Don’t Buy a Dog and Bark Yourself

Micromanaging & Empowerment

The following is an extract from my new book ’59 Lessons – Working with the world’s Greatest Coaches, Athletes, & Special Forces’ where I share my greatest insights into what makes winners truly great.

You must empower the players. Don’t try to play from the sidelines. Don’t micromanage.


Fergus Connolly

Everyone in sports seemingly has an opinion on Sir Clive Woodward, the most successful English rugby coach. They either love him or hate him. Some consider him arrogant, others see a man who’s confident in his opinions. We can all fall prey to making snap judgments about people we’ve never met who are in the public eye. However, I learned a great saying from Welsh rugby international Stephen Jones: “Speak as you find.”

I only speak very highly of Sir Clive.

I emailed Clive and asked to meet to discuss how to develop my leadership skills and continue learning about managing high-performance groups. Without hesitation he invited me for breakfast in London one summer morning, even though he was CEO of the British Olympic Association at the time and obviously very busy. But with no benefit to him, one of the most successful coaches in English national sports history, sat and shared his invaluable wisdom with a young coach.

Clive’s greatest lesson to me, apart from his generosity, was the importance of empowering my staff and letting go of my desire to micromanage. He explained how one of his strengths was in transferring ownership to coaches and senior leaders in the locker room. They were then given the chance to grow.

Sir Clive Woodward

Clive never lost sight of his teams’ ultimate goals, he had an incredible attention to detail and never left anything to chance. When he came into the England Rugby setup, he brought in the best people in every area, from his assistant coaches to consultants to the team chef. Yes, the best talent costs more, but he knew it was necessary to get results on the biggest stage – a belief that proved to be well founded given all that the team achieved. The cost of losing was potentially much bigger than the expense of winning.

One interesting side note he pointed out was how every single one of his immediate coaches had been a teacher by profession initially. He felt this training gave them an added advantage or instinct in coaching and relating to people, managing large groups, speaking and educating players.

Sean McVay

Clive’s a great example of a head coach who was secure enough to share responsibility with captains and his assistant coaches, as are others like Sean McVay, Warren Gatland, Bill Belichick, and Brendan Rodgers.

Scott Johnson and Sam Allardyce who are both very self-assured coaches who have proved themselves time and time again as astute managers of people and personalities at the highest level.

Occasionally people look at coaches who appear aloof and consider it a bad thing. In my opinion, that can be a false assumption. Aloof coaches are often delegating better and more aware of everything that is happening on – especially on game day. While it doesn’t make great TV drama, attention or perhaps referee influence, the lack of emotion often means better awareness and cooler decision making.

I’m always more concerned about the coach or manager who appears too anxious, particularly on game day, and is trying to do all the minutiae they should have delegated to others.

After all, why would you buy a dog and have to bark yourself?


Hire well and you won’t need to micromanage.

Extract from

’59 Lessons – Working with the world’s Greatest Coaches, Athletes, & Special Forces’

by Fergus Connolly



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