Leadership messages from Wellington

Over the past few weeks I have been drawn to the twitter posts of Don Barrell (England Rugby Head of Regional Academies and Leading Edge Team Coach) and his reflections from the recent 2019 England Rugby Wellington Festival where 420 players from 14 regional academies have been taking part in on and off field development activities

The video posts created for the Wellington Experience have made for compelling watching and these were the leadership messages I saw…

Festival Philosophy

“The purpose of Wellington Festival is to provide a really unique experience where there will a combination of off-field, as well as on-field activity, which we hope will add to a player’s development journey,” said RFU’s head of regional academies Don Barrell.

During the festival they adapt the format of the game, change the rules to challenge thinking and mix with their competitors…

It got me to thinking, where in a business context could you allow competing teams (organisations) to train together, varying the laws of the game they find themselves in to allow them to interpret what’s needed with the opposition?

Post Game Review

Beyond the Wellington Festive England Rugby have taken this one step further an example being where players from the England 18’s team sat with their Welsh opposition to analyse their ma

Imagine what you could learn to support future success if you were able to sit with your opposite number from a competing organisation. What would be the insight you could gain from

  • Their thoughts on you going into the season/year
  • How they analysed the market (or even you/your company)
  • What they saw your weaknesses to be and how this could be used to better yourself/team
  • Honest chat around what they found difficult (could this be your unknown USP)

How could this perspective help you prepare for next year, or to compete directly with other competitors?


Player Diary

During the Wellington Festival more experienced players are asked to record and narrate the day’s activities as they happen. Recording the action and their perception of the value of this to those involved.  This approach to live reflection and ‘sense-making’ for others intrigues me.   How often do we reflect what has occurred and what has been learnt? (Very rarely does anyone answer ‘enough’!)

This active reflection as it happens can build greater self awareness and connection both to the context and the people within it.


The Role of Stakeholders

An acknowledgement of the team managing the Wellington Festival was the value and importance of the parent in the success of the players. They were often ‘the person in the middle’. I’m not suggesting you are the parents of your employees but perhaps there is something to be learnt from the research England Rugby have conducted in this space:

  • Who are the ‘people in the middle’ that support the player/employee in their development?
  • Who has responsibility for supporting and guiding the player/employee? (do you have a mentoring programme?)
  • Who is the team around your team? (who else should be involved?)
  • How may the support for your player/employee differ over time based on changing needs? (are you following up in their new needs?)
  • Where are the pinch points where player/employee may need more support in their pathway? (if we notice these and provide for them we will increase our chances of success)

And finally theres ‘Wellies got talent’ – a talent contest where players get to showcase their ‘unique’ skills.How much time are you devoting to learning about each other though unrelated task, beyond the job role?  The roles and activities your people do ‘outside the day job’.


There are some amazing transferable gems in the thinking and planning of the Wellington Festival that could add real value to many organisations



by Kurt Lindley

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