Talent alone is not enough…

…. is the basis of Sir Clive Woodward’s speech to CIPD15 delegates today.  Woodward is the former head coach of a world cup winning rugby team, England international and Team GB’s director of sport for the British Olympic Association.

The business and sport analogy is nothing new.  Much has been written and said on the subject.  There are plenty of parallels.  The need for effective team work, strategy, leadership for success in both.  The focus on performance, both individual and team.

Woodward is going to share with us today about what he believes is the DNA of a champion.

His first slide simply says: Great teams are made of great individuals.

His view – talent is the starting point. But you also need character, criteria and coaching.  The talent needs the ability to learn – people must have the thirst for learning to be successful. They must be a sponge not a rock.  Make people sponges not rocks. Whatever that means.

People need to take individual responsibility for their own learning, not sit back and wait for HR.  This is what talent does – it constantly keeps on learning.

We then turn to warriors and t-cups.  Warriors can perform under pressure.  A t-cup stands for ‘thinking correctly under pressure’. A champion is a warrior who can cope under excess pressure even when something unexpected happens or in the face of adversity.

Then, it’s attitude.  Woodward’s definition of attitude: punctuality, trust, obsession, responsibility, collaboration, beyond number one, enjoyment.  He firmly believes attitude can be coached.

The chapters in his metaphorical book on talent; capture knowledge, collaborate, cultivate learning, convert to know how.

Woodward argues that you can be very talented but you need other things too if you want to be a champion.  His final requirement for the DNA of a champion? Hard work.

It’s hard to vehemently disagree with some of this….. But some of the labels don’t really work for me. It reminds me too much of the whole high performers thing.  I’ve always been uncomfortable with labelling people as top talent.  Because what about everyone else? What about people who struggle to learn, and so on.  Ditto when companies take the top ten sales people on some fancy foreign holiday as part of an annual recognition scheme.  What about the people who are left behind in the office, or simply those who don’t identify with words like champion or talent?  Over focusing on just talent can exclude.  This is when the sport / business analogy breaks down for me.

Talent, and being a champion, is contextual.

This is a live blog so please excuse any typos!


2 thoughts on “Talent alone is not enough…

  1. Great blog an impressive timing. Tend to agree with your point about top talent and high performers. But, based on a response to a question, I am not sure that Sir Clive would ignore others from a team point of view. There was also a focus on the wider team and how everyone would work together in business. That also came across in the points about collaboration and sharing information etc

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