Successful teams start with great individuals, so says Rugby World Cup-winner and Director of Sport for Team GB at the London Olympics, Sir Clive Woodward. “This is as true in business as it is in sport.” But not all winners are born great; sometimes they have to be made.
Speaking to a packed out crowd at Shell Centre on London’s South Bank, Sir Clive outlined what his years of experience have taught him about building great teams.
“To one day become a leader in your field, you need to start with bucket loads of natural ability,” he said. “Quite simply, you wouldn’t be working for a company such as Shell if you didn’t have this amazing talent, but you should realise that talent alone is not enough.”
A lifelong student
Clive described how maintaining a passion for your subject is crucial to your continued development. “To be the best, you have to forever remain a student, or as I say in my coaching vernacular, a sponge. Absorb everything. The moment you lose that passion is the moment you start to fall behind.”
On first arriving at organisations like Shell, most people tend to be ‘sponges’, taking every opportunity to learn from the wealth of team leaders, managers and industry experts available to them. “But over time,” explained Clive, “they inadvertently drift away from being open and receptive to new ideas and move towards being a rock. This is when you become unteachable and stop your development.”
Performing under pressure
In an industry like Shell’s, high-pressure situations are commonplace and an individual’s decision-making ability can impact the entire team’s performance. “Winners perform at their very best when the pressure is at its greatest,” says Clive.
However, being able to handle pressure isn’t a quality people are born with – it’s something that needs to be taught: “Training people to perform and make the right calls is crucial in businesses like Shell, where any number of complex scenarios could arise that require a clear head.”
At England’s training camp in the run up to the 2003 Rugby World Cup, Clive introduced innovative coaching methods that taught the team how to analyse data collected on their games. He asked his players to make presentations on their personal performance, the team’s performance as well as that of the opposition. “You’ve got to get every individual to take real responsibility,” he said. “By capturing data and analysing every aspect of the game, the players are better equipped to handle unexpected and challenging scenarios.”
Clive praised the value of taking an analytical approach in business. “To be completely effective you need data, and lots of it.”
A champion’s attitude
Placing responsibility in the hands of the individual allows them to realise how much their contributions count. And with that comes a drive to be better.
Talent, a commitment to learning, and the ability to perform under pressure are all essential traits of a strong and successful team, but Clive is adamant that without a winner’s attitude, “you’ll have to settle for second best”.
“At this level of business, the difference between first and second is marginal, and it comes down to who has the strongest will to win.”
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