The Business of Winning

What does England Rugby’s World Cup winning team, Team GB’s Olympics success in Athens and Bolton Wanderers’ relegation survival have in common? Humphrey Walters.

Be it County Cricket, American Football, Formula One or sailing the ‘wrong way’ around the world, Humphrey has over 30 years’ experience inspiring individuals and teams to record-breaking achievements (quite literally breaking the world land speed record with JCB). During a Pangea Perspectives, Humphrey revealed his unique insights into leadership, team-building and cutting-edge performance; a concept he calls “The Business of Winning”. Here are our three key takeaways.

Separating leadership and management

Put simply, leadership and management are two separate beasts. Leadership comes from the Anglo-Saxon laedere meaning ‘the road or route ahead’. It’s about plotting the organisation or team’s future direction and taking people down that route like an icebreaker ship (incidentally, the technical term for the crack in the ice is called ‘the Lead’). For example: if you’re sailing through a hurricane, it’s the leader’s job to say “we’re going to make it” and to look for the gap in the 80ft waves (not the rough sea).

On the other hand, management comes from the Latin ‘Manus’, meaning ‘hand’. Like training horses in a manège, management is hands-on. It’s about actively making decisions and getting the best out of your team, be it coaching a sports squad or maximising budget efficiency. For example: great coaches will help a team reach its full potential by providing hands-on guidance to each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

If you’re in a management meeting, stick to managing the here and now. If you’re in a leadership meeting, think about where you can go with the business.

Three top tips:

  • Be punctual – How can you inspire trust in others if you can’t even turn up on time?
  • Find the GOOB (Good Out Of Bad) – Whatever the crisis, hone in on the benefits.
  • Be a chess grandmaster – They don’t think 3-4 moves ahead, they focus on the next move ahead.
Building a high-performing team

No matter if it’s McLaren F1, England Rugby, or Chelsea Football Club, all teams are trying to get the same outcome: to win. But team-building and cohesion is not the same in every environment.

For England Rugby, the team needed something to unite and inspire multiple personalities, so the slogan “Our duty is to inspire the country” was devised. For the Olympics, a group of primarily individual sportspersons needed to feel part of one team when a long way from home, so the famous rebrand ‘Team GB’ was launched along with letting everyone know ‘it’s okay not to be okay’. When sailing across the world, the team needed a code of ethics and a list of followship rules (i.e. only tell me once, value others’ opinions, and keep yourself alive) to ensure they were always prepared for any eventuality.

But remember – whether it’s helping a temporary workforce gel together (England Rugby), getting a team to perform week in, week out, (premier league football clubs) or creating pride in the badge and building camaraderie (Team GB at the Olympics), sports coaches and corporate executives need to think about whether they’re leading or managing.

Three top tips:

  • Make team members sit at the next available seat at meetings or meals (instead of choosing to sit near friends) to foster a more inclusive and collaborative environment.
  • Constantly remind individuals how good they are to erase self-doubt and keep up momentum.
  • Set clear aspirations for what success looks like and then plan backwards.
Adopting a winning mentality

Winners don’t do different things, they do things differently. It’s often said that ‘winning is a game of inches’, but actually it’s a game of ‘seconds’: at the 2004 Olympics, for example, the combined times of five Team GB gold medals (13 mins and 2 seconds) was only 0.545 seconds faster than the combined silver medal times. What separates winners is a different mentality.

For example, after narrowly surviving relegation with Bolton Wanderers, midfielder Youri Djorkaeff refused to join in the celebrations saying that he ‘only drinks the best champagne when we’ve won something.’ Vincent Lombardi believed that ‘winning wasn’t everything, it was the only thing’. Ron Dennis, Head of the McLaren F1, had such meticulous attention to detail that every detail of McLaren’s vast HQ, including the dimensions and shade of the tiles, had to be perfect. It’s these personality traits you need to be at the top.

Three top tips:

  • Channel your blast from the past – Every winner is motivated by someone who said they wouldn’t make it.
  • Take responsibility for being the best – Fight for your success as why shouldn’t you be the winner?
  • Treat uncertainty as an opportunity – Take control of unpredictable situations.
A winning environment

Of course, sports and corporate environments are not the same. Whereas games always start 0-0 with any team having as much chance of success as the other, business is not so equitable. But creating a winning environment is possible in every individual, team and organisation.

Check out more insights from Pangea Perspectives here.

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