In collaborative work, the 2003 World Cup winner put the learnings of his career into a book designed to encourage personal growth in sport or business
Just champion! Will Greenwood’s new book
It’s not just the World Cup winning coaches who have wisdom to pass on – the players can have their say too. And that’s exactly what Will Greenwood did with the release of World class, published by Ebury Edge (RRP £ 20).
The former England center has teamed up with former Durham University fellow Ben Fennell to offer advice on the behaviors needed to thrive in sport or business. Fennell has extensive experience as CEO of a leading advertising agency and in 2018 established The Growth House.
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The idea that shines through the book is that if you celebrate difference and forge unity, you will accelerate growth – these are the three broad categories under which more specific issues are explored.
Greenwood cites his pair of midfielders with Mike Tindall as an example – one couldn’t pass, the other couldn’t tack, but between them they won a World Cup. “The brutal honesty of our abilities has been the foundation upon which our partnership has been built,” said Greenwood.
Selection gives us the kick-off, the general rule being that you need people who know all the rules and people who don’t. Phil Larder loved structure and Brian Ashton loved freedom and both approaches were a powerful contributor to England’s success twenty years ago.
Examples of rugby punctuate the text, but there are also many examples from the business world; Diageo’s selling ability was transformed after their recruiting record called for the kind of people who could walk into a nightclub without paying.
A golden rule of feedback is to be hard on the matter but soft on the person. Greenwood was marked by a damning verdict on his talent following an England Under-18 training camp that offered no context, framing or light at the end of the tunnel. “Rugby is not for you, Greenwood. You should consider other sports, ”the report exploded.
Ironically, words made him hungry and wanted to prove people wrong, but more often than not awkward comments will destroy a person’s confidence. The feedback should be stimulating but kind, address the work in progress but build on strengths, be at a high pace but not overwhelming.
Innovation and generosity also appear in the first section, and the authors use female hockey to illustrate decision making: Ahead of the 2016 Olympics, when Britain were to win gold, the team would ask a simple question in every action: Would a gold medalist do that?
As Kate Richardson-Walsh, then GB captain, explains: “Would a gold medalist eat that croissant? Probably not. Would a gold medalist still put ten kilograms on the squat rack? They probably would.
This clear thinking gave the four-year goal of earning gold daily application and linked short-term decisions to the long-term goal.
Goal, which kicks off the usability section, is about defining your “why” – can you find a sticky phrase to explain what you’re doing? EasyJet’s is “Making travel easy and affordable” while BBH summed up its ten convictions in one sentence: “The power of difference to make a difference”.
Of framing, an anecdote from Sir Matthew Pinsent appealed. When he and Steve Redgrave were in their rowing splendor, they won races so easily that they became arrogant, even bored.
Sensing the danger, their trainer Jürgen Gröbler ordered the duo not to take the lead until they were halfway through a 2,000m race. He gave them a cap of blows to cut off their wings. Suddenly, Redgrave and Pinsent got nervous, anxious not to slip, and they barely noticed that their arrogance and boredom was gone.
Jump on the past culture we arrive at Communication, an area that Greenwood and Fennell say more than any other topic could have been a book on its own.
Greenwood was so struck by a response John Eales gave onstage at a reception in Melbourne on the eve of the second Lions Test in 2013 that as soon as he got home he spent two days writing 40 letters to everyone who helped him get to where he is today but never really thanked.
He also points out that “my eyes were a weapon but without my mouth they were blunt” – communicating with his half-fly, so often Jonny Wilkinson, was a crucial part of his role.
Equally powerful is Lawrence Dallaglio’s perspective on communication. “The greatest gift you can give to others is your energy,” says the No.8 who has inspired his teammates time and time again.
Team spirit completes the section and a simple illustration here might be having a note with the employee who continually arrives at work five minutes late. Eliminate fires early!
Finally to the acceleration of growth where Wilkinson and Jason Robinson coaching ethics are put forward to raise ever higher standards. Robinson stunned his teammates in his first session in England by going on to attack Iain Balshaw when everyone was still giving up!
The best coping mechanism for pressure is meticulous preparation – why not practice a big negotiation of fees or a difficult conversation before the real thing?
Helen Richardson-Walsh provides an interesting dissection of her preparation to shoot a penalty in the 2016 Olympics women’s hockey final. Getting booed as she walked to the ball was a shock, but it did. helped. “It made me angry and the anger got on my nerves.”
And in setback it reminds us of the mighty professor that pain can be, Greenwood recounting the succession of England’s Grand Slam failures that preceded their 2003 success in Dublin under Clive Woodward. The lessons could be summarized as follows:
1999 v Wales: Keep pushing the scoreboard up, get two more scores.
2000 v Scotland: play the conditions.
2001 vs. Ireland: Choose only fit players.
2002 v France: Build a wider kicking game, don’t always trust Jonny!
In well-being, Woodward’s handling of a family crisis at Greenwood during RWC 2003, when he told the player to go home and take as long as he wanted, even if it meant missing the most critical games in the history of national rugby is cited as an exceptional management.
Greenwood and his wife Caro feared losing their child during pregnancy, so soon after losing their son Freddie after his premature birth in 2002. As we know Greenwood returned home, spent a week with his wife, returned to Australia with a lead in better space and helped England win the trophy.
“It was a truly amazing piece of player well-being on Clive’s part. He was and is world class, ”said Greenwood, a father of three who, in addition to his media work, is UK Customer Director for Afiniti, an artificial intelligence organization.
Speed completes the section – “If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, that’s too big,” said Amazon founder Jeff Bezos – and voila, a guided tour of a book that condenses best practices and common sense in 300 tidy pages.
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World class: how to lead, learn and grow like a champion by Will Greenwood and Ben Fennell is published by Ebury Edge, RRP £ 20.
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