· Features

Leaders and teams inspire each other

I want... to create an environment that everyone wants to be part of and no one wants to leave. These words are not from an HR director of a blue-chip company, but from Clive Woodward, Englands rugby union coach. Woodward knows a thing or two about creating that warm team feeling. His methods, which have raised Englands rugby team to the top of the world rankings following a run of 28 wins in 32 games, have their roots not in sports psychology but in the team-building skills he picked up during an earlier career in business.

Anyone who wants to learn something about developing talent and teamwork should look at what Woodward has done to turn a disparate bunch of individuals into highly motivated world-beaters. To start with, Woodward realised that for the team on the field to work well he would have to build another team behind it the rugby equivalent of back-office staff. Next, he encouraged the players to develop teamship rules to which every single player either signed up to, or didnt play. These rules include a ban on swearing and mobile phones, players who are dropped congratulating players who are picked, a ban on dishing the dirt to the media and a pledge to make their work fun.

But central to the teams world is Woodwards obsession with businesslike preparation: You wouldnt run a business or go into a big meeting with a fingers crossed attitude. Thats not what Im about. Professional preparation eventually leads to something he calls T-cup or Thinking Correctly Under Pressure, which Woodward believes is one of the best definitions of a winning teams character that he has ever come across. We agree.

The HR team at Standard Life Investments (SLI) look a bit different from the England rugby team but they too seem to have found a way to a winning habit. Under the leadership of CEO Sandy Crombie and HR manager Gordon Teasdale, they have set down some core values for team-building. While many such declarations attract ridicule, SLIs low staff turnover and bottom-line success suggest that theirs may be worthy of greater attention.

Leaders like Woodward and Crombie inspire their teams, but who inspires them? They draw strength from the team, of course, but leaders know they must never stop looking around for fresh inspiration. Executive education is a key weapon in the war to retain talent and an essential part of building the depth of leadership in a company. Often the task of seeking out further education for senior executives falls to HR. To find out what you should look for when helping senior managers choose a course to meet their development needs.

Trevor Merriden, Editor