From the top · 15 June 2016

Clive Woodward exclusive: “When the team wins, leverage the success and do it better next time”

Clive Woodward: "I’ve always strived for more sharing, more knowledge, more collaboration"
Clive Woodward: “I’ve always strived for more sharing, more knowledge, more collaboration”

Having talented individuals on your team or among your staff is just a starting point when it comes to achieving success, according to rugby world cup-winning former England coach Clive Woodward.

Having the knowledge and understanding to leverage talent in the right way should be the goal of any manager or team leader, with the capacity to learn new skills and share information arguably the greatest attribute individuals in successful teams can possess.

In his keynote address at Small Business School – Business Advice’s first ever event hosted in the heart of Westminster on 14 June – the former Leicester and England rugby international drew on his wealth of experience in sport and in business to offer up some advice to a room full of over 200 excited small business leaders.

Kicking the day off with a speech about getting the most out of your team, Woodward explained that his 16-year career in business, as well as his professional sporting career, helped guide him when he was first given the position of England’s head coach.

“When I took over the England team, we had lots of talent but hadn’t beaten anyone,” said Woodward.  “At that point, we hadn’t beaten the best teams in the world, like New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

“Throughout my career I’ve learnt the importance of learning. People who understand their jobs and who’re able to learn new skills, with the available tools to do it, make invaluable team players. Technology, I’ve often found, is key. Whichever team or business is more technologically proficient tends to win.”

Woodward built a successful 16-year business career after graduating from Loughborough University, before becoming a professional rugby player and subsequently a coach.

Having won the Rugby World Cup in 2003, he was appointed head of sport for the British Olympic Association and supported Team GB through successful Olympic Games in both Beijing and London. Returning to the business world in 2012, Woodward turned his hand to entrepreneurship. His small software firm has grown successfully in four years, and now employs more than 40 people.

“In business, as well as in sport, I’ve always strived for more sharing, more knowledge, more collaboration,” Woodward went on to say.

“The first thing I did after becoming England coach was to give every player a laptop. Despite being top athletes and smart guys, most of them had no clue how to use them. As important as it is to have IT skills, my priority was to find out which of my players were eager to learn and had the capacity to up skill.

“I got players to start analysing their own performance. Using software programmes to analyse data about themselves, their opponents and other teams. I wanted each player to effectively coach themselves, and their knowledge and understanding of the game grew as a result.”

As well as leveraging the benefits of technology and data, Woodward explained that a team’s attitude after a win or a loss is also vitally important to long-term success.

He added: “Too often when a team achieves success, the natural reaction of the manager or a business owner is to switch off. After winning that big contract, bosses will take their staff down to the pub, whereas when things aren’t going so well, everyone’s hauled in for an 8 o’clock Monday morning meeting to talk about what went wrong.

“My advice to small business owners would be to reverse the dynamic. When things aren’t going so well, don’t dwell on it – go to the pub and refocus.

“But when you’ve achieved something, that’s when you get everyone in at 8 o’clock on a Monday. Talk to your staff about what went well and what the team did right to see how you can leverage that success and do it better next time.”

Providing delegates with an invaluable glimpse of his unique leadership and team management philosophy, Woodward’s advice was undoubtedly one of the day’s highlights at the inaugural Small Business School.

With one week to go until the EU referendum, small business leaders remain divided on whether Britain should leave or remain.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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