by Edward Qualtrough

Sir Clive Woodward’s four steps to creating a winning culture

Nov 04, 2016
CareersIT Leadership

Sir Clive Woodward, who guided England to Rugby World Cup victory in Australia in 2003 with captain Martin Johnson and superstar fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, believes the new side has only “scratched the surface of its potential” and has backed new Head Coach Eddie Jones to create a winning culture which could help England go on to win the 2019 World Cup.

The 2016 Six Nations Grand Slam winners won a three-game series in Australia in the summer, and Woodward believes Jones can build on their winning mentality, setting the high standards in their upcoming autumn internationals that could help them go on to triumph in 2019.

Earlier this year Woodward said that the new regime has instilled a “hunger which augers well for the future”, with the former coach also praising Jones for galvanising the team which was displaying a new “mindset and body language” as well as exhibiting “a great positive attitude and all-round excellence”.

Woodward, who has plenty of business heritage from his days working at Xerox and running his own finance and leasing company, is a firm believer that creating a winning culture is essential if a team, company or department is going to deliver the tasks the board has given them – and explained at the 2015 CDO Summit in London how to go about creating a winning culture.

Woodward outlined his formula for creating “champion individuals” and a successful culture, which would eliminate the lack of discpline and inability to think correctly under pressure which cost England their place in the World Cup – and could scupper success at your organisation.

First of all, he says, great teams are made up of great individuals. When he was coaching the England rugby team, he brought in decorated rower Sir Steve Redgrave as a motivational coach. He learned Redgrave actually spent more time and effort on individual development than team development. Woodward realised that you need to coach your team individually as well as part of a team. Get them to focus on being the best in their own role.

Woodward breaks down this individual development, that he thinks successful team members need, into four skillsets that he says are not difficult to measure or coach:

1. Talent –It’s the base you start from, but being talented alone is not enough. It’s below the line of excellence. Raw skill is necessary, but on its own, it’s too unpredictable to create a winning team.

2. Teachability –Individuals have to become students. Their willingness to learn and accumulate knowledge around their role will give them the awareness of what they need to do to continually improve on what they already have. New people become students easily. It’s maintaining that thirst for knowledge that becomes more difficult. Often it’s more experienced members who put a block on their learning and they are the biggest risk to creating a winning culture. Don’t confuse a thirst for knowledge with intellectual education. It’s about a passion for seeking out more knowledge, not collecting diplomas.

3. Pressure –Individuals have to have a warrior spirit, says Woodward, meaning they are able to perform well at the critical moment. He uses the acronym TCUP: Thinking Correctly Under Pressure. It’s the job of the leader to constantly put their teams under pressure. People aren’t born to perform under pressure. They need to get used to it, because only the winners perform their best under pressure. Woodward creates a war room where the team constantly goes through hypothetical situations under time pressure to reach a decision. He said: “It’s about role play, after role play, after role play.” Leaders have to systematically work through every eventuality so that the team has already gone through the thought processes needed to overcome them. This reduces the chances of coming up against something unexpected in the real world, allowing the team to use the little time they may have to think through the problem.

4. Will –Winning cultures must have the commitment to win, and it’s what turns Warriors into Champions. It’s about the attitude they display. Woodward breaks this down into three parts:

  • Obsession with the task:Individuals focus on attention to detail and have an uncompromising level of excellence.
  • Responsibility:A readiness to take tasks on as their job and make sure they are seen through.
  • Enjoyment:Team members have to ask themselves whether their colleagues enjoy working with them, and why.

Woodward said that by focusing on these four platforms, England were able to achieve World Cup glory in 2003 with a team that included “five champions and 10 warriors”. While captain Johnson is heralded as a supreme leader, Woodward said that by a relentless focus on the middle two stacks the squad had flipped the culture of coaching where a team of “sponges” who were willing to learn had been through every possible role play and scenario where “nothing needed a debate, every player knew exactly what they were going to do” and what the team was going to do.

The new methodology was no longer a culture of “you coach and I’ll play”. By having a team of sponges soaking up knowledge – rather than rocks – Woodward said that his England squad’s “knowledge of the game went through the roof”.

“If you are serious about winning at the highest level you have to be serious about not having a single rock in your team. It’s often the most experienced person in the organisation who is unteachable,” Woodward said.

Let us know if you agree with Sir Clive Woodward’s approach to building teams – does success on the rugby field translate to business or is the world of 2016 drastically from Woodward’s successful 2003 strategy?