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Graham Poll is probably the best known and most experienced English referee of all time - the first to officiate at 300 Premier League fixtures. He is also remembered for issuing a single Croatian player three yellow cards at the World Cup in Germany.
Poll began his career in sales, originally with Canon. An excellent communicator, he quickly progressed to managing an expanding direct sales force at Coty, alongside his burgeoning refereeing career. After that he developed an internet site, which he sold in 2001 to devote more time to football.
Graham combines his sporting and sales experiences to produce an entertaining insight into the importance of motivation, teamwork and leadership. He demonstrates the need for a step-by-step process towards achieving goals, how to turn negatives into positives, and how success must breed ambition, not arrogance. 'Challenge yourself and avoid the temptation to knock others, control whatever can be controlled and remember that the best achievements are worth sacrifice and sheer hard work.'
After dinner, Graham reveals what goes on behind the scenes - and what it takes to control twenty two millionaires running around a field.
Now retired from refereeing, Graham continues his radio and journalism duties, and he also features in a panel show on ESPN, The Umpire Strikes Back.
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JLA: What are the parallels between business and the football pitch?
GP: People respect strong leadership in all fields. As Sir Alex Ferguson said, "few people are willing and able to make strong decisions, and one of them is Graham Poll". One difference is that in the boardroom there is the luxury of time; no-one has to make a split second decision like a referee. You need strong coping strategies in place to make the correct choice in that situation.
JLA: In practical terms, what can a sales manager learn from a referee?
GP: Confidence in your own abilities. There is no way others will support your decisions if you don't believe in them yourself. One of the most important things you can teach anyone is the need for preparation. The need for a strong team is also paramount. You are always judged on the weakest member, never the strongest.
JLA: How do you motivate yourself?
GP: I have strong role models, and constantly evaluate my performance. I've also learnt to embrace failure - how can you learn if everything always goes to plan? The importance of self-analysis cannot be underestimated; when you do this, you can identify and tackle weaknesses, and this eventually leads to becoming a stronger person and to increased self-belief.