Four steps to creating a winning culture

World Cup-winning rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward spells out what it takes to be the best

By Edward Qualtrough
Nov. 4, 2016

3. Pressure - Individuals have to have a warrior spirit, says Woodward, meaning they are able to perform well at the critical moment. He uses the acronym TCUP: Thinking Correctly Under Pressure. It's the job of the leader to constantly put their teams under pressure. People aren't born to perform under pressure. They need to get used to it, because only the winners perform their best under pressure. Woodward creates a war room where the team constantly goes through hypothetical situations under time pressure to reach a decision. He said: "It's about role play, after role play, after role play." Leaders have to systematically work through every eventuality so that the team has already gone through the thought processes needed to overcome them. This reduces the chances of coming up against something unexpected in the real world, allowing the team to use the little time they may have to think through the problem.

4. Will - Winning cultures must have the commitment to win, and it's what turns Warriors into Champions. It's about the attitude they display. Woodward breaks this down into three parts:

  • Obsession with the task: Individuals focus on attention to detail and have an uncompromising level of excellence.
  • Responsibility: A readiness to take tasks on as their job and make sure they are seen through.
  • Enjoyment: Team members have to ask themselves whether their colleagues enjoy working with them, and why.

Woodward said that by focusing on these four platforms, England were able to achieve World Cup glory in 2003 with a team that included "five champions and 10 warriors". While captain Johnson is heralded as a supreme leader, Woodward said that by a relentless focus on the middle two stacks the squad had flipped the culture of coaching where a team of "sponges" who were willing to learn had been through every possible role play and scenario where "nothing needed a debate, every player knew exactly what they were going to do" and what the team was going to do.

The new methodology was no longer a culture of "you coach and I'll play". By having a team of sponges soaking up knowledge - rather than rocks - Woodward said that his England squad's "knowledge of the game went through the roof".

"If you are serious about winning at the highest level you have to be serious about not having a single rock in your team. It's often the most experienced person in the organisation who is unteachable," Woodward said.

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