I love the game of rugby. The beauty of a centre slicing through a gap; the seamless cohesion of a tight scrum shoving the opposition back, metre by metre; the lightning reflexes of a flanker falling on a ball that goes loose; the blistering pace of a winger rounding his opponent. But more than any of this, I am endlessly entertained and fascinated by the dynamics of the teamwork involved and the similarities between rugby and business, and the lessons for management. R ugby is the ultimate team sport. No other game comes close. Just look at the diversity of physical skills required. B rute strength is needed from some players and subtle touches from others; place-kicking skills from some and touch-kicking from others; and a total dependence on teamwork.
No matter how brilliant you may be, you only score points if you are supported by your team. There are no lone rangers in rugby. It’s like that in business management. L ook at the level of mental and intellectual skill that makes a great team. In the 16th century Machiavelli said: “final method of estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him”. If you do this with the Springbok team, what do you see? ut it goes further than that – once chosen, great leaders remain fiercely loyal to their team and stand up to those who will inevitably question and criticise. A nd then, there’s that sixth sense, the instinct that some players have, of seeing the big picture on the field – who is where, what they are doing and to which side to take the play. Successful managers behave just like that.
Think about leadership. captain has the deep respect of all his team mates, flowing mainly from his own respect for and loyalty to each of them. Others on the team are capable of providing on-the-spot decisions and leadership while never undermining the captain. And unlike football or basketball, which have their own charm and simplicity, rugby is complex. There are a myriad rules and regulations which govern a rugby match and you have to be up close to see what’s happening. Sometimes it’s quite bewildering and difficult to understand. It’s just like that in real-world management.
Management lessons abound in rugby. Think about the need for a game plan with the flexibility for quick change if things start going wrong on the field – in business we call that strategy and tactics. Not to mention the need for people with razor-sharp alertness, in position, to take the unforeseen opportunities when they arise. I wonder whether Jake White and John Smit have read The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork by John C Collins? They must have, as they have applied them all and made us proud. Let’s have a look at some of them next time. – ([email protected], or (031) 745 7303. |fw