Talent is not enough


The second instalment from the Inspiring Leadership conference…

Clive Woodward – Talent alone is not enough

World renowned as the architect of England’s Rugby World Cup win of 2003 it was worth the wait to hear his views on leadership, winning and success. He was the first professional England ruby coach and led the team for 8 years with much success. He then went on to become Team GB Director of Sport at London 2012.

Without a doubt a man that can be credited with gifting me a life-long sporting memory. Most commonly remembered for the mantra TCUP (Thinking Correctly Under Pressure) I expected it to be on similar lines. So what can we take from what he said?

1. Talent alone is not enough

All have the talent but you need to make the most of it. There was a recognition that world-wide comparisons challenge us. England had to be compared to New Zealand and South Africa (the best in the world), some of whom they had never beaten before so therefore they had to be willing to learn, develop and make the most of talent.

It was knowledge that would be the key.

All coaches in the England setup were qualified teachers, with a passion to support, develop and nurture this learning – Woodward didn’t realise this common experience until after the success they experienced. He went on to give the example of the world-calss talent of Christiano Ronaldo. When Ronaldo first came to the Premier League pundits said his success was “because he was Portugese” and had skills “you can’t coach”. Michael Clegg, a coach at Manchester United said, he was “a natural talent… but the difference was his understanding and knowledge of how to be the best in the world.”

A dominant view in recent years has been the focus on the magic number of 10,000 hours to achieve mastery. Have a look at the brilliant book “Oultliers” by Malcolm Gladwell but there is no point to practice the wrong technique again and again, it is in fact the willingness to learn or be developed. This is a powerful message for all in our schools.

Woodward described how he called in Matt Dawson, a confident and talented young player, and asked himself to rank himself as a scrum-half. He said he thought he was the best. Woodward went on to reveal his list of the top 10 English scrum-halfs and had him ranked currently at number 1, much to Matt Dawson’s satisfaction. He then turned the page to the international list which had Dawson ranked number 9 and went on to point out he was lucky to be English!

The challenge is to understand how to make the most of the talent you have, a shared experience to our lives in schools.

2. You have to be a sponge and not a rock

You have to have a thirst for knowledge, understanding and learning and this defined the people who would be in the team.  This made you coachable, willing to improve and respond. Woodward gave all the players laptops when less than 10% had used them before, he wanted to see their ability and willingness to learn.

He met Arsène Wenger to hear about new software called Prozone which picked up the individual features of players as they ran onto the field and could analyse their performance and create data in real time. This would change the whole approach to the way they would analyse performance. After every game a CD was given to the players and they were given 24 hours to produce a report with three areas;

  • An analysis of their own individual performance
  • An analysis of the how the team played
  • An analysis of how their opposite number and team played

Maybe we could do this as a school every summer? It could lead to some interesting and engaging conversations and a deeper sense of ownership.

The aim was to get the players to engage and speak first and develop their own skills, knowledge, understanding and analysis – perhaps this is the challenge we all face by looking to create independent learners but we could echo this in our work with staff professionally. This focus created great leadership capacity because they were all able to understand and analyse the game after being given the skills to know what to do.

We all need to end up with a team full of sponges! Woodward talked about how he would not pick anyone in the team who needed to be led but looked for those who were ready to learn and challenge themselves in to improve – this created a team of leaders with responsibility and a commitment to improving themselves.

3. Write your book and the chapters for success to express what you do

Look to capture our understanding and knowledge on world-class performance. He broke this down into 7 key areas…

  • Defence
  • Basics
  • Pressure
  • Attack
  • Tactics
  • Self-Control
  • Leadership

What would yours be? How would we express what is most important for our schools? To be successful you need to break down the chapters so you can look to organise and deliver the outcomes you want.

4. The power of information

The challenge is to capture and organise information and develop the way we respond to the messages this tells us.  This could be done in three ways.

  • Winning moves – identify the keys to success. What are the things we must do?
  • Practices – applying your knowledge and understanding. How do we do it better?
  • Evaluate – evaluate your performance and engage all in learning.

We could all take up this challenge and get staff and students to analyse their own success –  he said if you don’t use the IT it won’t work, especially with young people, and has developed an analytical approach to coaching called “Capture“.

He talked about how he was working with Noni Stephen who had only played for 3 years but could be go on to develop to be the best golfer in the world. She was now better than her coach, a true sign of great coaching, and had previously been an international hockey and squash player. She was using technology to analyse, understand and challenge her performance. This is a culture of learning we need to inspire in all involved in education.

The number 1 thing is to get absolute engagement from the people in your team – create the environment to allow them to deliver.

Maybe this is simply what we are called to do in preparing to lead and inspire success so we can all be world class. So what are you waiting for?!


One thought on “Talent is not enough

  1. Pingback: Inspired to Lead | robcarter2012's Blog

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