So England are on the plane home after another world cup failure this time in rugby as they fall to France in Auckland. And rather like the exit from the Soccer World Cup (and yes it is soccer) a couple of years ago it is both no surprise and to be honest a bit of a relief and, as before, there are lessons to be learned from the defeat.
In South Africa for me it was clear from very early on that they would not progress as it was quite apparent that this was not a team – it was a group of individuals. As if to underline the point it was exquisitely demonstrated by their reaction when a mistake by Rob Green the goal keeper led to a soft goal, not a single player took the time to go back and speak to him. They left him swinging in the wind, compounding and accentuating the scale of the error in a wholly destructive way. As my old Rules coach used to say (yes that’s Aussie Rules) “A champion team will always beat a team of champions.” Lack of leadership too - where is the captains example?
And so to Auckland. IMHO it has been apparent to me that this team has lost its ability to reflect, consider and to be self critical. They are self absorbed but that is not the same as being self critical. They have lost humility, they have lost a sense of responsibility and, let’s be frank, lost touch with reality. They are smug. How do I know this? Simply witness their reaction to the criticism levelled at them for their behaviour and “antics” in the last few weeks. They believe the criticism is unjustified, a storm in a tea cup, exaggerated, and their responses in interview have been chippy, smirky, the demeanour of schoolbullys.
Hmm? Well I think they have forgotten the privilege and responsibility bestowed on them. Well guys don’t forget there would be no criticism if you behaved yourselves and as for storm in a tea cup, the behaviour in the Dunedin hotel would see you very much departing most normal jobs these days so why should we tolerate it in national representatives? Get some perspective and learn some respect.
For those that say this is the way with modern sports men I say “Erm? not so!” and offer Sam Warburton of Wales as a much better example of behaviour attitude and, at this time, success.
But the most telling indicator is the penalty count. Now it really doesn’t matter if you agree with the interpretation of the referee or not. I have major issues with how the Southern hemisphere officials referee the game and yes I am a qualified Rugby Referee. However if you are shipping penalties it is no point saying you don’t agree, the guy with the whistle will keep blowing it and you need to adjust and adapt. This means taking a long hard look at what you do and admitting it’s not going right and adjust. England’s penalty count has been lamentable and costly and they simply haven’t LEARNED. Lack of leadership both on and off the field.
I take nothing away from France who were, as they can be, magnificent – believe me I know being married to a Kiwi! But the inability to be humble, lack the honesty and self awareness to be critical and examine performance will defeat you regardless of the opposition because you defeat yourself.
I don’t lament the defeat such moronic national representatives don’t deserve to wear the jersey, best to have them home. And as for the black jerseys and the state of the RFU – don’t get me started.
So why am I writing this apart from the need to get it off my chest?
Well the lessons are the same in business. I recall joining a consultancy firm and having “The Wisdom of Teams” Katzenbach and Smith – thrust into my hand as I walked into the first day induction, and it is a fine message, and fine text that has served me well.
The ability to be self critical is essential too. Review and adapt and learn. It is not an admission of failure it’s an acknowledgement that nothing we do is perfect but we should constantly strive for it. Coaching is of no value if you can’t learn – knowledge is a verb.
As for leadership - well that is a post on its own. Lets save it for another day.