Establish foundations

It's been over 12 months since I resigned from my dream job at the Wigan Warriors. As a Wigan lad, born and bred, it was an absolute pleasure to have served as coach and to have led them to many prestigious trophies. It has taken quite a lot of adjustment, to transition from such a high pressured and intense job. But what I have found incredibly enjoyable, are my speaking engagements - speaking to different businesses from all industries and sizes. 

When you are a head coach of a sports club like Wigan Warriors, it is easy to get wrapped up inside a bubble. I made a conscious effort to create relationships with other clubs and businesses, as there is a lot to learn from each other. But there isn't much time available to spend with people outside of that bubble - every minute of every day is spent on making sure you win every game. 

Now that I have had more time and freedom to speak to different organisations and business leaders through my speaking engagements, I have been surprised at how many organisations don’t seem to get the basics right.


"You have to establish the right foundations to build stable success - culture and standards. "

You need to create a strong culture that everyone buys into. This culture will trickle through to your customers (whether that be a customer buying a product or a sports fan watching a game) so it needs to be reflective of what you want to achieve and what your customers want to see.

In addition, you need to set standards that are non-negotiable. There are certain things that you will need to do in order to meet your goals - don't let them slip. If you let them slip in day to day activities, they are bound to slip at the most important times.

You also need to communicate them clearly to everyone within the organisation so that they know what is expected of them. A lot of business leaders know what they want and expect but if you asked every employee, you would probably get different answers. Everyone needs to be on the same page.

Do not compromise on the culture, standards and communication - continually hold those standards sacred. Getting these solid foundations in place will give you the best chance at succeeding.

There’s always a way

How many times in your life, do you feel you have been pushed to breaking point? 

And how many times have you gotten through those breaking points?

But how many times have you given up?

The way I look at things is that there is ALWAYS a way through. You must always find a way and nothing is impossible. 

When I was striving to become a Rugby League Coach, it was tough. When I was starting out, I was working a full-time job as a key account manager at a construction company – Tarmac. Alongside this, I was working my way up the coaching ranks at Wigan Warriors. I started off as a scout, searching for the best young talent in the North West, then worked my way through the academy set up. I earned very little money and was working very long hours to ensure that I was successful. 

I started my day at 6am travelling around Manchester visiting sites, at lunch I would analyse and clip videos from training, ready for me to show to the players at night to help them improve. I’d then carry on my afternoon closing business and go straight to training after that. I’d run the training session, stay around afterwards to plan games and help individual players. Then I’d go home to my family at 9 or 10pm. 

Having a full-time job as well as coaching at night and at weekends was incredibly hard work – I was working 70 hour weeks and was getting very little renumeration for the coaching. But I knew I needed to do it to be successful so that I could progress. 

At junior and academy level, you don’t get many resources – that’s just the way it is. But I wanted to win so badly that I had to find a way around those limitations! That’s where my girls came in. I recruited my wife and daughters to analyse games. I would watch the game, shouting out the information to capture, whilst they wrote it down. Stopping and starting the recording, so that I could re-watch different plays, defensive efforts (or lack of); to make clips of the game to show players. This could go on for hours, through all of the stopping and restarting. That’s a lot of time out of a weekend for teenage girls! But they did it because they wanted to help their Dad and they knew why I needed to do it (and they had little choice in the matter!).

It paid off because we won 7 Grand Finals and 6 League Leaders in 7 years in the academy. 

Others might have given in and made excuses. “I don’t have an analyst, so I can’t get those stats”, “I don’t have time to do it”, “it doesn’t matter”.

"There is always a way!"

The question really is – how much do you want it? If you want to achieve something that much, you will find a way and you will have to get creative with the way that you solve problems.

How many times have you used obstacles as excuses? 

I would challenge you to think differently about obstacles. Try and enjoy the challenge of navigating around them.