In this series of posts I will use lessons from 20+ years of playing and coaching rugby to make you a better business leader.

Business is more similar to rugby than you might think. No, I’m not referring to scrums, communal showers and alcohol abuse! In this series of posts I will use lessons from 20+ years of playing and coaching rugby to make you a better CTO and business leader.

Rugby is a team sport. I’d say it is the best team sport, but that’s an argument for another day. In a team TRUST between teammates plays a huge role in a good overall performance. In a team where players trust each other, players have a role and trust each other to perform it well. The team reacts very quickly to complex new situations, because very little explicit process or oversight is required.

In defence, I trust my teammate to make the tackle, which means I don’t pre-emptively go to help them; I know they can get the job done. I stay focused on the attacker I am defending against and the tackle I may need to make in a few moments.

In attack, I create a space for my teammate to run into, and I trust them to score the try, and we all celebrate when they do!

In business, when we trust our teammates it means we don’t micromanage them, and we respect roles and “swim-lanes” (to mix sporting metaphors!).

As CTO, I am on the lookout for people that are regularly “helping” others, because they don’t trust their teammate will do a good job. When they are “helping” they have now been “pulled out of position,” and have created a gap somewhere else in the team.

Equally, I look for people who take opportunities or credit, rather than passing them to someone else who is better placed. By doing so, they deprive people of valuable opportunities to learn, self-fulfillment, and they’ve hurt the team by not using resources optimally. They also risk burn-out themselves.

You can’t will trust into existence. It has to be built up over time, and is based on teammates knowing and respecting each other, having empathy, and shared experiences, both “wins” and “losses”. Your job as CTO is to create an environment that fosters and promotes trusting relationships, and when they breakdown (as they sometimes will) to ask the hard questions to quickly resolve matters.

Coaching Points

  • Who trusts who on the team?
  • Are there people you don’t trust to do certain tasks?
  • Are there people you are overshadowing or taking credit for?
  • Do you have “stars” who score a lot of “tries” but are regularly late delivering their own work, or can’t always be counted on when times get tough?
  • Do you have people that don’t collaborate well with others?
  • How could you expand the circle of trust?
  • How can you ensure more people can be trusted to perform more tasks successfully?
  • How can you ensure that people are creating opportunities for others to take, rather than scoring the “tries” themselves?