What the Rugby World Cup is telling small businesses

Following the nail-biting excitement surrounding last weekend’s England-Wales match, tension is at fever-pitch ahead of this weekend’s Australia-England fixture – the true decider of England, and possibly Chris Robshaw’s fate.

With the England-Wales match having over-run partly because of the Television Match Official (TMO), this technology is back in the limelight again. Whether you love or hate the use of video replay technology in this tournament, it has certainly shown us the importance of communication, collaboration and engagement. And here-in lies something that small businesses can learn from the sport.

Technology can only take a sport so far. What making the right referee-ing decisions, with or without the TMO truly boils down to is clear communication. 

The same goes for team performance. How does a coach – meters away from his players – get his team to focus and pull together despite all the raucousness on the pitch?

Thinking back to the RWC final in 2011, New Zealand was down their main man, Dan Carter, arguably the best player in the world at the time, due to a massive injury. Nonetheless, New Zealand’s behaviour and psyche throughout the match resulted in a victory thanks to the preparation, collaboration and communication between the players and their support staff.

This observation rings true in the business world, too. A truly successful team, on or off the pitch, combines both communication and collaboration to become fully engaged. Let me explain.

While communication is necessary if players are to be effectively instructed and inspired, we should remember that it’s not a one-way street. A coach who doesn’t listen to his players can’t keep in touch with morale or feedback with solutions to problems affecting the team. It’s the same in business. Collaboration is about enabling colleagues and peers to work together.

The engagement part is important, as it’s all about creating value from that collaboration. It requires leaders to encourage all team members to take an active role in working toward their shared goal.

It also requires consistent, reliable communication that can support innovation and problem solving. Engagement is the result of strong communication and collaboration, combined with shared experience across the whole team, and external stakeholders too.

In a rugby tournament, team engagement involves players, coaches, medics, fans and even sponsors. In a business context, think team-members, customers, colleagues external to your team, industry peers and even suppliers.

What’s more, the benefits of an engaged team are proven. According to PwC, the most engaged workplaces experience 2x higher productivity and customer loyalty, enabling them to grow 3x faster than their competitors.

While creating this culture of engagement is mostly down to culture and leadership, technology does have an important facilitating role to play. 

Like the TMO, which provides reassurance, back-up and a focus for discussion, technologies like unified communication and video conferencing enable teams to communicate and work together more effectively and naturally and then document the action they take as a result.

As the debate around the use of video replay in rugby continues, it’s important to note that technology can be a brilliant facilitator of team engagement, on or off the pitch, as long as it is used appropriately. 

Based on the most recent match statistics, Australia looks likely to win Saturday’s contest. However, I do believe that with an invincible attitude, and real team engagement, England can prevail and stay in the World Cup. And wouldn’t that be inspirational to us all?

Simon Culmer is MD of Avaya.

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