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The actions and business mindset for developing high performance teams

O2’s annual Blue Door Expo is renowned as an opportunity for business leaders to meet and network with industry experts, vendor partners, innovative start-ups and customers. Each year, however, we like to add a special guest into the mix, and in 2020 we were fortunate enough to welcome none other than England Rugby Head Coach, Eddie Jones.

Want to hear the full details of Eddie Jones and Mark’s discussion on the actions and mindset for developing high performance teams? Listen to episode 3 of our Blue Door Podcast.

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O2 has sponsored the RFU and England Rugby for more than 25 years now, and in October 2020, we were proud to commit to a brand new, five year agreement that secures equal funding for the men’s and women’s game.

Eddie Jones’ reputation is legendary. He masterminded the 2016 Grand Slam and a second successive Guinness Six Nations title in the initial two seasons of his six-year contract. In October, he led England to Guinness Six Nations victory once again, in this uplifting though fragmented tournament and this was followed by securing the Autumn Nations Cup last December.

O2’s CEO, Mark Evans, met up with Eddie in September at England Rugby’s training home at Pennyhill Park, in Surrey. Their discussion spanned rugby, the importance of leadership and the business lessons that can be taken from the world of sport.

Mark describes Eddie as a “glass-half-full character” and meeting him as “one of those energising life experiences”. So how does he motivate himself, let alone the players around him?

“I think it goes back to loving what I’m doing. I get up every morning and think “Right. We’ve got to get better today. How can we get better?

“I was fortunate to have a great family upbringing. We were very much a working-class family, but my parents instilled in me and my two sisters a real desire to be educated – to learn how to make ourselves better. My eldest sister studied architecture, and my middle sister is a primary school teacher. I became a PE teacher, which after my playing career graduated to coaching.”


What has Eddie been able to take from his teaching career and apply to the role as England Rubgy coach?

“Well in some ways teaching is the same as coaching. You’ve got a group of students in a classroom – or players on a field – and you’ve got to work out quickly how you’re going to establish some synergy. You’ve got to identify the one or two key players that are going to be positive influences – and the one or two negative ones – and develop relationships with those people. The ones in the middle tend to look after themselves, but work with the people at either end because they are the ones that can make the biggest difference.”

What are the attributes that you look for in a player that can be part of the squad that can get you over the line next time?

“The main thing we look for is a psychological term that everyone uses now, which is a growth mindset. We’re looking for players who want to improve and who are never satisfied with just being who they are at the moment.

“The fact is that if you’re a young player coming through in England now, you can get rewarded with a good club contract, which basically guarantees maybe 10 or 12 years at the top of the game. But going to the next level takes a lot of intensity, a lot of effort and a player has to sacrifice other parts of their life. So those are the players we’re looking for, the ones who can give us greater energy, and where there’s synergy about where we want to go.”


As the England Rugby head coach, you’re under the spotlight, and you must feel the intensity from the media. How do you cope?

“When you’re young, you just want to be liked. But I think as I’ve got older, I’ve tended not to worry about comments from the media. I just recognise that they have got an opinion, and that’s fine. But I know that the only thing that counts is the noise within, because that’s the educated noise. I just listen to the educated noise, and tend to block out everything else.”


What’s the lesson that we can take from your business leadership roles?

“Stay focused on what makes you win, or what makes you compete better, and recognise that you’ve got the knowledge to know what you need to do. Now you’ve just got to stick with it and stay focused.”


It has been a pretty tough year for many of us. What can you say to lift us?

“I think it’s about finding the best in yourself. People have had to spend a lot more time by themselves, and it’s important to work out and understand what your strengths are. Work to your strengths and don’t worry about your weaknesses, and you’ll come out of this a better person. And if you’re a better person, you’ll add more value to your family, more value to your company and more value to your team. And that’s what we need to happen.”


You can watch Mark’s conversation with Eddie Jones, in full, on our Blue Door YouTube channel.

We also talk about what the England Rugby head coach had to say in Episode 3 of the Blue Door Podcast. You’ll find all available episodes on our Blue Door podcast page updated each week with the latest episode.


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