Wednesday, February 22, 2017
We can learn a lot from a moment of madness at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, says Steve Hutin, the managing director of Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd.
That kick. You know the one I mean. Wales centre Jonathan Davies gathered the ball after a period of England pressure and the nation breathed a collective sigh of relief. Surely he would boot the ball into the stands and all but secure victory for the home side in their crunch 2017 RBS Six Nations Championship match against England at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
However, Davies unfathomably kept the ball in play. His left boot wrapped around the wrong side of the ball and sent it sailing infield to where a grateful George Ford caught it and launched the decisive counter attack. So crazy was Davies’ decision to do so, it can only be put down to the pressure of the situation. Ask any of the 75,000 people in the stadium what his best option was and everyone would have said kick into touch. Davies would have said the same in the cold light of day too, but he panicked and the rest is history.
Davies will learn from his mistake. Indeed, we can all take something from it. And that’s really the crux of this blog. I wouldn’t want to overplay the synergies between business and sport but it’s remarkable how often they can be paralleled.
I’ve made many instinctive decisions without at the time realising their significance or the long-term ramifications. It doesn’t mean the decision was rash, just that it needed to be made quickly and with purpose. Davies was in the same boat. He couldn’t stop the game, make a brew and ponder the options. He had to engage his brain—fast—and put boot to ball. The ball was probably sailing towards Ford before he realised what he’d done.
We’ve all made such mistakes. I’ve made many. Davies has got to dust himself off and get on with the next game, just like we’ve all had to when our decision making has let us down or luck hasn’t been on our side. If one dwells on a negative for too long it turns into a cancer and eats away. If allowed to fester it’ll continue to dominate thought processes and cloud judgement. When the next last-gasp drop kick is required, or the next business conundrum presents itself, another mistake is more likely to happen if the previous one hasn’t been addressed and put to bed.
It helps to move on quickly. Sports people are often criticised for not being hurt by defeat or shaking off a missed opportunity too readily. Supporters suggest their idols don’t care when they say in post-match interviews that they’re now focussed on the next match. I don’t see it that way. A positive approach doesn’t mean they’re not hurting, just that they’re controlling what can be controlled and looking forward.
It’s the same in business. Setbacks need to be taken on the chin and put in the past, as soon as possible. I know some of my staff are surprised at my reaction when a company goes bust and fails to repay their debts to us. I don’t lock the office door and put my head in my hands. It happens. What’s more, it’ll happen again. One can choose who they do business with carefully but nobody has a crystal ball.
Negativity can be very infectious. Imagine the impact it has on a sports team or business if those in leadership positions let setbacks or fear of defeat derail them. Gamesmanship plays a part too. Sometimes a manager, captain or managing director might be sweating on the outcome of a situation but they keep a poker face. I often look at the consequences of what might go wrong without letting my team take that burden.
Rugby and business are both team games. No doubt Davies had teammates screaming at him to find touch with his kick but he had to compute that information in the Principality pressure cooker. I always ask for advice before making big decisions to get a different perspective but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to press the button. One still has to show conviction in a course of action and take responsibility for it.
Davies wasn’t to blame exclusively. As a team we could have set up another phase so regular kicker Dan Biggar could recover from a ruck. Substitutions and generally poor game management also let us down. The pain is felt collectively, not just by the unlucky culprit. Experiencing this will hopefully help the squad in the long-term. There’s nothing like the taste of defeat as motivation not to go through it again soon. Any sports team or business must learn from went wrong and not repeat the same mistakes twice.
Experience comes through a combination of positive and negative situations. Any sports player or business leader who says they’ve never come off worse in a battle isn’t telling the truth. Most world champion boxers have had to climb off the canvas before lifting a belt. England’s rugby players certainly had troubled times before going on their incredible winning run. Rope and Sling isn’t expanding throughout the country without frequently overcoming adversity.
Making one’s own luck
I’ve heard a lot of Wales supporters saying England were lucky to win. I take their point; Wales were the better side and threw (kicked) it away in the closing minutes. But if luck only presented itself by chance it wouldn’t follow success around in the way it does—in all walks of life. England weren’t lucky, they just kept going until the final minute and executed their counter attack with clear and ruthless minds.
No winning sports team or successful business has got to where they are today without a bit of luck. Take billionaire Richard Branson, for example. He was in hot water with the tax man in his early days, putting him in a position where he had to expand his company to pay taxation. Fortunately for him, he had a parent that could guarantee the debt.
Lucky, eh? Well, yes, but he created a fortuitous circumstance. If one knocks on 100 doors, is it lucky when the one that answers leads to a positive outcome? No. To call it lucky would be to disregard the effort and perseverance that went into knocking on the other 99 doors. At Rope and Sling, it takes a huge amount of graft to open a new facility and make it successful, so if a lucky break comes our way we don’t feel bad about taking it; we grab it with both hands because we deserve it.
We are opening our sixth UK facility next month (March) where we’ll be working hard to keep our good luck going, as the saying goes.
Thank you for reading—and keep engaging with us on Twitter at @RopeandSling #RopeandSling
Rope and Sling Specialists Ltd