There are different ways to nurture the leadership pipeline in your organisation. Your approach may not work for everyone. And yet the only views that matter belong to the people who work for you.
Eddie Jones, England rugby union coach, calls the players that come off the bench ‘finishers’ rather than substitutes or replacements. And some of the pundits don’t like it. They think he should identify his fifteen first team players and let them play together consistently to see what they can achieve.
No doubt every player wants to be selected for the first team. And they want to be in the starting line up. Consequently, those who are in will fight to stay in. And those who aren’t will fight to get in.
Nevertheless, coming off the bench is a pivotal role. The pressure is on. And it’s all going on around you. It would be easy to underestimate the impact that skilled finishers can have. And it is a skill; that ability to be able to join the field of play; often towards the closing stages and change the game.
Jonny Wilkinson, acknowledged as one of the world’s best rugby union players, comes at this from a different perspective. And I enjoy listening to what he has to say. He takes the view that having starters and finishers is creating a massive equality and importance about everyone in the England team. Because the players know they are hugely important when they’re on the bench.
Thinking that you’ve been on the bench for ten years and played three games must be demoralising. And I imagine in this situation a player’s energy and motivation is external. You can be fit and ready if called upon. But you have no control over the game.
A much more positive mindset is to think “I’ve been on the bench forty times and I’ve played in thirty nine games”. The crucial difference is in believing that you’re important; that you’re needed. Moreover, that the Coach needs you there and wants to hear your voice.
Now think about your work and your team. So, instead of saying “I have my first team players and I have my bench” you might say “I have a top class group. They are all key players. And they are both starters and finishers alike”. A mindset like that gives a boost to morale, for every person involved with the team.
It’s brilliant to know that we’re all important. And whether my skills aren’t required this week or they are given less focus; no matter. To know you are significant, whatever happens; and that you have as good a reason to be here as anyone, reinforces winning behaviour. And to know you’ve got something to add to the team gives you control. Now your energy and motivation have an internal focus. As a result you have control as well as the ability to influence positive outcomes.