England are flying again. Certain key individuals are back – although Mako is now out – and that has made a huge difference. So even though we talk about team culture, how much confidence does a team – in sport or work – derive from having its best people available?
It is a careful balance but within any team I have been a part of, you need your game-changers. For England, they are the Vunipolas or Manu Tuilagi who can conjure moments that alter the momentum of a game and inspire those around them. England’s recent renaissance is not just down to those three individuals, but it’s no coincidence their best rugby has come with them on the field.
What has Solskjaer changed?
As a captain or coach you are constantly managing a balance between team culture and individual brilliance. The sum of all parts must be greater than the individual parts on their own. That is not always easy to achieve and sometimes teams and managers get it wrong.
Take Manchester United as an example. A team of fantastic individuals but their coach, Jose Mourinho, got it wrong when trying to mould them in to a team. His style of play and man-management clearly didn’t fit the character of the individuals and the result was damming for all to see. Solskjaer comes along, changes very little in terms of personnel but installs a different way of working. The result has been emphatic. That balance is so important and often misjudged, even by the best managers in the world.
Guarding against complacency
So when it’s going well how do you guard against complacency? In sport or in business how do you hard-wire that mentality into a team ethos? In short, how does Eddie Jones make sure England’s players keep their feet on the ground over the next two weeks?
The answer lies in the values of the team and the characters of each individual within the group. Often when there is a target like getting to number 1, you have an incredibly focused and motivated group. The biggest challenge comes in remaining motivated to stay there.
Consistency is the hardest thing to achieve in any walk of life and sport is no different. Some of the best managers, Pep Guardiola for example, have a fantastic way of ensuring that the culture and direction of the team is driven by those working within it. The All Blacks are the same.
Collective buy-in to the future of a business or a team is absolutely vital. That is why visions set from the bottom-up often succeed more than those driven from the top-down.