Five things that business leaders can learn from England Rugby

Eddie Jones data

David Watt, CEO of the CI Group, discusses how Eddie Jones’s approach to coaching the England rugby union team can be applied to business


‘Performing at your best as much as you can is about understanding the significance of data to see what’s important, then deciding what you should invest in to build the strength of your team’

These words were spoken not by a CEO from the City, but by Eddie Jones, head coach of the England rugby union team, just before it flew to Japan for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

I’ve been fortunate to meet Eddie several times in recent years. In September 2019 my company organised an event in its “Changing behaviours” series at England’s training base in Pennyhill Park, Surrey, so he was able then to drop in for a chat with us and our guests.

With the discussion focusing on the growing role of data analytics in fact-based decision-making in business, Eddie provided several fascinating observations on how important these concepts are to his coaching team.

I’d like to share four more insights that stood out to me among the many he discussed.


‘Be comfortable about being uncomfortable’

Eddie said: “To win consistently is not easy. You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s about changing behaviours.”

I fully agree. It’s vital for managers in sport and business to learn how to cope with change and respond coolly when the pressure rises or the unexpected occurs.


‘Have a great analytics department that’s continually looking for the winning edge’

The England coaches have an extensive data analytics team. It produces not only reams of data for post-match review but also immediate analysis, making suggestions for tactical changes as the game progresses.

Eddie said: “Your ability to be ahead of the game is absolutely crucial. To do that you have to have a great analytics department that’s continually looking for the winning edge.”

I’ve seen this at first hand in the increasing number of firms wanting to apply the techniques of our analytics company to more areas of their business once they’ve seen the advantages these offer.


‘Maximise the effectiveness of meetings’

Eddie said: “We keep our communications simple and our meetings short – no more than 15 minutes, including an opening ‘primer’. They make no more than three points and they’re backed up by a test at the end. There is no personal praise or criticism – that’s given individually by the coaches.”

This is a valuable reminder that too many meetings are longer than most people’s attention spans and try to convey too much information.


‘Help people to think for themselves’

Most businesses invest in staff training and motivation schemes. How much better would it be if they focused on developing people’s attitudes and thinking so that they solve more problems themselves and became more self-motivated?

Eddie summarised this point as follows: “In essence, we are not coaching rugby; we are coaching changing behaviours. We’re trying to get the players to be more independent, to think for themselves, to own their careers. Because then they can work things out by themselves.”


About author

David Watt

David Watt

David Watt is CEO of the CI Group

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