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The Game of Teams

Teams are the new unit of currency in business. Harnessing the wisdom and brilliance of teams is not easy. It can be messy, confusing, non linear and complicated. Learn from your peers and thought leaders about what it takes. Listen to their stories, pains, and pride when it works. This show is about the magic of mining work and relations for high performance, satisfaction and fulfilment on teams

Sep 1, 2020

Introduction: Stuart Lancaster oozes passion for his sport-Rugby. For those who do not know Stuart he is a Rugby Union coach and he is currently coaching the Leinster Rugby Team in Dublin Ireland. He was former head coach of the England Rugby Team between the 2011-2015.

Podcast episode summary:  In this episode Stuart illuminates the work of Team Coaching and how so much of what we know in Corporate teams is played out on the rugby pitch. . Stuart is passionate about the sport of Rugby, bringing out the best in others and pushing himself to always be improving.  His humility, courage and passion comes across so ably in his conversation.  We spoke about handling pressure, he shared the loss the England team suffered in the World Cup in 2015 that cost him his job, resilience and what got him back and of course team leadership and his current love of the work at Leinster where he is excited to return. Of course,  we are in Lockdown so that is not to come for a while. Covid-19 featured as a discussion point through this conversation and  Stuart shared how he and the team are managing  through this period.


Points made through the episode:

  • Stuart was brought up on a farm in Cumbria. His father and ethics around hard work played a significant role in Stuarts approach to work and life.
  • His schooling at St. Bees in Cumbria taught him a lot about resilience
  • He took every opportunity and often stuck his head above the parapet to go for opportunities that perhaps we wasn’t ready for
  • He attributes getting his Level in 5 in coaching and his time at Ashridge College as being critical to support his leadership and coaching
  • His time as a PE teacher was also informative helping him understand how to conduct planning/do/review sessions
  • Always driven
  • Only have one shot-at life-“be the best I can be”
  • Fear is lessened by competence and confidence
  • Shared what happened at the World Cup and the job he lost as Head Coach in 2015
  • His first reaction was to go home- to the farm. Stuart reflected by walking the mountains, running, reading and thinking and by travelling across to New Zealand and to South Africa where he spoke to several coaches who had experienced similar losses
  • He found his new purpose. He met Jim Collins the author of Good to Great and was inspired to “pick himself up off the canvas”
  • He joined Leinster and they have enjoyed 3 trophy wins and 19/19 games
  • Self-Awareness is very important to Stuart. He uses psychometrics with himself and the team, feedback and deliberate thinking sessions for reflection
  • His huge drive means he is constantly looking at ways he can improve and improve the lot of others too
  • Important that team learn and give feedback but do not drag mistakes around for a week or more.
  • He shared his classic 100 days approach with a new team which is then followed by a call to arms speech where he paints a picture of what the future can look like for the team-this engenders self-belief.
  • Culture- is about alignment, with a Values based approach. Leinster work with 3 values Brothers-Humility and Ruthlessness
  • Stuart shared his definition of what culture means which he summarised in a metaphor. Culture is an invisible thread between coach/team members and between each other that thickens as the relations build.
  • Identify is important. Leinster enjoy and incredible identity where 96% of the players come from some part of Leinster and they play for Dublin
  • Leadership is about being even keeled although sometimes it is important to how you feel about something. He employs a breath of style to support what is needed.
  • Inclusiveness is paramount for team dynamic.
  • Failure is part of the dance.
  • Covid-19 has put the team in a holding pattern and he and the team are keen to re-group and pick up the game.
  • Important to stay in the present.
  • Stuart has communicated with the team by using his voice. He has made small videos where he overlays his voice on the recording. Important for players to have his voice in their heads
  • Players are appreciating regular but small communication bursts.
  • “What is means for your Son to be playing for England” was an exercise in culture building that supported the team build connection
  • The secret sauce to coaching a team like Leinster is for Stuart “pretty simple really” Make sure the team is connected/train intensively together/have cohesion/a combination of variety and repetition in training methodologies is important for habit building and engagement


Resources: the following include the resources we alluded to over the course of our conversation

  1. Stuart shared his own LinkedIN profile which offers an amount of articles and posts sharing insights on Leadership -
  2. Jim Collins: Good to Great