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Leadership lessons from the Rugby 6 Nations 2019

Let’s talk rugby and the leadership lessons we can learn from the game.

‘It’s a nice kick but not the one you need at 44 -8 down’ – a wonderful quote from one of the rugby commentators at the 2019 6 nations game between England and France. Autobiographies of sports coaches and sports stars sell in their thousands with the learning transferred into business. You currently have the chance to learn live over the next few weeks and to question your own leadership abilities from the comfort of your own home.

If you are watching the rugby – watch with your business team in mind – (there are so many pauses in rugby, it’s fairly easy to do). The commentator went on to ask the question ‘How do France regroup, remain strong and play on? Now you may argue that they didn’t – the end game score was the same, but it wasn’t any worse so maybe they did do something right.
Here’s a few things that I noticed;

1. The coach has a 3 second rule – get back in the game or you are off.
We can all take so much from this. It is so important to focus on a) what matters now and b) what is happening now. No good comes from being stuck in the past moaning and complaining about how unfair it was or how stupid somebody was, nor thinking what you will do in 5 minutes. What you can do now is far more useful particularly when the pace is fast and the level of urgency is clear.

2. The English team know their role – they are not so rigid that their feet are glued like table football players. They rise to a challenge then go back to what they do best. This gives them visibility of what is going on around them and puts them in the right place when the skill needed is theirs.

3. The French coach was described as ‘chopping and changing’ his team and that players would be better off checking online to see if they are playing, such was the uncertainty. In times of challenge we do need new ideas and game changers, but we also need some sense of certainty and reliability. The team need to know who has the skills to deliver and the experience to cope under pressure. If a team is new, then they are more likely to be in Tuckmans forming or maybe storming stage when they need to be performing. Between action the English team were in groups talking, the French stood in isolation suggesting they are not yet a team.

4. There was a comment when the French coach took one of the players off, ‘we hope they have told the captain – he didn’t last time.’ How can a team function well if resources are being unexpectedly removed?

The team needs to focus on what matters, to stay alert and to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each other. Let’s hope that France can learn something from these basic lessons and put on a more motivated show with Scotland.

Penny Whitelock FinstLM

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