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Developing talent – a lesson from English rugby


In true English press fashion, the main focus on Sunday was not on England winning the Six Nations, but rather the fact that they were demolished by Ireland and failed to claim the Grand Slam.

For me, what is far more interesting than the Grand Slam and the Six Nations is the seemingly effortless transition that Martin Johnson has made from player to captain, then captain to leader.
Take the components of this conversation off the rugby field and into a working environment, the moves that Johnson has made are not easy, and it is testament to the man himself, the team he has lead and the RFU as a whole. How much of a role do you think the RFU played in his move up the English rugby ladder?

Generating an environment where the core skills of a leader can shine above any potentially damaging politics is crucial, and until we’re told otherwise we’ll have to assume that this was down to the company, or the ‘union’ in this case.
Johnson’s move up the ranks is so reminiscent of the work that we carry out with companies on a leadership development programme everyday, because we work with individual leaders to ensure that they are creating an organisational culture that allows internal talent to develop and flourish.

Go a step further, we work with teams within companies to help them understand and communicate with one another, and ultimately respect the roles that each member of that teams plays, which in turn generates a more productive team.

Had Johnson not been part of a motivated, respectful, committed and loyal team, his journey up the hierarchical ladder would never have been so smooth and measured. Consider those that were next to him along the way: Johnny Wilkinson, played alongside Johnson, was captained by Johnson, then was led by Johnson.

Now, I’m not privy to the internal goings-on at Twickenham on a match day but I’d be willing to stick my neck on the line and suggest that Wilkinson still holds Johnson in the highest regard. How many companies would like to have a culture that encourages development, internal progression and all the while builds strong relationships within?
Quite a few I’d say…

James Pentreath

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