by Brian Chernett
At the ‘Entrepreneurs in London’ conference in November, I had the pleasure and privilege to listen to one of the great coaches of Rugby Union, Ian McGeechan. McGeechan was there in his role as Director of Rugby at London Wasps and his coaching record speaks for itself.
Wikpedia notes that “In 1986, McGeechan became the assistant Scotland coach to Derrick Grant and in 1988 he was promoted to coach. In 1990, his team won a Grand Slam victory in the Five Nations Championship. McGeechan was the British and Irish Lions coach in 1989, 1993 and 1997. In 2005, he coached the midweek side on the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand on the invitation of Sir Clive Woodward. He will again lead the Lions on their 2009 tour to South Africa. McGeechan was appointed Director of Rugby at London Wasps in 2005 after an unsuccessful and unhappy period as the Scottish Director of Rugby. In his first season of 2005/2006 he led Wasps to the Powergen Anglo Welsh Cup title, beating Llanelli Scarlets in the final at Twickenham. In his second season, London Wasps claimed the Heineken Cup.”
When it comes to achieving success through teams, McGeechan suggested, there was nothing complicated. It was about doing what he calls the “World Class basics.” Those basics are about self-awareness and self-knowledge. Specifically knowing “what drives me, what is my role and how I do that. Under pressure you go back to what got you where you are”. The ability to do the basics is all about people “being ‘good enough’ at what they do and then it is about teamwork. When I need to know what to do to improve, I think about who is the best at it and ask what would they be doing in this situation? Then I do it, whatever it is.”
Leading a successful team is about having the right people and about the chemistry between them. “At Wasps we review every single thing we do with the aim of improving all of the time.” That requires everyone, including the leadership team, to be honest enough to admit to their mistakes.
“You need all sorts of individuals in order to become a team and they need to have a single mind about what we are and how we achieve it. We have to know ourselves and where we want to be, understand the environment in which we will be operating and know the opposition better than they know themselves”. Leadership is not necessarily a static thing. “But when we are in the field, we don’t have one leader. Leadership is shared. If someone is best at one aspect – they are the leader”.
Do your team members understand who your company is and how it does its work? Do they know their role and when they are needed to lead? Are they capable of doing their World-Class basics?