The only man to lead England to success in a Rugby World Cup, Sir Clive Woodward knows a thing or two about heading up successful teams. Drawing on his experiences in business and sport, here are Sir Clive’s key insights for leaders.
1. Give it your all
[When appointed England coach] I thought ‘I’ve been lucky enough to get this job, so I’m going to give it my all’, as I did with my business, previously. There’s no substitute for working hard, you’ve got to throw as much energy and passion at it as possible, and hope your plan maps out. I knew I needed to move the team into professionalism. You also have to get close to your boards and keep them in the loop. Fortunately, they were a great support.
2. Manage Expectations
In sport, once you’ve done well, expectations suddenly escalate –the moment you slip you know about it through feedback and the media. You’ve got to be able to handle negativity because you can’t be successful all the time.
3. Listen up
I don’t think I’ve got great ideas. I’m good at listening, and a huge element of leadership is listening to others and enabling their ideas to happen; making sure you’re helping the whole team come up with new ideas. Leadership doesn’t happen overnight, you build trust and respect within teams which is a lengthy process.
It’s about understanding your team. I always thought players had more ideas than the management, so you have to harness that. It’s the same in business.
4. Create mutual responsibility
Teamship is a great concept and was really important to me. In the real world, I’m the top of table, I’m the boss, but then there’s the team. Take punctuality, I want to know the team’s definition of punctuality. I got the team to discuss it, and I promise you that no one was ever late, because every player had been part of the discussion. If anyone was late, you could go up to them and say ‘what the hell where you doing?’ – these aren’t my rules, they’re your rules, even though I’m policing them.
The key thing is to get the team to discuss it first without you being involved. You can influence that if you’re bright, of course, but it’s about making sure every single person is involved.
In the England rugby team, when you win a world cup, everyone assumes it’s all sweetness and light. It’s not, it’s a tough, tough environment
5. Explanation is key
There is nothing wrong with someone saying ‘I disagree with that, I don’t want to do that’, but you have to argue the whole thing through. At some stage, you’ve all got to 100% agree to it. Once you engage people, you can turn people round.
6. Things will get tough
In the England rugby team, when you win a world cup, everyone assumes it’s all sweetness and light. It’s not; it’s a tough, tough environment. These team rooms have all kicked off at times, but we know how to operate, we know how to talk things through, we want people getting emotional, as long as it doesn’t carry on outside the room.
7. Don’t fear failure
Sometimes, when recruiting, you look for that ‘perfect’ person – but experience is the most valuable thing. I would actually be averse to employing someone who hasn’t failed at some point because it’s that very failure that gives them the hunger for what they want.