Win Clive Woodward’s book on winning

England’s rugby success under Clive Woodward was down in part to his outstanding business acumen. From his early days as a trainee salesman with Rank Xerox, he was willing to defy convention – even if it put someone’s back up.

His book How to Win distils the philosophy of leadership that he developed during several decades in high-performance environments. You can read a review of the book here.

Further down this article, you have an opportunity to win a copy of the book in our competition. First, by way of a taster, we relate an anecdote from the book that will gladden the heart of anyone who gets fed up with phone obsessives.

It occurred in 2012 when Woodward was director of elite performance for the British Olympic Association. Woodward writes…

Clive Woodward carrying the Olympic Flame

Torchbearer: with the Olympic Flame in Camden during the 2012 Olympic Torch Relay (LOCOG/Getty)

A few weeks before the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games, I was approached by the chief executive of a major Olympic sponsor and invited to speak to the senior board about our reciprocal vision for using their branding with Team GB during the Games.

This was nothing out of the ordinary and I was expecting it to run like a typical meeting and prepared accordingly. Partnership is a crucial aspect of a successful culture and the brands that put enormous amounts of money into the Olympics are understandably keen to ensure they receive appropriate and proportional recompense from their sizeable investments.

I walked into the room to see a typical sight: 12 executives in leather seats around a mahogany table. I had been given 20 minutes to speak and had planned it carefully. I wanted to ensure their time was not wasted and that the information I provided was sufficiently detailed where relevant, but sufficiently concise where it was not.

As I began my presentation, in my peripheral vision I caught one of the men looking down at his Blackberry. Then I heard the sound of him tapping away at the keys. I did not miss a beat of my presentation, but I quickly glanced to my left to check what I thought was happening really was the case. Then I made a decision: I would give him 30 seconds to finish that email or whatever he was writing – but then I was going to have to stop.

Thirty seconds passed and he did not even look up once. That did it.

England squad 2001

Ring master: Woodward hovers by an England squad huddle on a 2001 tour to Canada (Getty Images)

BANG! I was using a heavy remote to operate the slideshow behind me and it resonated with an almighty crack as it landed on the dark wood from a great height. The man with the phone almost jumped out of his suit. Then he looked up at me, both furious and bewildered.

“Excuse me,” I said, trying to defuse the situation while being assertive. “I’m sorry but I’m not going to continue with my presentation until you stop typing away on your phone.”

Silence. Nobody spoke.

The chief executive, the man who had invited me there to speak, started to go bright red with the collective embarrassment in the room and – finally – interrupted the silence.

“Clive, I’m going to ask you to leave the room for a second. Can you please wait outside?”

Clive Woodward and Brian O'Driscoll, 2005

Lions duty: with Brian O’Driscoll in 2005 (Getty)

Here was a guy in the senior boardroom of one of the biggest brands on the planet – and neither he nor his colleagues were used to being spoken to like that. None of them were used to being challenged. I was not rude. I did not insult him. But I was assertive in demanding the same basic standards of courtesy I would give anybody else.

After five minutes, during which time I was starting to wonder whether a security team was coming upstairs to escort me out of the building, I was invited back into the room.

“Clive, is there anything you want to say?”

I think they were expecting an apology.

“Yes, there is actually,” I began, being very careful to state this calmly and without making accusations. “Does anyone think it is acceptable to ignore me when I am speaking to you? You have an external guest in this room and this is my very first impression of your company and, therefore, of your values. Does anyone think it is acceptable conduct for the culture of this company to be such that you can tap away on your phones while an invited guest is speaking to you?”

I certainly got them thinking!

A few months after the Games, to my surprise I was invited back for the debrief. As soon as I walked in I could tell something was up. There was a sense of smugness about the room. And then I clocked it: sitting in the middle of that giant mahogany table was a 12-inch-high model of the iconic red British phone box. As the chief executive called an opening to the meeting, every member of the board leant forward and placed their mobile phone in the box.

“Right, Clive, you have our full attention. You can begin!”

It was brilliant.

How to Win by Clive Woodward is published by Hodder & Stoughton and you can buy it here. The paperback edition comes out in July.

We have six copies of the hardback edition to give away. For a chance to win one, just answer the question below and fill in your details. The competition closes on Friday 26 June.

Mea culpa! This England player lost his bearings during the RWC 2003 final – but who is he? (Getty)

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Terms and conditions

The competition closes at 11.59pm on Friday 26 June 2020.Six winners will be selected at random, each winning a copy of How to Win by Clive Woodward.

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