Andrew Lawson: Firms can learn from Scots rugby team

We're now halfway into the annual Six Nations rugby tournament, an eight-week festival of hard hits mixed with breathtaking pieces of individual skill.

Andrew Lawson takes inspiration from the Scotland squad's teamwork. Picture: Neil Hanna

Every year, these hardworking players, coaches and fans experience moments of elation as well as frustration.

The impact of team culture on the rugby pitch is something that business managers can learn from. For me, one of the beauties of rugby is that success is not down to individual players, but relies on the support of the whole team, including the management. Just take the defensive performance of all the Six Nations teams so far. It has, at times, taken over.

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Six Nations Rugby

20 phases of continuous play for a team to score. This is because everyone, from the defence-minded prop to the attacking centre shares a common mind-set that they want to achieve together. I’ve thought about my top three learnings from the rugby pitch that every business manager can adopt.

Building a team of leaders

Often, teams are successful because of the leaders they have within them. Not one, but several leaders.

Scotland’s Six Nations campaign has epitomised this need for a team of leaders. The strong culture of teamwork and work ethic throughout this team has meant any changes made were seamless.

It’s the same story in business. With the rise of millennials in the workplace, companies need to ensure they focus on supporting this new generation to create leaders at all levels, throughout the organisation. Mentoring is a great way to do this. Over the years I’ve learnt that truly great leadership can come from anyone at any level in the organisation.

Circle of trust

Trust is at the heart of all team-based culture and fundamental to success. Vern Cotter, for example, was well aware that just four months ago, an almost identical team lost to Australia by a single point. He put his trust in the lineup, and, in turn, they put their trust in him and his strategy.That same level of trust is needed in business, both internally between colleagues and externally with customers.

Bringing passion to the field

It’s not difficult to be passionate when it comes to international sport.I think that in business it’s just as important to bring a bit of passion to the field. Over the years I’ve seen it’s impossible to do a good job when you don’t care.

At the end of the day, employees will only really care about their work if they instinctively feel valued. This only happens when the senior leaders actively listen to what their colleagues and peers are saying and action those comments wherever necessary.

For example, at Salesforce we use Chatter, an enterprise social networking app and Quip to collaborate across the team. They’re a more natural way to communicate and therefore helps grow ideas. We also have plenty of break-out areas in the office for employees to collaborate in, as well as our large kitchens, where you can chat over coffee.

In fact, some of our best ideas have started in these informal coffee chats. I think any company that truly has its employees well‑being as a core value will see them become passionate about what they are achieving. Essentially, I believe success in business, as in rugby, is down to the hard work put in behind the scenes.

I know that workplace culture can’t be formed overnight. For us at Salesforce, that culture is based around a concept called “Ohana” and has been developing and iterating over years – 18 years, actually. But the work we have put into this culture means that, like any good rugby team, we care not just that we do business, but how we do business, and we appreciate that we are all working together to achieve a great outcome.

I’m looking forward to the watching the rest of the Six Nations tournament – to overcome challenges, win our remaining games and discover even more management tips in the process.

• Andrew Lawson is executive vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Salesforce