Victory for England! What Businesses can Learn From the Six Nations Grand Slam

6 min read

If you’re reading this article carefully, you’ll notice some of the words are spelled slightly differently than you’re used to, and that’s because we were lucky enough to have our Vice President, EMEA, Tom Castley, write this insightful post about England's first Grand Slam in thirteen years. Make sure you’re following @XactlyEMEA and @castleyt on Twitter to stay up to date with all of the exciting things going on across the pond. Last month, English rugby fans had reason to celebrate, just six months after their team’s humiliating performance at the Rugby World Cup Championship, held on home soil. The only accolade they won in October was that of becoming the first ever host nation to exit the competition before the knockout stages. But on March 19th, England not only won the Six Nations, but achieved their first Grand Slam in thirteen years by winning all five of their matches in the Tournament. England achieved a turnaround that most businesses would envy - and demonstrated just what a difference the right manager can make. After the embarrassment of the Rugby World Cup, Stuart Lancaster was replaced as England head-coach by the first non-English manager in this role. Eddie Jones, an Australian, proved to be a strategic mastermind, identifying opponents’ weaknesses and defining the tactics that would secure English victories. But more than that, he displayed outstanding people management and leadership skills. So, what can business leaders learn from Jones’ approach? Engage your top performers Great tactics and skillful players are just the starting point - the whole team needs to be engaged and encouraged. Eddie Jones has reportedly created a far more relaxed and happy team atmosphere in the England squad. Under Lancaster the mood was apparently stifled and restrained, but Jones encouraged his team to play with passion. With closer relationships and a more optimistic outlook, England was better able to perform and implement the team tactics successfully. This underlines that it’s not enough for managers to devise a great strategy: business leaders must create the right tone to set up success. Play to your strengths England’s success in the Six Nations was all the more surprising because the squad was largely unchanged following the embarrassment of the World Cup. But Eddie Jones was able to get the best out of the players that he had. The head coach took a risk, replacing long-standing captain Chris Robshaw with Dylan Hartley, an exciting but volatile player who has struggled with his own indiscipline in the past. Jones stood up for Hartley, calling him a ‘loveable rogue’ in the face of media criticism. Hartley proved to be a surprisingly outstanding captain, while former captain Chris Robshaw returned to excellent form in the squad. Eddie Jones was able to identify the unexpected strengths of his players and put them in the optimum positions. Managers within businesses should be prepared to do the same, not only relying on their own instincts but on empirical data about employees’ performance. That way, the whole team can perform at its best. Incentivise great performances Financial incentives are a powerful tool in the business world, and one that has also been used to great effect in the sports world. The England Six Nations squad received a hefty bonus under the Elite Player Squad agreement. Star performers who shone throughout the tournament have taken away the biggest bonuses, with captain Dylan Hartley receiving £116,000. This has been repeated elsewhere in the sports world this year, with football team Leicester City excelling in the Premier League with the promise of a generous bonus scheme. The same is true in business. Organisations who define what success looks like to their teams early on, and then tie financial incentives to that success, will reap the rewards. To, to achieve your own Grand Slam:

  • Create the right atmosphere and engage your team to achieve the business strategy
  • Identify the strengths of your team using performance data as well as instinct, and put the right people in their optimum roles
  • Set targets and then incentivise to drive great performances that will get you there