I recently had the privilege of spending a few weeks in both the UK and Portugal meeting interesting people from both the sporting and corporate world. There were many lessons learnt but one that stood out was that the more things change, the more they stay the same, and that sometimes the most simple of concepts are just the ones that make the biggest impact.
We live in a world of change, rapid change, where complexity and volatility make for an unpredictable landscape for businesses, teams and leaders to navigate. Strategies have to become more short-term and cultures have to become the drivers behind success as we ready ourselves for the unknown. This brings two simple concepts to the fore.
I had one particular meeting with the owner of Saracens rugby club – one of the most successful clubs in world rugby – Nigel Wray. He has seen, and is seeing, change in the world of professional sport and agrees that there is no formula for success, but rather that his club has found a way that works for them, rather than try to copy someone else’s. The club has a very, very, simple philosophy which is clearly lived and led by him as owner and executed by the management of the club – We will give you everything you need, and in return you give the club maximum effort – nothing more complicated. This ‘everything’ includes, quality coaching, off-field support, away trips, educational opportunities, exposure to work shadowing and pastoral care. This mantra aides player loyalty, effort, growth of individuals and ultimately results on the field.
I found this to be in stark contrast to the rarely spoken, but oft used philosophy of, ‘treat them mean to keep them keen’. This is an organizational view where management see players/employees as commodities who are replaceable and who should behave in a way that they are lucky to be there. If you were to observe these two philosophies playing out in real life, the difference in results would be profound. The difference in relationships within the organisations for a start would be stark.
One small touch that Nigel spoke about is that when any new player arrives at the club, he as owner, 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 that he never misses a captains practice where he can informally connect with the players – but not interfere in the coaches’ process.
I can’t help but think that in the changing environment we live in today, sometimes the most old-fashioned, simple and value-driven policies are the ones that truly lie at the foundation of success. If all decisions are made with a simple, positive philosophy underpinning it one can only wonder how much more successful teams, organisations and people may be. Maybe the simple concept of treating people well or writing them letters is a catalyst to something special.