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Bushido for business leaders – what the England Rugby team can teach us all

With the England Rugby team heading to Japan this autumn, we sent former England International, Ugo Monye, to Japan to find out what the team can expect over the coming weeks. He met with England Head Coach Eddie Jones there, and together they discussed the origins of the Samurai code of Bushido, and the relevance of its values in sport today.

Bushido, when translated, literally means ‘the way of the warrior’. It’s the set of principles by which Samurai lived and died, many of which are still relevant in sport, in business and in everyday life. Ugo asked Eddie about five of the Bushido values most relevant to the rugby arena, but we wanted to find out whether they also apply to business.

You can watch Ugo’s interview with Eddie Jones, and find out more about the Japanese culture below.

1. Duty

Eddie Jones regards a sense of duty as a core value of any team, and his players have a duty to look after themselves and their family first and foremost.

It’s a value that is equally relevant in business. Every one of us makes promises, agrees to deadlines, and commits to getting stuff done. But we must also understand why it’s important to fulfil our duty and what we must do to fulfil our obligations to our people, customers and suppliers.

The effective business leader takes responsibility for what they say and do, and avoids looking for excuses or shying away from their duty. Duty in business is a commitment, and once a commitment is made they must do whatever it takes to deliver it. In pure Bushido terms, to do any less would be to dishonour themselves, something regarded as the greatest failure of all.

2. Courage

For Eddie Jones, Bushido courage means, very simply, the courage to do the right thing. For a player, it means being able to be yourself and to play the game as you think you should play it.

It’s an important value in business too. Running a business can be tough, and it takes courage to make difficult, sometimes unwelcome decisions in the face of challenging market conditions, or when faced with aggressive competitive activity.

Effective business leaders need courage to keep going, day in and day out, in good times and bad. But this isn’t about pursuing ego-driven goals come what may. Rather, it’s about taking the needs of others into account, and rising above the moral obstacles they will undoubtedly face.

3. Respect

In O2’s content series Eddie Jones talked about respect in terms of tolerance, and recognising difference in other people. Any team comprises a number of personalities, yet they share the same aspirations and goals, the same desire to put in their best performance and win the game.

Today, respect in business has never been more important.. But more than politeness, respect is about being inclusive, and respecting diversity.

At O2, we have long believed that celebrating our people’s diversity, and embracing individuality, has helped to drive creativity within the organisation. Diversity hasn’t only made O2 a more innovative company, it has also enabled us to understand more fully who our customers are, and what they want from us.

More than this, the business case for diversity and inclusion is compelling, with organisations who have established a diverse workforce reporting a number of measurable business benefits including:

    • Improved staff retention rates.
    • Fewer grievances and discipline issues.
    • Increased productivity.
    • Improved communication with customers.
    • A positive effect on the organisation’s external reputation.

O2 has an excellent track record when it comes to diversity and inclusion. In March, for example, we took our first step in creating a network of companies aspiring to address BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) related challenges, holding our very first BAME focused Think Tank at our headquarters in Slough. Our aim is to drive change, accelerating BAME diversity and inclusion throughout UK workplaces. And in May we introduced a transitioning toolkit for managers to support employees who are going through or considering starting a gender transition journey.

4. Loyalty

In sport, staying true to a vision or goal can be challenging, so loyalty towards your cause is extremely important. Between players in the England rugby team, for example, you can expect complete loyalty from your teammates.. Loyalty on this scale establishes unbreakable bonds between players, because each knows that their teammates will be there for them no matter what.

In a corporate context we often talk about measures to inspire brand loyalty, but in a Bushido context we are really talking about people. The loyalty of your people is a huge asset to any business, where your team will deliver for you, no matter what it takes, simply because they’re emotionally invested in the business.

5. Integrity

Playing rugby with integrity, says Eddie Jones, is about knowing what your team is trying to achieve, and taking responsibility for understanding your role and doing the right thing.

Increasingly, integrity in business starts by recognising that consumers want to buy from businesses that operate ethically, sustainably and honestly. Forbes’ Consumer Technographics data provides the evidence for this, with nearly seven in 10 US Millennials actively considering company values when making a purchase, and with older Millennials (aged 27 to 35) particularly conscious of company values across product categories. In short, every business aims to be profitable, but it should be guided by a moral compass to be so.

If you want to learn more about Japan, and what the England Rugby team can expect when they arrive, watch our six-part series with Ugo Monye and Jamie Laing below.

Be their armour #WearTheRose




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