Why you should listen carefully to a rugby player – lessons from the Six Nations

“Communication in general is the most important thing in rugby. The game can be made so much easier with a simple bit of communication.” Keith Earls – Ireland Winger speaking in an interview last week.

There are similarities between a well-managed business and a team playing at the top of its game, and the three essentials as I see them:

  1. Trust
  2. Communication
  3. Awareness

Some of the finest moments from this year’s Six Nations have been instances of complete trust; either in self or others. Take Johnny Sexton’s injury time drop goal from 45 metres to snatch victory – serious trust in the training and self-belief won that game. You can read more about the value of trust in last month’s blog here.

  1. Communication

This post focuses on how excellent communication is equally vital, how it is tangible and a skill that can be learned. Just as in business, all members of the team need to be able to communicate effectively, and this takes many forms.

Wales selection Rhys Patchell might have light heartedly referred to the literal difficulties of communication in a packed stadium – listening for your team’s voices over the roar of a crowd is difficult. Not hearing your customers is a serious problem, too. Gaining feedback is important and acting on it is the difference between success and failure. Ways to maximise your use of customer feedback include:

  • Making feedback easy by having multiple options for providing feedback
  • Asking questions if you are unsure how your customer believes you could improve your product or service
  • Empowering your staff to act on feedback and make changes where it is practical to do so

Getting into the habit of talking is an excellent way to improve communication between team members and stakeholders. ‘Catch and call’ drills are commonly used on the rugby pitch from the most basic amateur team to the internationals. By calling as you catch and pass the ball, you embed a skill that improves performance and creates the habit of communication. At any point in the drill every player knows either who is holding the ball or who the ball is travelling to.It’s easy to see how this simple sharing of information means everyone is in the best position possible to perform at their best. Sometimes workplace teams forget this can be an equally effective strategy within business. The 24/7 nature of communication availability can even see managers consciously limiting information sharing in a misguided attempt to protect their employees’ private time and avoid information overload.The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) research in November 2017 suggested many employees feel they receive very little information from management. CIPD also states “Effective internal communication is important for developing trust within an organisation and is shown to have significant impact on employee engagement, organisational culture and, ultimately, productivity.”Ways to create successful internal communication systems include:

  • Spend time creating a strategy – plan for good communication
  • Look at different mediums – email, social media and intranet work well for sharing information
  • Consider how you will encourage feedback from employees

Feedback is once again vital in internal communications – each employee has a unique perspective and experience of your company you can learn from.The ‘Ruck React’ drill has parallels – again the focus is on calling a destination for the ball, but players swap roles so each individual has three experiences – reading the attacking players, calling the play to be made and responding to the call. This drill emphasizes the role of listening in superb communication and works to enhance this skill.It’s clear teams can and should learn to communicate through training and review. While we are in the grip of Six Nations fever, a simple game of catch and call might just open up your team and business in a novel ice-breaker for improved communication and review. Including members of the extended team is vital here, which is why at Square 1 Accounting we pride ourselves on listening carefully to make sure our service is tailored to the specific demands of your business.We are experts in our field and ensure we read and call the play too. We will ensure communication is regular, timely and relevant to ensure you can focus completely on your business, leaving us to proactively manage your finances.

Next month: Awareness