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Team management – Lessons all managers learn from the demise of Stuart Lancaster.

Even the most ardent of non-rugby fans cannot help to have noticed the media fall out from the England Rugby Team’s exit from the recent world cup. The first home nation, not to qualify from the group stages, particularly surprising given some genuine optimism going into the tournament.

Tom Fodyce’s excellent article for the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/34479084 explores some of the reasons why things went wrong. As he notes it “was not meant to end like this”.

Stuart Lancaster inherited a team that had just been hammered in world cup quarter final by France, having won the proceeding 6 nations. They had been dogged by the media following an ill judged trip to a bar that resulted in a dwarf tossing competition and a seeming indiscretion in an alley way by one of the teams most recognisable players. Further trouble followed with the team’s young star player throwing himself off a ferry and being spoken to by the police. The team also played terribly throughout.

Four years later with several second place finishes in the six nations under his belt and managing a team that actually played rather better than their predecessors Stuart Lancaster is judged to have failed.

In implementing a culture and giving the young men under his care a sense of belonging and a set of rules to follow Stuart Lancaster can be seen as a success. There is no doubt that they all gave 100% effort and there was real pride in the shirt. A step forward then.

In implementing a “one size fits all” approach, Stuart Lancaster could also have been seen to fail. He left his team short on crucial star performers. How could have ever done anything else, having set his stall out did he have any option other than to exclude players like Dylan Hartley, Manu Tuilagi, Danny Cipriani and Delon Armitage.

When managing a team it is, of course, important to try and create a culture. To set ground rules and ensure that everyone knows what is expected of them. In essence you create the platform for people to be successful. People are people and so inevitably one size will not fit all. People will step out of line and/ or make mistakes. Some people may live in difficult locations, which can present logistical problems when employing them.

My team has grown by over 150% in terms of numbers in 2015. Each and everyone one of the people that work for me have had individual challenges this year which have meant that the one size fits all approach has not always fit in with their situation. As a manager my biggest challenge has been how to incorporate this but still ensure that we perform as a team. How do I offer the support and flexibility that individuals require without upsetting other team members?

Essentially you always look at the individual first. What does the individual require and what can you offer them within the bounds of your team structure? How transparent can you be with the rest of the team in scenarios where you need to step outside the normal boundaries?

Ultimately you are looking for a win/win scenario! A win for the team and a win for the individual. Could Dylan Hartley have been given anger management coaching, could Manu Tuilagi have been made to apologise to the rest of the squad and put on a final warning, could an exception have been made for Delon Armitage?

It also cannot make a difference if the person is a star performer or not. In order to have star performers, you need to have a team. Therefore, everyone has to be equally accountable, be treated as an equal individual and have the opportunity to find the win/win.

Now that Eddie Jones is in place lets all hope for a brighter future for the England Team.

For more information please contact Nick Fear – Manager Private Practice, at BCL Legal.

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