With Sir Clive Woodward, Renowned Business Speaker & Executive Coach 

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3D Learning Will Redesign Teams - Sir Clive Woodward 

Sports coach legend provides business and IT community with coaching session on tackling the big issues.

“Talent alone is not enough. My job is to make you better; a better player, a better business person,” says Sir Clive Woodward, the sports coach who famously took England to World Cup rugby success in 2003 and was a key member in Team GB Olympic success at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Games.  Woodward joined the Cloud Counsel to describe his lessons from sport as business technology leaders prepare for the next round of change being brought about by technology and recent world events. 

“I started my career with Xerox as a Sales Director and most of my sports management beliefs come from a business background and I make no bones about that,” Woodward says of his career, which has included sports management in football and now includes a performance ski school in France.

“Great teams are made up of great individuals and your role as a leader is to try and make everyone involved in the team the very best they can be,” he says of being in a senior position in an organization.

“There are three key things that I look for. The first is an ability to learn and take on knowledge with a passion for what you do. I always want to know what individuals do off their own back to be better.  With technology there is no excuse for not taking ownership for self-development. You have either a sponge or a rock between your ears.”

The second key attribute that Woodward looks for is how a team member responds to pressure. “Pressure is not something you are born to cope with, so I make sure that we coach dealing with pressure,” adding that to do this the business and sports leader always has a clock, whiteboard and a scoreboard to hand.  “You point to the clock, there are five minutes of the game left, the team is four points down and then I ask the team how will we respond?  We go through scenario after scenario so that there is nothing they come across that they cannot handle,” he says of how to teach coping with pressure. 

Thirdly Woodward looks for attitude. He uses punctuality as an example of a good attitude. “Punctuality says more about an individual, how you can trust them and it represents them,” he says. “Timing isn’t just about when the meeting starts, it's about when it finishes and it's the right attitude.” As it turned out, Martin Johnson and the England rugby side agreed to always be 10 minutes early and were from the first meeting when Woodward insisted on punctuality to the moment that winning goal destroyed the dreams of Australia. “It then becomes part of your culture and you can then get into a lot of areas,” he says of how, with the ground rules set, a team has no barriers to what it can achieve. “Take race, you can get it out and onto the table and discuss,” he says of dealing with issues that are all too often avoided and lead to greater problems, as the world was witnessing at the time of the discussion.  


Woodward’s World Cup and Olympic experience has led him to develop leadership and teaching as his businesses and passion. He dubs his learning methodology ‘3D learning’. “The first element is discover. Get as much knowledge as you can and get it into one place. The second is to distil. Ask what the key points are that we have to get right.” He says the distil shouldn’t be more than six so that the team can easily rank those six, and that we should always use simple language that everyone on the team understands. The third is the all-important ‘do’. “How do we do this better? It is then about practicing and training. 3D learning is best practice.

“At the discovery phase it is for the whole team to be involved and there is no such thing as a bad idea.  If there are new people on the team, they feel intimidated to have new ideas, so you have to set a culture where new ideas are welcome,” he says.  As an example of how an idea that sounded crazy turned out to be vital, Woodward told the Cloud Counsel how a team member suggested an expert in eye weight training - which is not doing weights with the eyes, but is about improving the physical strength of the eye so that it has the same fast twitch muscle strength as legs that can sprint or arms that throw. “Dr. Sherylle Calder made a massive difference to the England team and that idea came out of nowhere.  “It is always about ‘will this make the boat go faster? If so then we do it,’” he says, reflecting a similar clear strategic vision as that described by Graeme Hackland, CIO of the Williams F1 team in a previous episode of the Cloud Counsel. 

Looking ahead Woodward believes strong team culture will be vital for CIOs and CTOs in organizations as they cope with a return to some form of normality following the global pandemic, race riots and the economic downturn that is following. “Teamship is a style of leadership and I want a team to talk through an idea. Take diversity, get the team to talk about it and what it means to us, our environment and try and understand it.

“There will be bumps in the road and at the time they are horrible, but my learning from defeat in Paris in 1999 was we were not good enough and I wanted every individual to learn and be a better team.”  


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