Moving forward after defeat

 

John Neal's weekly blog throughout rugby’s biggest competition. His blog will offer an insight into what businesses can learn from the highs and lows of the competition...

Added on 14 October 2015 by John Neal

Defeated Rugby Players

My grandma always told me to “do your best and leave the rest!”
Wise words, but what happens when your best is just not good enough, when the consequences of losing leads to recriminations, blame, anger and self-doubt?
Such is the power of a loss, let alone two losses, even when England really did seem to be doing their best.

So what happens now?

There will be a formal review covering every aspect of the World Cup period, including the preparation and the performance and covering technical, tactical, mental, physical and coaching areas. Usually conducted by external experts the report will interview all parties, benchmark against other nations and come forward with recommendations.

Whilst all this is going on there will be a media scramble, where journalists will seek out stories from anybody who is willing to be controversial rather than constructive. The unedifying scramble for a new job in the England set up will begin. Most of these stories will be end up in the fiction archive once the dust settles or another story is bigger.

The review is critical as it will determine future progression and the likelihood of England bouncing back or falling away further.

So what can the business world learn from this?

  1. Never allow emotion to influence the analysis of a defeat or a win.
  2. Analyse the process first and the people second.
  3. Analyse against data and beware of subjectivity
  4. Avoid the distraction of success and failure…look for progression against set targets.
  5. Seek a broad church of opinions and monitor for bias and downright personal agendas.
  6. Seek what went well as strongly as what did not go well.
  7. Context…..there is always a context and a reason for actions.  Find out what they were!
  8. Listen, listen listen….  This helps us discover what we did not know and avoids any pre conceptions.

And what to do with the review once it’s complete?
Take time to read it carefully and fully absorb what it has to say.
Clarify what has been said and carefully consider the recommendations.

It is at this point where strong leadership comes to the fore. Having created the calm space for reflection and balanced consideration (very tough when the emotions are high) it is now time for decisions.

A key skill of leadership, whether in business or in sport, is the ability to hold in balance the short term and the long term benefits for the wider organisation. The easier job is to predict the short term, but the real skill of leadership is foresight in the long term.

There will be many people who will not see the long term benefits… many journalists, those looking for a new job and fans will want action and the excitement that short term change brings. But all the evidence points to evolution being more effective than revolution.  Sustainable success takes time, patience, continuity and the courage of a leader, especially when they know that “they really did do their best”.


John Neal is also Director of Ashridge’s Sports Business Partnership which explores and applies the transferable lessons between business and sport creating powerful analogical learning experiences in the classroom.