Simply – The best
July 28th, 2017

I recently spent some time in the UK and Portugal where I met interesting people from both the sporting and corporate world. There were many lessons but what stood out was that sometimes the simplest concepts make the biggest impact.

We live in times of rapid change. Complexity and volatility conspire for an unpredictable landscape for businesses, teams and leaders. So strategies need to be short-term and culture needs to act as a driver of success as we prepare for the unknown.

I met with Nigel Wray, owner of Saracens rugby club – one of the most successful clubs in world rugby. He’s seen, is seeing, significant change in the world of professional sport and agrees there is no formula for success and that in his club, rather than copy someone else’s formula, they’ve found a way that works for them.  The club’s super simple philosophy, both  lived and led by its owner and executed by management, is: We will give you everything you need, in return you give us maximum effort. ‘Everything’ includes quality coaching, off-field support, away trips, educational opportunities, exposure to work shadowing and pastoral care. It’s a mantra that encourages loyalty, effort, individual growth and ultimately results on the field.

It’s also in stark contrast to the rarely admitted, but often used approach of ‘Treat ‘em mean to keep ‘em keen’ where management see players/employees as replaceable commodities who should consider themselves lucky to be there. Observe these divergent philosophies playing out in real life and for sure the difference in results would be all too apparent. As I suspect would be relationships within the organisations.

An additional touch Wray spoke of is that when a new player comes on board, as club owner, he writes them a personal welcome letter. Not an automated mail or a ‘let’s see how you get on before I talk to you’ approach, but a personal old-fashioned welcome letter. He also ensures he never misses a captain’s practice where he can connect with the players without interfering in the coaches’ process.

It suggests to me that in today’s fast-changing environment, old-fashioned, value-driven policies are the ones that truly lie at the foundation of success. If all decisions were underpinned with such simple, positive philosophy one can only imagine how much more successful teams, organisations and individuals could be. Perhaps the concept of simply treating people well or writing them a letter is starting point to something greater.