Sir Clive Woodward: ‘I don’t know what the big deal is with meetings. I think they are great’

Rugby World Cup winning coach turned management consultant says staff meetings crucial to coaching teams to cope with pressure

The man who led the English rugby team to a world cup win has hit back at a wave of anti-meetings sentiment – saying that regular staff get-togethers are fundamental to business success.

Sir Clive Woodward, who took England to glory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup, countered managers who feel meetings have become detrimental to business life. The get-togethers are hugely valuable – if they are managed properly, he said.

“I think meetings are great,” Sir Clive said at the Changeboard conference in London last week. “I read more business books than I do sports books, and I read about meetings. I don’t know what the big deal is about meetings. Meetings are great – if they start on time – and I mean on time – and they finish on time; if they have the right people in the room and you have a proper agenda. I don’t know how you run a business without having meetings.”

He made the comments during a session on the DNA of champions. Talent is a prerequisite for ‘champion’ employees he said – but so is teachability. Champion staff have a passion for their subject and are willing to learn, Sir Clive added. And meetings are crucial to teaching and coaching your talent, he said.

Woodward used pre-match meetings to ask his team how they would deal with high-pressure game situations, should they arise. “If you come across anything that you have never thought about or spoken about before, if it happens in the real world the chances of your thinking correctly under pressure are very, very small,” he said. “[But] if you come across something you have experienced or thought about before there is a very good chance you will think correctly under pressure. There should be nothing in business or sport you have come across that you have not previously thought: ‘what would I do in that situation?’

Sir Clive Woodward’s three tips for business success

1. Know that you can never spend too much time getting and retaining talent in your business – “do everything humanly possible to hire the right talent”

2. Recognize that talent alone is not enough – you need to find talented people who are willing to learn – have ‘teachability’

3. Embrace IT –  people who win at IT tend to win in their careers. Make sure you find staff that can harness the power of technology as a learning tool