On the eve of the men’s 6 Nations rugby tournament, we thought it would be good time to illustrate the similarities between rugby and business when it comes to getting the right team in place.

What can rugby teach us about building a team?

The worlds of rugby and business might, on the face of it, appear dissimilar. After all, what could managing a team of microbiologists, writing reports or developing a new drug possibly have in common with people chasing an egg-shaped ball?

The common denominator is that without a great team, winning becomes harder.

Know what you need for the right position/role.

When you think of rugby players, images of a squad of 15 giants are often conjured up. Those who appreciate the intricacies of the game understand that different positions on the rugby field actually require a unique skill set, mental approach and physical attributes.

A fullback might be able to play fly-half, but a lock will never be a hooker or a prop. In other words, one size does not fit all. The same is true for every business environment.

Be a team player.

The world of professional rugby is full of examples of teams achieving greatness by putting aside personal glory to focus on something much bigger.

What leads a company to have greater productivity and efficiency? Is it individual or group work? In rugby, the team comes first. The dynamics of the game makes you fight to win – and defend – every inch of the field; something essential in a discipline where individualism is rarely critical. This same mindset is needed in a successful business, fighting for every advantage with so much external competition out there.

Appoint a leader who can influence and get the best out of the team.

All teams need great leaders – be it the captain on the pitch, the manager of a small team in the lab, or the CEO of a multinational corporation.

A good business leader needs to be like a good scrumhalf; the player who orchestrates the speedy backs and forward pack, and whose immediate decisions dominate play tactics. They need to understand the strengths of all the players on the field and bind diverse functions together into one reactive, organic whole.

Focus on the controllable aspects.

One of the most interesting features of rugby is how the odd shape of the ball leads to it bouncing entirely unpredictably. Often the same kicking motion can lead either to a momentous surge up the field or the ball skewing wildly out of play.

The point is that the outcome cannot always be predicted. But it can be responded to.
The same is true of building teams. People are not machines; they are unpredictable, so all a good manager can do is respond appropriately to any given situation, maintaining values of professionalism and compassion.

Diversity can give you the edge.

Any leader worth his or her salt knows how important diversity is in building a dynamic team. The British & Irish Lions, who bring together the best rugby players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales once every four years, are a great example of diverse skills in action.

By taking the best players who, only weeks before, were competing against each other, the most effective Lions coaches — like the best business leaders — can build teams who combine the strengths of some of the most talented players in the world and are able to galvanise them to act as a team exceptionally quickly, and despite their differences in national allegiance.

The benefit of having a diverse workplace is that it widens the talent pool, leads to innovation and better employee performance. A McKinsey report on public companies found that those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry mean.

Whilst we can’t promise to find you the next Maggie Alphonsi, Gavin Hastings, Jaz Joyce or Brian O’Driscoll, Entrust Resource Solutions can help you identify the next star for your business which will hopefully lead you to a Grand Slam.