Housing Technology had an exclusive interview with Sir Clive Woodward OBE, World Cup Winner and Team GB’s Director of Sport for the London Olympics, after his keynote presentation at our 2013 annual conference.
Housing Technology: You know better than anyone how to get the best out of a team. What’s the single most important factor in getting your team behind you?
Sir Clive Woodward: I think one of my favourite lines is, “great teams are made of great individuals”, so the number one thing is to look for individual responsibility from every member of team. It doesn’t matter what role he or she is playing – we really look at your function and how you are going to improve that function. So it’s understanding that yes, you are working in a team but to me, your individual responsibility is the number one thing that sets teams apart.
Housing Technology: Can the principles of sports leadership be applied successfully to other types of organisations, particularly housing associations which not only have staff to consider, but ultimately their key stakeholders and their tenants?
Sir Clive Woodward: Yes, absolutely. I think the way of working in partnership is absolutely crucial in sport and in business, so you must make sure all your stakeholders are aligned with what you’re trying to do. But I still think the number one thing is knowledge; that the more you can actually capture knowledge and share that knowledge with the various stakeholders within the business and really always try to make marginal gains, the more effective you are going be as a business. And that applies exactly to both sport and business. It’s all about how you capture knowledge, how you study it, how you then share it with the people who can actually help you and then deliver the final product.
Housing Technology: Sir Clive, I know that when coaching you’re a big advocate of planning ahead. Should this be a key strategy in the housing sector?
Sir Clive Woodward: Absolutely, I don’t think you can do enough planning. In the world of sport, you are always trying to win the game on Saturday and you know you’re going to be judged on fairly short-term results sometimes, and business is really no different; you still have to win the next deal and perform on a day-to-day basis. However, you must always have a long-term strategy – there is a great line about working ‘on the business’ as well as working ‘in the business’. Many sports coaches and business leaders sometimes get so wrapped up ‘in the business’ that they don’t give themselves any time to step back and consider the bigger picture.
Personally, I’m planning every day, every week, every month, every quarter, every year. Although you have in the back of your mind the fact that you have to deliver at the weekend, in a sporting context, you must spend time working ‘on the business’ if you want to be a really effective coach or leader.
Housing Technology: You have had considerable business experience – how have you brought that experience to the world of sport?
Sir Clive Woodward: One of my key lines is always that whoever wins in IT tends to win. Sport is no different – if you go behind the scenes of any successful sports team, the amount of knowledge and IT that they’re using is amazing. And the big thing for me is that I demand that every coach, every athlete and every player has to really learn the IT skills so that they can actually use the software and evaluate things themselves, because the more you can get them using IT to create knowledge and study, the better they’re going to be.
People are often surprised when I talk about IT and sport, but every athlete must have an ability to understand their performance and find ways of doing things differently. The IT side of business is obviously huge, but again it comes down to knowledge and really using IT to increase your knowledge and beat the person you’re trying to compete with.
Housing Technology: Do you believe that successful businesses, like successful sports teams, need to be open to new ideas and embrace new technologies and innovations?
Sir Clive Woodward: I think it’s not only new ideas – what I find in both the business world and the sports world is that when you’re doing well, you tend to go on and celebrate and without being too flippant, you go to the pub and have a glass of champagne or a beer and you celebrate. When things are not going well, it’s the early Monday morning meeting and everyone’s in a kind of panic.
In my opinion, you need to reverse that trend, so in other words when things aren’t going well, don’t over-react because you clearly don’t become a bad individual or a bad team overnight, go down the pub and have a drink. But when things are going well, that’s when I think you should have the early Monday morning meetings and you should really study why you’ve been successful, and then work out how you can do them better, how you can make marginal gains such as doing 100 things 1 per cent.
But those gains are only possible if you actually know why you’ve won. And I think when you’ve won then new ideas start to come through. And that’s what we did with the rugby team – when we started to win regularly we became really quite aggressive about why did we win, how can we do even better and not sitting back and being complacent.
It’s a real change of mindset and cultural shift, but if you have that culture you will always be trying to find new ideas and thought processes, and it’s also good because when you’ve won and things are going well, you can be quite tough in these Monday morning meetings. The time not to be tough is when things are not going well – to me, it’s the opposite. When you’re in a good position, you can be tough and people will respond because they’re not threatened.
Housing Technology: You kind of created the term ‘critical non-essentials’ – could you please explain?
Sir Clive Woodward: First, you need to define critical non-essentials – they are not the big things you already know in your business, they are the real details that you might study in the Monday morning meetings I mentioned earlier. What I’ve found in business and sport, most people remember you for the small things that you do and not the big things. I mean things such as “why would people remember us” or “how can we do the deal better”; these are the non-essentials insofar as life will go on if we don’t do them, but if we do do them, then maybe people will remember us a little bit differently. It’s a great saying, ‘critical non-essentials’ – they’re kind of critical but they’re not essential.
Housing Technology: Thank you.