Brain Food: Speaking out - Sir Clive Woodward, former England Rugby Union coach, and Head Coach, British & Irish Lions RFC

Many successful sporting personalities join the speaker circuit and try to link sporting prowess with cosy business advice. Most haven't a clue about business, so fail to impress. Not so Clive Woodward.

by Khalid Aziz, chairman of the Aziz Corporation and a professor of business communications at Southampton University, khalid@azizcorp.com
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Nearly 500 of the cream of Hampshire's business people crammed into a school hall for the annual Challenge Lecture. But timing was not great for Woodward - he'd just returned from New Zealand empty-handed. To his credit, he confronted that issue immediately: 'We're having to rebuild a great side.' Then it was into the nuts and bolts of managing a team to glory, identifying clear parallels with the business world. It's all about changing mindsets, which, given his material, isn't easy: 'The England rugby team are not a bunch of yes-men.' There was plenty of humour too, notably about the body language of Martin Johnson and Lawrence Dallaglio during a pre-match briefing.

Among telling insights offered by Woodward was the concept of 'teamship' - letting the team work out group standards of behaviour on everything from punctuality to writing books, to be accepted or rejected by the coach.

The team agreed that none of them would write anything to embarrass any other member. 'This means Johnson's world cup rugby book is really boring, but it's still sold three-quarters of a million copies to date!'

Key moment: The Deaf Rugby Association letter agreeing with what they read on Woodward's lips about a dodgy decision by referee Andre Watson.

Key lesson: Clear messages and not too many of them, with plenty of anecdotes to illustrate, make for a world-beating performance.

- Silver tongue.

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