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When England Played Their Strengths…Almost

Laura Fink, Head of HR at SETL

England’s performance against the All Blacks in Japan was the stuff of dreams and will be talked about for many years to come.  Whilst the South Africa game fell short of England’s best, this team of young players had been transformed over the last four years – and whilst denied at the last hurdle, were by far the best team we’d fielded in over a decade.  For the second time in just over 12 months, a young England team completely outperformed our expectations on the world stage.

Much can and has been said about the pros and cons of Eddie Jones’ coaching approach but the performances he got from the team were undeniable.  How these guys had made it to this point isn’t magic according to Jones.  It was about belief – and a growth mindset.  The passion to win, and the philosophy that every day they could get better. When he announced the squad for the final game, it was done in an inspiring video using clips of each of them as teenagers playing for their local teams, against images of them playing for England.  His advice to young kids watching at home:

Work out your strengths.  Play to your strengths.  Each day, believe you can get better.  You never know what you can achieve.

As a coach, Eddie Jones knows his players and their strengths inside out.  Whilst known for a sharp tongue, he truly understands how each player brings unique skills and value to the team.  Bringing this vision and understanding to the team level, Jones plays each individual in the right position and the team is unstoppable.  His role is then simply to build belief and confidence ahead of kick-off and let the players do the rest.  At half-time, he takes five minutes to recognise where the team are performing, and to help them course correct and re-group where things aren’t going so well.

The psychology of strengths is now as mainstream in the business world, as it is on the sports field.  For the last 50 years, we were told to focus on improving our weaknesses. However, science has proved that to maximise productivity and performance (as well as happiness), we should be focussing on our strengths. 

We all know what it feels like when you are playing to your strengths.  It’s the stuff you prioritise when you have the choice.  The work that feels easy when others might find it hard.  Where you feel confident.  You’re in the flow.  Time flies.  There’s a sense of energy.  You’re more confident to share your views.  Naturally we are more motivated, work harder and add more value when our job allows us to use our natural talents.

In a business setting, there is a job that needs to be done.  We can’t always pick and choose what we do and when we do it.  And yet, knowing we each bring unique strengths and talents, the knack is bringing together the right people with the right strengths for the job in hand.  Who recognise each other’s complimentary skills and perspectives, and build and collaborate to achieve better things much faster together than they can alone.  As Jones says, the strength of the team is the strength of the squad.  Diversity of backgrounds, skills, approach and thinking bring huge rewards when everyone is playing in the right position.

At SETL we apply these principles to our teams.  Our approach to performance development is focussed on building trust and regular communication between managers and their teams.   Regular 1:1s create clear space and time to focus on clarity of expectations, each individual’s strengths and regular coaching and feedback to ensure they can maximise their performance.  The purpose is continuous improvement – both for the growth and development of our teams, and for the quality of our product and client delivery. 

As with any business, our ability to deliver high quality technology and implementation for clients is built on the skill, quality and motivation of our teams so we have a real commitment to getting this stuff right.  As with anything though, we’ll watch the results and iterate accordingly – safe in the knowledge we can always get better.

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