How not to ‘do an Ashley’….( or Five Things Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley Said That Made The Comms Team Squirm Today)
1) Do not be flippant when discussing things that matter (even if they don’t matter to you). Things that matter to others may include – but are not limited to – death and illness in the workplace, a culture of bullying in the workplace, and individuals’ livelihoods.
Mike Ashley: “I’m not Father Christmas, I’m not sitting there [saying] ‘Oh, I’m going to make the world wonderful’”
2) Make your stakeholders a priority. Stakeholders may be employees, investors, customers, constituents, pupils…. etc. It is particularly important to do this on matters which have been in the newspapers for many months, and where not addressing the issue may have resulted in illegal practices.
Mike Ashley: “I agree it should be addressed, but I have not got around to that one yet.”
3) If admitting past incompetence, try to seem competent in moment of the admission. This will likely require you to have constructed a radical Plan B which you probably will need to share.
Mike Ashley: “I didn’t build Sports Direct. Sports Direct built me. I can’t keep track”
Peter Kyle (Labour): has your company outgrown your ability to manage it?
Mike Ashley: “probably, a long time ago. I can accept the criticism of some of the things that you’ve said to me today would actually lead me to believe that it’s definitely outgrown me… that’s shocked me what you’ve said to me today.”
4) Identify your strengths and make sure that (at the very least) you can answer easy questions well.
MP: “If I may start with the review that you announced six months ago. You were personally undertaking this into working practices in Sports Direct. What’s the current status of the review?”
Mike Ashley: “Work in progress”.
MP: “When will it be completed?”
Mike Ashley: “Never”.
MP: “It will never be completed?”
Mike Ashley: “Never be completed”.
MP: “So how can you improve working practices if the review won’t be completed?”
Mike Ashley: “Because it’s an ongoing process”.
5) Avoid opening unnecessary cans of worms. This requires you to stay alert and on your game right to the end of any interview.
Mike Ashley: “I wanted to buy BHS. 100%!”