“The older I get, the less I value achievement, the more I celebrate decency, and McGeechan is quite simply a nice person. That’s not to play down his record, especially with the Lions, with whom he has been hugely successful as a player and a coach. Rather, it is to understand that legacy. McGeechan’s niceness is the means through which he is singularly effective. It most definitely is not a weakness.”
This quote above was taken from Paul Ackford’s article in Saturday’s Telegraph. Ian McGeechan is peerless as a rugby coach having guided Scotland to a Grand Slam in 1990 and masterminded successful Lions tours to Australia in 1989 and South Africa in 1997. McGeechan has the knack of building happy and effective squads that produce stunning results against the odds.
That the 2009 Lions failed to win the test series in South Africa belies the achievements of McGeechan and his staff in assembling a diverse bunch of players from four nations and building successful combinations in a very short time frame in order to face the current World Champions. McGeechan’s Lions played stunning rugby during the three match series and were it not for dubious refereeing of the scrum in the first test, and wretched luck in the second they would have repeated the feats of 1997. McGeechan salvaged the reputation of the Lions, ensuring it has a future, a future which was in doubt after Clive Woodward’s ill fated tenure in 2005. Woodward’s Lions were not competitive and did not fire a shot as they were hammered out the gate by cricket scores in all three tests against New Zealand.
The Lions of both Woodward and Graham Henry were unhappy camps due to the difficulty involved in keeping everyone, especially non-test players, happy. Only McGeechan has succeeded in this task and Brian O’Driscoll, who played under all three coaches, regards the 2009 tour as being the happiest he has been involved in.
While Woodward failed to deliver a happy camp in 2005 he was wildly successful at doing so with England, leading them to the Six Nations Grand Slam and World Cup success in 2003. Woodward, over a seven year period, built a very productive environment and borrowed many ideas from Brisbane dentist Paddi Lund. The story goes that Lund hated running his dental clinic so much that it drove him to the brink of madness and he decided to take a detour on his way to work one morning via the Story Bridge. Lund finally decided to go to work that day and sacked the clients he disliked and asked the ones he liked to refer him to their friends. He refashioned his clinic around the idea of making sure that everyone was happy and treated each other with courtesy and respect. His book “Building The Happiness-Centred Business” made such an impression on Woodward that he decided to apply a number of its teachings to the England squad. The rest is history.
Phil Gould, a respected rugby league commentator in Australia, coached both Canterbury and Penrith to Premiership success in 1988 and 1991 respectively, and is New South Wales most successful State of Origin coach. He knows a thing or two about creating the right environment for success and his words ring true for both sports teams and business organisations.
“You can visit any club, team, business or family for that matter, and know within a short time whether you’ve walked into a winning or losing situation…The most important things in any organisation are relationships, communication, honesty, trust, motivation, confidence and teamwork – people working together for the common cause…You can tell if you are in a winning or losing situation by observing the way people treat each other.”
Amen to that.