What young managers can learn from the Rugby World Cup

Monday 2 November 2015

The 2015 Rugby World Cup has proven to be a very exciting time for players and spectators alike. Whilst New Zealand triumphed over 19 other teams from around the world to lift the Webb Ellis Cup, it has no doubt been a massive learning opportunity for all involved, particularly the younger players. Throughout the tournament there have been many demonstrations of outstanding performance and commitment. So what lessons can be transferred from the rugby pitch to the boardroom? And what are the takeaways for young managers starting out on their careers?

Clear vision and goals
Naturally, lifting the Ellis Webb Cup was the ultimate goal of each of the 20 teams entering the tournament. However, some of the lower ranking teams would no doubt have set themselves more realistic goals such as winning a particular match or scoring a try so as to show performance improvement and setting the groundwork for future competitions.

The same is true in a business context; your people should have a clear idea of where they are going and how they are going to get there. Communicate a clear vision and break it down into realistic achievable bite sized goals for each member of the team. Each team can then evaluate their performance against objective measures, analysing where they are doing well and areas in which there is room for improvement.

Good communication
Both on and off the field, effective communication is essential. Each player needs to be clear of the match strategy, the range of tactical options available and how best to execute the plan. Following a match, the team and individual players will be given feedback on their performance, with detailed analysis of the data reporting set plays achieved, tackles, passes, points made etc.

In the workplace, good analysis and communication are just as important. Each team member needs to have a clear understanding of your organisation’s strategy, the parameters in which they can operate and their performance in achieving their individual goals. There should also be regular feedback to improve their skills, knowledge and performance.

Communication naturally is a two way process – your people should be comfortable in talking to their managers to give invaluable insights into customer feedback and the impact of management decisions on both customers and the organisation.

Your role within the team
On the rugby pitch, every player is crystal clear about their role and their contribution to the team. Each individual will be conscious of their own strengths and weaknesses and how the team works together to deliver a world-class performance.

Likewise in the workplace, your team's performance should be better than the sum of the individual parts. Identify each person’s skills and be clear about what do you need to focus on to give the best return for them as individuals and the business as a whole. Play to your strengths and work on your weaknesses.

Practise makes perfect
The level of performance seen during the World Cup does not come easily - and is the result of many hours on and off the practice pitch, working on both individual and team skills.

The business environment should be no different; there should be frequent practise to improve performance and to incorporate changes in your business and in your customer buying habits. With the support of good coaching from their managers, individuals and teams should regularly practise their skills to up their game.

Spot your future talent
Rugby teams are always on the look out for young talent to nurture and develop – the need for new talent in sports teams is particularly marked as many professional sports players’ careers might end in their mid-thirties. They also look to leverage the experience of seasoned players to guide and motivate the future game changers.

In business, whilst it might not seem quite as urgent to develop your next cohort of team leaders, if you are to stay competitive it should be in an organisation’s DNA to spot potential managers, to plan their development and to help them to gain the requisite skills to be successful leaders of the future.  

The business challenge
Some teams just seem to be motivated, have more fun and work better as a team than comparable groups. Managers with good leadership skills can engender highly motivated teams with strong team morale, with everyone willing to go the extra mile for their colleagues. The challenge for organisations is to lay the foundations, so that high performing teams are the norm rather than the exception.

If you would like to discuss developing the leadership skills of your young frontline managers, please do get in touch. We love to hear from you.


This post was written by

Mark BW McDermott

Account Director