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Success, Rugby, And Leadership

Success, Rugby, And Leadership


As I wrote this, the England Rugby team had already won this year’s 6 Nations Championship with a game in hand. They were poised for a Grand Slam (where they win all five games in the tournament) at the coming weekend if they could overcome France at home. It’s no mean feat and would be their first Grand Slam since 2003. It’s also a far cry from the team that was written off last autumn after what was deemed by many as an ‘embarrassing’ early exit from the World Cup.
Whether you are a rugby fan or not, stick with me on this. There are so many parallels between sports teams and running a successful business.
What struck me is that this kind of change and success doesn’t happen overnight. Many plaudits will be laid at new coach and leader Eddie Jones’s door but should we be giving a nod to former coach Stuart Lancaster, who laid the foundations for success.
Jones has been in post less than four months, not long to effect the change. Stuart Lancaster had four years to build a team and culture which should have done the job.

What learning can we take into running a business?

Whoever you are championing, what learning can we take into running a business?

1) Blood, sweat and tears

Each of the England players, in fact any elite sportsperson, has trained for years. They spend hours on the training field putting in the hard yards to get better. It’s the same running a business. You’ve probably spent more evenings than you can remember pouring over plans, thinking up ideas, creating the best workspace and replying to emails. Running a business, like winning a championship, is not easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it. You’re putting in necessary groundwork; you’re laying the foundations so that everything that comes next feeds into your success.

2) Build the right team front and back

Rugby isn’t just about the 15 players on the field. In the same way, running a successful business isn’t just about the CEO or the visible staff members like the sales team. The whole set up needs to be effective; everyone is feeding into the whole. Having the right culture and back room or back office team is crucial.
Rumours of disagreements and upsets over selection decisions in the England camp last autumn certainly didn’t help their campaign. Lack of cohesion in your team will have people pulling in different directions, and further away from your end goal. At ISV, we use tools to ensure we’re getting the right team on board; this includes skills testing, psychometric profiling and face to face interviews. The testing is important for us to know that individuals can hit the ground running and how they might behave under pressure.
Surround yourself with people who buy into the end goal, people who energise you and allow you to do your best work.

3) Face Change head on

Change is tough. Even if you’re the type who wants to embrace it, change is still tough. You need to get buy-in, actually deliver that change, and not just talk about it. I firmly believe that the foundations of the England Rugby team’s success were built before this year, but clearly something wasn’t working. In the public eye, the head coach is often made the fall guy (or girl), we see it in football all the time. If something isn’t quite right in your business, if you’re not achieving targets or growing at the rate you planned it, it could be time to take stock. What changes are necessary? Could you outsource any activities? What holds you up from doing what you love? Should you change the team or roles?
You showed the courage to step up and run a business, find that courage again to make any changes.

4) Resilience

This is a big watchword in business leadership at the moment. People who show resilience are likely to be better leaders, more reliable, and deliver the goods. No matter what comes their way, what curveballs life throws at them, resilient people pick themselves up and carry on.
There was some harsh criticism post-World Cup, especially of the coach and captain. The former captain and players, in particular, have had to weather the media storm and show incredible physical and mental resilience in the last six months.
The same applies to you. You will most likely have had knockbacks on your journey, nay-sayers who didn’t believe in your objective, or just people or circumstances standing in your way, but every day you get up and push on in pursuit of your goal.

Running a business is not an overnight success story.

One key event might change your path or make the difference, but remember, if you don’t have strong foundations, whatever you build on top could be at risk of falling down. Everything you are doing or have done in the past should strengthen the foundations. It’s so important to put the groundwork in then you can focus on becoming a match winner.

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