I found myself in Bournemouth this week, at a conference run by the Institute of Internal Communication. It started off unreassuringly when the sound and vision man cheerily told me that the laptop I’d brought with my presentation on it was no good so far as his equipment was concerned. I stared at him with what I hoped was a look of steely calm. “Well, that’s not a very promising start,” I told him.
Anyhow, one memory stick later there I was, up and ready to roll.
During the half hour I had between the presentation firing up and the opinion piece I was about to deliver, I took the precaution of the learning the speech off by heart. I always do this. I hate to look at notes once I get going.
In order to learn my lines, I stalked up and down the hotel corridors apparently talking madly to myself. The hotel manager was called and was on the point of ushering me outside when I heard the round of applause go up for the session preceding mine.
Rather than comply with the manager’s politely expressed request, I went to face the IC Dragons with my request for intellectual funding of my pitch: engagement is a meaningless idea, is useless as a business tool and wouldn’t we be better off concentrating on communicating something we are able to actually manage?
Well, this went down a storm. Sort of. The nice lady in black at the back cheerily called my views sexist. The nice chap with his arms folded grumpily across his chest at the front called it all just semantics. Someone else thought I was arguing for a sort of command and control totalitarianism, a view that may have been influenced by my penchant for quoting Karl Marx. Someone came up to me at the end and shook my hand and declared it was the first time in years he’d heard someone talk common sense.
What I was trying to say was expressed far better by King Kenny, rightfully restored to his place on the throne at Anfield like a modern day King Arthur. “We’ll point you in the right direction,” King Kenny said, “and you carry out what we ask you to do. The directors will support the way they should support, the supporters will get behind us. It’s everybody doing their respective job and doing it well.”
In other words, do the right things the right way and the results will follow. At Liverpool now, everyone plays with a massive smile on his face. With this simple, down to earth philosophy, King Kenny has taken Liverpool from no hopers to the best side in the Premiership over the past ten games.
Dalglish wouldn’t know engagement if it bit him. He just knows how to manage well.