INSIDE BUSINESS: Carling plays a running game

Management: the links between business and sport are stronger than most people realise, says the England rugby captain

FROM "players" to "level playing fields" and "ballpark figures" to "goals", the business lexicon is littered with terms borrowed from sports. But prevalent though the language is, apart from the in-vogue practice of "working in teams", there seems to have been little effort to make much of the link.

That is the contention of England rugby captain Will Carling and management writer Robert Heller in their just-published book The Way to Win. As Heller points out, Mark McCormack, author of What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School, went some way down this road. But, while his work contains plenty of sporting anecdotes, there is no attempt to draw parallels between Arnold Palmer's golf career and business.

Carling, though, is no stranger to linking sport and business. Indeed, it is his job outside rugby largely to draw analogies between the two. In conjunction with such colleagues from the world of sport as Adrian Moorhouse, Gary Lineker, Tracey Edwards and Mike Brearley, he runs seminars and other training events through his Insights company. And the book was born out of the fact that he and Heller shared the platform at one such occasion organised by Ernst & Young, the accountants and management consultants.

But even sceptics acknowledge that there is more to the stage act than a few homilies about great victories and defeats on the greensward, and how they can help you sell more widgets. The highly successful rugby captain is passionately interested in the "art of management" - in particular, of people. Insisting that he learns as much from business folk as he imparts to them, he says: "There are different businesses, but the people problems are the same. Business has changed so much you've got to have the ability to focus teams and motivate people."

At various points in the book, Carling relates his attempts to find fresh ways of motivating the players under him. He accepts that not all were well received and not all work. But it is all part of the attempt to discover what will enable each player to achieve his full potential. And he quotes approvingly the view of former England cricket captain Brearley that all the problems of captaincy are related to people.

Business audiences hearing such thoughts apparently very quickly appreciate the relevance to their own lives. But to hammer the ideas home, Heller plunders his great store of management tales to relate how, for instance, the constant rise of Hewlett-Packard is analogous to Seb Coe's athletics ambition.

Sport is not just about one-off successes, but about sustained achievement - being the team or competitor to beat, he adds. "In corporate terms, the boring old companies like Marks & Spencer that go on turning out profits are the successes."

The England team's failure to progress beyond the semi-finals of the recent World Cup, combined with inconsistent performances against southern hemi- sphere sides, has convinced Carling of the need for a group of super clubs to play the best in Europe, Australasia and South Africa, rather like the "national champions" that Michael Heseltine, former President of the Board of Trade, envisaged in the business arena.

Without that, Carling feels the domestic game will fall irretrievably behind that in the southern half of the globe. The object of such games would, of course, be to keep tabs on what the opposition is doing. In other words, says Heller, benchmarking. He adds that not playing these teams would be like the British car industry paying no attention to its counterparts in Japan.

The South African experience had other lessons, and not just for England. New Zealand also found themselves all-conquering heroes one week and down- and-outs the next. Carling believes that the same factors were behind each situation.

In his view, the All Blacks saw the England match as their "big game" in much the same way as England viewed the Australia contest. Each having achieved that goal, they found it difficult to repeat that focus.

The way out of this is to reach the stage of "consistently achieving so that every game has the same level of importance". That way you avoid over-emphasising key games and running the risk of suffering the downside next time out.

What this leads to is fierce introspection - concentrating on deficiencies even when succeeding. As Heller points out, the business world has seen many companies reach a peak and then fall back through complacency. Far better to do as British Steel, for example, is doing and concentrate on defects rather than achievements.

o The Way to Win, Will Carling and Robert Heller, Little Brown, pounds 16.99.

Arts and Entertainment
TV Review: Sabotage, a meltdown and, of course, plenty of sauce
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
i100'Geography can be tough'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Louis van Gaal looks dejected after Manchester United's 4-0 defeat by MK Dons on Tuesday night
sport
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

DevOps Engineer - Linux, Shell, Bash, Solaris, UNIX, Salt-Stack

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: A fast growing Financial Services organisation b...

Trade Desk FIX Analyst - (FIX, SQL, Equities, Support)

£50000 - £60000 per annum + excellent benefits: Harrington Starr: An award-win...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?