Roaring success

Standard Life Investments is a Principal Partner of the British & Irish Lions and the jersey sponsor of the 2017 New Zealand rugby tour. We spoke to coaching legend Sir Ian McGeechan about how it feels to face up to the best in the world and what business leaders can learn from the Lions.

As McGeechan is the first to admit, New Zealand’s famous team, the All Blacks, is formidable and the challenge the Lions will face in 2017 is daunting. In 2016, by November, the All Blacks had clinched 10 victories out of 11 games. But they met their match in Chicago, where their winning streak was halted by Ireland.

Warren Gatland

Warren David Gatland OBE is a New Zealand rugby union coach and former player. He is head coach of the British and Irish Lions for their 2017 New Zealand tour

Could this be a lucky omen for the Lions in 2017? McGeechan and current Lions coach Warren Gatland have thought about it long and hard and this is their conclusion: “Lions rugby doesn’t reflect any of the four countries of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales,” says McGeechan: “It’s unique to that group of players.”

He believes that the most important factor is the team and its dynamics: “The challenge in selection,” McGeechan continues, “is to keep an open mind. You can’t pick a test team in week one. You need to interchange, so that every player is involved at least three times.”

McGeechan knows that to combine individual skill sets productively, enhance team dynamics and bring out the best in each player, his job is to create a culture of collective responsibility, connection, contribution and communication. And this is where business can learn from sport.

Standard Life Investments - Principal Partner

The leadership qualities McGeechan applies to create a winning team can be just as effective in the modern work environment, where teams also form and reform. These attributes include knowledge and expertise; a spirit of contribution to the greater good; and above all, an appreciation of and care for people, focusing on empowerment and maximising potential.

As Sir Ian says, it’s about creating a “team of teams”: “When you get different groups talking to one another, there’s a collective intelligence, and they come up with answers. Your leadership starts to evolve because of these new conversations. And when everyone is able to share ideas, disagree and be challenged, you’re far more likely to get the right decision.” This same focus on exchanging ideas and teamwork is deeply embedded within Standard Life Investments and Standard Life Wealth: it is fundamental to their business success and to the strength of their client relationships. With this shared ethos, Standard Life Investments is a natural fit as a principal partner and jersey sponsor of the New Zealand tour.

Sir Ian McGeechan

Sir Ian McGeechan won 32 caps for Scotland and toured with the British and Irish Lions in 1974 and 1977. He was the British and Irish Lions’ Head Coach in 1989, 1993, 1997

Lessons from the Lions

So what key lessons can businesses learn from the Lions? Firstly, that all high-performing environments operate to similar standards. They encourage learning and development, and they take an inclusive approach, valuing shared insights and creative diversity. Another valuable takeaway is that the best leaders and teams are emotionally intelligent, with an emphasis on honesty, friendship and partnership. They are also ethical and prioritise integrity and respect. To sum up: successful enterprises, in business or sport, are centres of excellence, where teams constantly raise their game.

On 24 June, the 2017 Lions team will face its first All Blacks haka. We’re about to see two great legacies converge: that of the All Blacks, an immovable object with a history of extraordinary, sustained success; and that of the Lions, an unstoppable force of pride and passion. Watch and learn.

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