1. Overcoming setbacks is hard, but doable.
One thing rugby has taught me is that overcoming setbacks is doable. Recently we saw CJ Stander get man of the match twice with amazing performances against Scotland and Wales, and he’s had his fair share of injuries and disciplinary issues. In rugby, often injury is part of the sport. You need resilience and an ability to bounce back from setbacks because you can’t let them define you.
I’ve had lots of injuries that have affected me more mentally than physically. I had a recurring hamstring injury which I found very mentally strenuous. Even once it was physically healed, I found myself worrying it might reoccur, and doubting whether I would get back to the level I was before the injury.
Along with being physically prepared, mentally you have to love the game enough that, even after an injury, you can’t wait to get back on the pitch. It requires quite a single-minded determination towards bettering yourself for the benefit of the team.
The resilience I learned from rugby is pivotal in the workplace: having a solid team around you helps be more resilient and keep moral up when setbacks occur. For example, when I have a lot of deadlines, having a supportive team who can help share the workload, remind me to stay creative and keep my morale up increases my ability to bounce back.
2. Pressure can galvanise high performing teams.
In the interviews after a rugby match, you’ll rarely hear a rugby player talk about their personal performance. Instead, it will always be “the team did really well.” It’s a community sport driven by the interaction between the players, and that’s why it often becomes such a big part of your social life too.
Rugby pushes you to your limits, and you have to put your whole body on the line for the love of the sport. When you share that level of dedication with people, and you also spend time training and playing with them, it’s no surprise that such strong bonds are formed.
If you and your work team are facing the extremes – you have the hard shifts, you have the deadlines, you have the end goal in mind – then you’re on your way to a really strong team bond. That’s a big part of what makes a high performing team. I think that pressure can act as an incentive to provide each other with a network of support, whether you’re in the office or on the pitch.
Understanding what those around you need to perform at their best also contributes to producing the best work. When faced with a big presentation, I have found that some consultants prefer to run through every detail together, whereas others prefer to have a script outline and then adapt to the needs of the audience.
3. Your mentality is pivotal to success.
With the 2019 Rugby World Cup having been just a few months before the 2020 Six Nations, a lot of the mental preparation comes from performances there. England made the final in the 2019 World Cup, which will have helped them to go into the Six Nations with the right mentality. This means practising what you intend to execute.
A few years ago, Eddie Jones, England head coach, had the players train in full kit to help them get used to what it feels like to represent their country. Those kinds of initiatives help build a team up to the World Cup because it’s mentally strenuous, especially for those younger players. It puts them in the right mentality to come together and identify as a team and thrive in competition.
Having the right mentality is fundamental to the workplace, because you always have to be ready to perform to your best. For example, if I am going to pitch a proposal, I know I need to go through my notes, research my audience, practice the presentation to iron out the creases and ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.
4. Diversity of experience improves performance.
In a rugby team, you want a mix of younger and more experienced players. With the young guns you’ve got this tremendous passion and desire to prove themselves, but you do notice the lack of experience.
They say that with each step up in competitive rugby, the less time you have to react to a situation. That obviously benefits those more experienced players because they have trained their instincts over time and can act much more automatically.
The more mature players also have a level head from having been there before, whereas the younger players are constantly learning. You don’t want one without the other because a good team draws on diversity of experience.
At Lane4 we have a culture and environment which supports and promotes diversity and I’ve seen the benefits of that first-hand. For example, I’ve experienced situations when working in a diverse team where the creativity and challenge from newer employees has subsequently been moulded and nurtured into real innovation by more senior figures who have a depth of knowledge of the business.
My experience with rugby has been very formative, and I am grateful for how the lessons learnt in rugby have helped me navigate business. In terms of the Six Nations, I think France are a real one-to-watch. They’re just all complete athletes and I take my hat off to them. I’m absolutely buzzing to watch it!