This month we are in the midst of Rugby World Cup 2019, and it is hard to believe four years have passed since I attended the opening ceremony of the last World Cup at Twickenham: a lot has happened to me since then! It is hard to believe that the hope and expectation as an England fan at that opening ceremony could be so quickly and comprehensively crushed with our early exit. Luckily, we are already guaranteed to progress further than we did in 2015!
As an England fan, it is far nicer to turn one’s mind back to 2003, when Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal secured the extra time victory against Australia in their own back yard. Happy days. Reliving that passage of play in the final moments of the game reminded me of just how much it embodied team play: the forwards ground out the extra yardage to bring the drop goal into range, Jonny was hanging back, ready to do his job; the whole team, indeed the whole country, trusted him to execute the play when the moment came with his reliable right foot: but at the centre of it all was scrum-half Matt Dawson – standing just off the back of the ruck, watching the field placings, choosing the moment and distributing the ball at just the right time. For him to orchestrate that cup-winning move, he needed the time and space to make the right decision.
I believe this is a useful metaphor for business owners and managers (or indeed any of us in our private lives). We are too often drawn into the hurly burly of the ruck, with all those big, heavy forwards crashing into us, buffeting us and overpowering all our senses. It is hard to make cool calm decisions with over 20 stone of Australian meat sat on you.
Alternatively, business owners can be drawn to being wingers – standing safe and away from the action, ready to pounce and take the glory and the accolades.
Instead, business owners need to be like Matt Dawson at scrum half. Close to the action but not embroiled in it, with the vision of all the possible plays and with the mental freedom to pick the right pass. My job as a business coach is often to drag them out of the pack, or bring them in off the wing, so that they can add value to their team by orchestrating the correct play.
I recognise the challenge for business owners to take that role. I have been, and sometimes still am, in that struggle myself. I also recognise the value in stepping into that position, which is why it so often comes up with clients. Of course, the 2003 rugby metaphor doesn’t suit all clients (some are not interested in sport, and some wouldn’t even remember it as they’re too young!), but the concept applies to most.
How could you step into the scrum half role more yourself?
Step back from the ruck – schedule time in your diary to think strategically (and honour it)
Read the play – have the data (not just your feelings) on what is happening in your business, so that you can clearly judge what the state of play really is
Pick from the playbook – once you know what is really happening, draw on your experience, your colleagues, your trusted advisors and your coach to decide what you need to do
Execute – take action and see each step in the plan through (don’t be half-committed!)
React to events – if it goes well, celebrate (and repeat if appropriate). If it doesn’t (LINK), dig in until you regain momentum, then step back again and repeat these steps.
If you want a top-quality, experienced business coach to be with you through the process, making you honour the time set aside, helping you to properly assess what’s happening, and provide a sounding board as you choose the play you want to make, I’m here for you.