Jonny Wilkinson, an icon, admired by the rugby community in many parts of the world, adored in Southern France and a hero in England, plays his last game in England today. Fittingly it is the European final to decide the Champions of Europe.
Aside from his rugby capabilities, Jonny is known for his humility, modesty, drive for self improvement, never say die attitude and empathy for people. An Englishman revered in France – no easy task! There are many things managers can learn from Jonny but there is one we would highlight, which was emphasised for me with a great group of European managers I worked with this week.
‘Jonny’ as he is known drove himself mercilessly, striving for perfection all the time and being exceedingly harsh on himself if his standards slipped 1%. Whilst this helped him become such a consummate athlete, it also hindered his capabilities and blocked his enjoyment. As I watched this group of managers this week, the harder they strived to be good they became more tense and sabotaged themselves, becoming less effective. When they allowed themselves to perform and allowed others to do the same their effectiveness increased dramatically. When they were energetic, focused and calm they were in much greater control of their output.
When Jonny moved from England to the South of France he learnt French – but he also learnt a calmer lifestyle and seemed to find some new joy in what he did. He also seemed to become a better performer and take himself to a fresh level, leaving some of his internal restraints, freeing himself up more.
We don’t have to make hard work of our work! Can we, like Jonny, learn to let ourselves become better performers by letting more of ourselves come out? We often have people around us who want to succeed as much as we do. If we can exude calm energy and allow others to bring the same we may never be as iconic as Jonny, but collectively we can be more effective. And if we emulate his humility, modesty and care for others, alongside a desire to personally improve, maybe we can make a difference in small ways to others, and be more content and satisfied with our lot.