie Manuel Rule No. 2: Hustle

Charlie hated it when his players didn't perform at 100 percent. He benched his stars for not running out pop-ups or not trying their hardest. "We have two rules," Manuel told reporters in Milwaukee last year. "Hustle and be on time. Everybody is going to hustle," he said. "That's my job. That's for the integrity of baseball. That's for respect for the manager, the players, and the organization. Everything. No matter who you are." Being successful in business requires a lot--skills, a little luck, and a lot of effort. As a business owner there are days when I don't feel like answering calls, meeting with employees, or figuring out project problems. Sometimes I get lazy and fed-up. This wouldn't fly for very long on Charlie's team. Running a business is a constant battle. And it never ends. You can never get too fat and happy. There are too many ways for a company to go off the rails in a very short amount of time. There are people who depend on your company for their livelihoods. You learn as you get older that running a business doesn't get easier. Just like an aging ballplayer, a business owner who's been doing this for 20 years has to gather up just that much more strength, determination, and willpower to keep playing at a high level. Charlie's right: you must hustle. Always.

Oh, and Another Charlie Manuel Rule: Never Quit

Even as he suffered his worst season yet with the Phillies, Manuel refused to step down. And when it came time to announce his departure, he was adamant in saying that the team fired him. To Charlie, that's better than telling the world that he quit. At his last press conference he said: "I never quit nothin'. And I didn't resign." When you run a business, the only time you fail is when you quit. You can change your mind. You can change your direction. You can even sell your business if it means that you'll take those proceeds to go into business somewhere else. Quitting means throwing in the towel and retreating to your living room. Successful people don't do that. Ever. They always have a plan. They know that sometimes things may not work out so they just do something else. They never stop. They're always moving in some direction, and hopefully it's forward. They're like Charlie.

Charlie's 69 years old. He's survived a heart attack, quadruple bypass surgery, a blocked and infected colon, and kidney cancer. He's beaten every team in major league baseball. And he's won the respect of some of the hardest fans in professional sports. He's not done yet. Rumor is he wants to keep on managing. And I bet he will. If he does, then watch how he does it. It's a unique opportunity for a business owner to witness how a professional manager really works.

IMAGE: Getty; Dustin Bradford
Last updated: Aug 21, 2013

GENE MARKS | Columnist | Owner, Marks Group

Gene Marks is a columnist, author, and small-business owner. He oversees the Marks Group, a 10-person technology consultancy to small and medium-size businesses. A certified public accountant, Marks has also worked in the entrepreneurial services arm of KPMG. He writes for The New York Times, Forbes, and The Huffington Post.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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