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  • Writer's pictureAndy Goram

What Makes A High Performing Team?

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

In episode 24, I spoke to England Rugby Legend, Rory Underwood MBE DL, about what lies at the heart of a high-performing team. With a background across elite sport, the military and business he has a unique insight into what it really takes to create an environment where success becomes inevitable.

In the conversation, we find out what was happening in the changing room at Twickenham in those amazing England and British & Irish Lions teams that Rory played in, how the experience of flying fast jets in the military shaped his views on teamwork, bravery and responsibilities, and his theories on how all this can help businesses, and particularly the leadership that's required to build the very highest performance from the people you lead.

Below is a full transcript of our conversation and you can listen to the full episode here too.

Rory Underwood (left) and Andy Goram (right) discuss what lies at the heart of high-performing teams

00:00:00 Andy Goram

Hello, and welcome to sticky from the inside. The Employee Engagement podcast that looks at how to build stickier competition, smashing consistently successful organisations from the inside out. I'm your host Andy Goram and I'm on a mission to help more businesses turn their lights on behind the eyes of their employees, light the fires within them and create tons more success for everyone.

This podcast is for all those who believe that's something worth going after and would like a little help and guidance in achieving that. Each episode we dive into the topics that can help create what I call stickier businesses, the sort of businesses where people thrive and love to work and where more customers stay with you and recommend you to others because they love what you do and why you do it.

So, if you want to take the tricky out of being sticky, listen on.

00:01:10 Andy Goram

Right. So, what makes a really high-performing team? It's a, it's a question that has produced many theories over the years in life, sport and business. As we all seek to build and be a part of a unit that seems to just smash its goals with consummate ease and get stronger with every challenge it faces. But what does it feel like to be part of such a team? What does it do for you? What does it do to you? Do you even notice any of that, or does it just feel natural?

Now there's always going to be tonnes of work behind the scenes to get to that point. So, what are the secrets to unlocking the potential of not just an individual but a collective?

Well, with me today is someone incredibly well qualified to help us understand a whole high-performing team thing. Look, I've been lucky enough to work with him for the last two or three years now, and I consider him a good friend, too. You'll probably best known him for his international sporting prowess playing rugby for Leicester Tigers and England, where he's still the all-time leading try scorer for his country, and of course the British and Irish Lions. It's Rory Underwood!

But there's a lot more team credentials Rory has that you might not be aware of. Rory has a military background of 18 years' experience of flying fast jets with the RAF, that’s compared to 12 playing international rugby another ten years ago. Now he established his company Wingman, did you see what he did there? Where he and the team work with a variety of businesses varying in size and sector, helping them to achieve their high-performance team goals. So, who better to talk to on the topic of high-performing teams than Rory?

Hey Rory, welcome to the show.

00:02:56 Rory Underwood

Hi mate! How are you?

00:02:57 Andy Goram

I'm all right my friend. I'm all right. High-performing teams? Well, there you go. Who would have thought maybe a couple of years or so ago I'd be sitting on a podcast talking to someone I call a mate, Rory Underwood? How cool is that?

00:03:09 Rory Underwood

Uh, well, yeah, I'd like to think it's very cool. But it's an interesting journey and, uh, interesting times.

00:03:15 Andy Goram

So, what's taking up your focus right now, Rory? What are the sort of things that you're working on and helping businesses with?

00:03:22 Rory Underwood

Well, there's two things. It's like anything else, I'm trying to help businesses. I'm trying to build this... is get their understanding as you mentioned in your introduction about what is... there’s a lot of work done on high-performance individuals, but then there’s high-performance team. Then obviously you've got teams with organisations, so how do you get a high-performance organisation? But of course, like anything else, I am a company, and so in in my own role as a business, it's been 12 years and growing stronger even after the interesting small, inveretd commas, “blip” that we just had the last two years. But coming out of it, you know, we're in this process of growing the business and I've had a couple of people come and join the business. It’s a very exciting time, so, in both the same way of what I love about doing my job, I sort of... There's two words I tend to think about myself. I think of myself as a team builder. Which to some people might seem being simplistic. But, fundamentally, how do I build groups of individuals together to come to be a high-performance team? I'm a team builder. I have no problem with that. Whilst at the same time I'm a problem solver.

00:04:27 Andy Goram


00:04:28 Rory Underwood

So, there are a lot of... And you know, in all your time in in the corporate world, as well as the time you're enjoying doing the work you're doing now, Andy, you go into organisations, and whilst you see a lot of similar things they need to do to them, they all have the little nuances and differences and personalities and make up and link geographically split or whatever. So, all those different things. You can have your core sort of, I need to do this, but how I do it? I need to think about the best way of applying all the skill, experience and knowledge etc. into helping that business go through any growing pains they're going through. And it's the same for us, you know. You've been involved with our journey for last 2-3 years as you mentioned, and it's been an interesting journey, hasn’t it? It's been some ups and downs along the way, as there's a lot of people will know from the last couple of years.

00:05:18 Andy Goram

Yeah. It’s been a tough time for everybody, but not always a bad way. 'cause some businesses have an absolute boon over that period, and they’ve had to kind of adjust.

00:05:24 Rory Underwood

Yeah, I learned very early on... I mean, I remember still being in the Air Force, before I was leaving, I was just... I think I just started after the Air Force and I, you know, you're not necessarily cocooned, but your mind didn't think about the sort of bigger, wider, sort of social and political and economic sort of thoughts going through your mind when you're in the Air Force. And when you come out and you're in your business, things change. And I remember a lot of talk in the early days, you know, during recessions in early times and what's interesting, the thing you learn is, even if there's a recession going on, there are people that do well and there are people that don't do so well. And you could argue, even in a growth period of a boom, there are people who do well and as people that don't do as well, so you know we've seen that directly from circumstances. Anybody involved in safety, pharmaceutical, whatever they've done so quite well. Anybody involved in tourism and hospitality and et al then they've struggled massively. But I'm sure notwithstanding that, as being so directly impacted by the lockdown, there have been loads of other industries that have been impacted. Not directly to that, but just because of the circumstances of their current situation. And just throwing in a sort of a line that fits into the whole context of, you know, what we're talking about, notwithstanding the real direct consequence, but there's no doubt that if you are a high-performance team or organisation before you went into this sort of challenging times, there is a, you know, great likelihood you'll get through it because of that. And those that tend to fall by the wayside, or those that, you know, they don't have, quite got that whole understanding of how they work together as a team or organisation.

00:07:07 Andy Goram

100% well look, I want to unpack some of this today in the brief time we have here.

00:07:11 Rory Underwood

In 20-30 minutes, yeah, good luck.

00:07:15 Andy Goram

Yeah, well we love a challenge mate. We love a challenge. I'm gonna try and unpack this week we'll go on a little bit of a journey and so, for me, the great thing about your perspective, and I think it is a unique perspective, is that you have experience of high performing teams across elite sport, the military and a great deal of time in a whole range of business sectors, right? So, being the basic, linear, Quins fan that I am, I'm going to break...

00:07:46 Rory Underwood

Ah, well fair play to you guys. You know, congratulations where it’s due.

00:07:49 Andy Goram

Yes, thanks. Thanks very much. Thank you very much.

00:07:50 Rory Underwood

Having won it last year and great respect.

00:07:53 Andy Goram

Yes, that's how... did that stick in the throat as a Tigers' boy or did that you manage to get that out ok?

00:07:58 Rory Underwood

No, just sharing the love, you know, Tigers, over the time we've had our, we've had our highs. We're down in the low, and I know Quins, you know, you’ve had your few lows, but you know, celebrate it where it’s due. The way you won your semifinal and the final. You know, fair play.

00:08:11 Andy Goram

Amazing times for a fan, just a tremendous thing.

00:08:14 Rory Underwood

Just an aside there, just you know, the first six months of that season, the first half season, every single Quins supporter would have recognised that you were not a high-performance team.

00:08:25 Andy Goram

100 percent. 100 percent.

00:08:26 Rory Underwood

And yet then it's interesting. Was it just because Paul Gustard? What was it about the chemistry of the coaches and the players, that when that one change happened at Christmas time, I think roughly Christmas time, and then how you transformed the rest of that season? Incredible.

00:08:42 Andy Goram

I wrote a piece on LinkedIn about something Joe Marler said after that, after the final, and it was a brilliant bit on the telly that sort of homed in on him as we're walking towards a line out. We're a try and a bit down, and he's just shouting or saying the word firmly, “believe, believe” And in his interview afterwards... I thought that was brilliant, right, after the result. And then in the interview afterwards he said something, and I'll get it a little bit wrong, but he said something like, “We just started to believe in who we wanted to be.” And so, I think Danny Care said something similar on another podcast, is that the belief in them understanding what they wanted to be and how they wanted to play, and everybody buying into that, and it being authentic, just released something in them as a collective. They would. I think, they were trying to be force fitted into her into a mould that didn't fit them. They couldn't express themselves.

00:09:39 Rory Underwood

And you know, you've been arguing, you know where this stuff comes from. That is very much around the powers-that-be, so the coaching staff, they got together, worked out what it was, with the senior players and they created the right environment for them to be able to express themselves. They created a high-performance environment. So, you know the whole context of what we're talking about is that sense of stifling people’s potential. You know, you're not allowing people to be able to express themselves. I don't mean doing whatever they like, no, but express themselves for the job they need to do and being part of a team. So how do you get the best out of individuals? How do you release that potential and how do you release the potential that teams, such that they enable to, you know, maximize all that effort into producing what you need to do, to try and become a high-performance environment and a team?

00:10:29 Andy Goram

100% mate, so look I'm going to start with the obvious bit. I'm going to start with you and your time in elite sport, right? I'd go try not to geek out too much in this area. But what did it feel like, right, being part of a of an elite team when they were totally on their game? I mean that England team that you played in, in the main steamrollered everybody that was in the in their path at times. So, what did it feel like inside that team, Rory? Just try to help us understand that.

00:10:58 Rory Underwood

It's right, yeah no it is. I mean, but people will resonate with this, 'cause it pretty much everybody will have some example of it. It may have been very glimpse and short lived or whatever and some will about more of it. But for me, I sometimes describe it as effortless. There seems to be no effort into doing all the different things you need to do to try and do it, because it just happens. You know the stuff you talked about with regards to Quins, that belief. There was that. We had a belief. Now you know to certain people when you have a very strong belief and you're very confident in your own self as an individual and as a team, of course, how does that come across to other people? It's not very far a step for that to be come across as arrogance.

00:11:37 Andy Goram

Yeah, yeah.

00:11:38 Rory Underwood

But of course, in your own mindset of the way you are within the team, it just seems as if, because everybody is on the same wavelength, everybody’s you know, stealing a military term, “Same way. Same day”, there's less effort having to be put in to sort out all the stuff that's causing problems. So therefore, it's effortless. That's the sort of sense. It just seems that everybody thinks the same way. Believes the same way, uh, is going in the same direction or committed to that shared purpose, and everybody’s driving towards it. As opposed to not sure what the shared purpose is and so going off in different directions. Which then everybody has to put some extra effort in to try and work out what it is, how we do it, and all that sort of stuff. Does that make sense?

00:12:21 Andy Goram

Yeah, yeah 100%. And so what? What are the... I'm guessing the coaches and the senior players, what is it that they're doing then to create that vision, instill that belief? What's going on behind the scenes? Think back to that. Take us back to the smell of mud and Deep Heat in the changing room at Twickenham. What going on?

00:12:43 Rory Underwood

There's no mud there. Goodness me, at Twickenham? There's no mud on the pitch. There may have been Rotherham on a February afternoon or something like that, but you know?

00:12:51 Andy Goram

Yeah, that's a great insight itself, yeah, the pitch is too clean for mud. Like that!

00:12:57 Rory Underwood

So, I've mentioned the word already. There's got to be a very clear goal, purpose, end game, whatever it is, around how you'll want to go together. That makes life the first thing. For people like, you know, at the time Geoff Cook, Will Carling as captain, it's making very clear what our aim is for us to drive towards. And secondly, now in the context of elite sports, one of the things that sometimes, you know, I get... not so much challenged, but people question is, “It's all fine while you're saying this is what I did for England, this is what I did for The Lions, but I'm working in this factory. I'm working in that office, you know, I don't have the ability to pick the 15 best players in the country or you know in Britain and Ireland.” And so you don't have that ability, but still, even though you pick the best squad and the best squad of British and Irish players to go off and play The Lions, they’re still a bunch of individuals. They’ve still got to come together and play.

00:13:56 Andy Goram

There's loads of examples of teams that have come together with great individuals and never made it as a team.

00:14:01 Rory Underwood

Well, you know one of my favourite sayings, Andy. You know, why is it that in just in general in business, people just assume that if you throw a whole bunch of people together to work on a project or initiative, or task, that they will automatically work together as a team? You know, it takes effort. And so it goes back to the next thing, is that it takes effort not only to get the rugby players from different clubs or from, you know, from the four home unions to come together to play together in the same way, so that we're all trying to work in the same way. So, we understand tactics we're trying to play with. Then the the technical bits we're trying to... whether it's a scrum, the line out or in the backs play, so that all of us are understanding how each other works. And it's... I sometimes describe it as a... There's two ways. Having the right cassette in. So, like if I used to wake up on Saturday morning, look out the window and it's raining, I was going “Oh God! It’s going to be one of those days and I’ll end up chasing kicks all day.” And it was sort of like, hoping that the scrum half “had the right cassette in” so it was more like a 15-man game, as opposed to a 9-man game. And so, the whole ability to understand how you play from that perspective. And then it goes down to the individuals. They need to want it. There is there is a lot to do with it, you know, your personal motivation and desire. If it's only going to be for self-performance and gratification that only takes you so far as team. As you mentioned before, you know, you've got loads of teams that come together and you've got... you know what, a team of 11 Ronaldos would be fantastic to watch, but I'm not sure you'd actually win everything.

00:15:35 Andy Goram

There'd be a hell of a lot of gesticulating on the pitch.

00:15:38 Rory Underwood

Uh, yeah yeah look well lots of people in the, in the sort of, attacking penalty box, trying to score a goal. But, you go back to... there's always examples... you've got situations where you get star players in the right place, brilliant, but you also got lots of examples of teams that have won things that have got no star players in the team, but they've been an excellent team. Obviously, more recently, you've seen the likes of Leicester City winning the league. Yes, they have got some good players in that team, you know, that's not decrying them as not good individual players, but in the context of how many were international players? A handful. But without a doubt the reason why they won that was because they were an outstanding squad and it all came together to win. To win the game before they actually played, is that sort of phrase you hear and talk about, and that goes back to what you mentioned before, about Quins and belief. And I remember back to my time at playing, but more so in the sort of Martin Johnson sort of era, when Tigers went through that run of nine... can’t remember whether it was 9 or 10 you know, finals in a row. They just had that belief, that they’d turn up and they will win. And it makes life so much easier 'cause the sort of effort and drain that you have on you is not as much as, “Oh, well, I don't know” and you've got to think about it and, “We get all, we might win, or might not”, and you've got to keep lifting yourself up all the time. So it goes back to the comment, that I said before, sometimes it’s just when it all clicks into place, you create the right environment, it is... it just seems like effortless, because you're not going to waste your energy on doing stuff that just, you know, saps it all.

00:17:14 Andy Goram

Yeah, just concentrate on getting it done, right? Just concentrate on getting it done. OK, so we've got this sort of unerring belief and a clear vision, destination of where you want to go to elite teams, and that's been a big thing behind it. If we move to your military career. I mean what's the thinking, or how are teams and performance thought of in the military? Is there a difference? Is there a different kind of focus? Tell us about that.

00:17:46 Rory Underwood

Well, the thing is we think about that from the very start. If you take the difference between those in the corporate world, in business; in the military, we're selected on our potential as officers, to take my example. So, I'm selected initially on my potential to be an officer, but also, I do the tests on whether I can become pilot, or not. So, they're all the sort of motor skills and you know speed-thinking and problem-solving type activities they do, as well as leadership tasks and problem solving that you have to go through. And it's 5 days of selection at Biggin Hill. 4-5 days or so, it was such a long time ago. And so, the Air Force then selects you as a potential officer and a potential pilot. They then take you through officer training. That's the first thing we do is officer training, before you graduate and there's a, you know, there's an attrition rate going through that. So, once you qualify as an officer, we then go, “OK. You're qualified as the minimum you know to get into be an officer. Now I'm gonna teach you how to be a pilot” But while you're teaching how to be a pilot, we’ll also keep on training you as an officer. So, my training as an officer didn't finish once I've finished initial officer training, it carried on going for 4-5 years while I went through flying training. But even then, we are assessed, obviously as you'd imagine in the military, on a regular basis throughout every year, we have our 1369. Form 1369. That was the old appraisal form, and as aircrew we get measured on two things. A) the whole Air Force gets an appraisal on them as a member of the armed forces, but also as aircrew, we get measured on aircrew. So, we have an aircrew appraisal as well.

Whereas if you take the business, we tend to go through school. We go to specialise at University or College or apprenticeship or whatever. We get into a business from a specialising and then we're promised that we will develop you as an individual and provide you with management, leadership skills and hope you grow up through the way. And yet you and I both know, that one of the areas that I feel is just severely lacking in in our whole business world in the UK, never mind us, it is just wider than that, is there’s a severe lack of management, leadership training and skill set within the business world. It really is severely lacking. And so, it's quite interesting if you look at the two juxtapositions where, you know, first in the military, you asked the question, it's drummed into us a very early stage around leadership, around your teams, around your how you build your teams, how you bring them along. And as you go through flying training, you start having to rely on and trust other people. Not just running around to do a job, but you've got another, you know, 2-3 or 4 of us in aircraft flying 6 feet, 8 feet apart at 300-400 miles an hour. You know, it's not the time to be wondering whether they've had a good day. Whether they had a bad night last night, or is their mind on it, you know. You have to rely on each other having that self-discipline to come to the to the races, fully focused.

00:20:59 Andy Goram

Yeah! I mean, I think when you look at the, well my impression of the military thing, there's skills, leadership, bravery, all wrapped up in performance, right? Those things all have to be wrapped up, but the focus on training... when we've sat down before, I'll get the numbers wrong, you’ll put me right, Rory, but I think you talked about like almost the 80/20 rule of, in the military, you're spending 80% of your time training and 20% doing. Whereas in business it's 80% doing, and if we're lucky, 20% training, to do that. I mean, is that the big difference?

00:21:34 Rory Underwood

Yeah, I mean I tend to ask the question, and in fact, the numbers that come to me from the people I ask, it tends to be 90/10.

00:21:42 Andy Goram

Well, there you go.

00:21:44 Rory Underwood

So, and what's interesting is that, when you dive into the... so businesses tend to do 90% of the time is doing and 10% of the time training. But then I break that down. Of that 10% training, you could take 9% is actually, the sort of training you need for that person to do that job. And even that at times... I come across many situations where sometimes people are put into roles and they are promised training and they don't never get it, or even just don't even get the promise in the first place. But 9% of it is down to you know, compliance, governance and just technical skill set you need to do that job. Whereas 1% is actually spent in actually developing people for the future. So, the difference in training, development. Training for the now, developing for the future. And the amount of developing your people for the future is woefully lacking in the world of business. Massively lacking. And it goes back to one of my personal favorite sayings that is, “Not paying for it now, is a short-term gain for a long-term pain.” Because you're just kicking the can down the road and there will be trouble later on when you're people aren't good enough to be able to manage at a certain level. Not going to be able to lead a certain level or be able to create that environment if you want to have a high-performance organisation. To me, it should be, “Pay for it now. It's a short-term pain, but it's a long-term gain.

00:23:10 Andy Goram

100% Rory. I know, even recent examples of being fortunate enough to do some leadership development training with some heads of department that are making the transition from manager to leader. But there are guys in the room who've been managers for 20-30 years, and we're talking to them about some simple mindset stuff, some leadership qualities, and, you know, giving them a toolbox to kind of use. And it's sad and heartening at the same time, when you've got people who've been doing this for 20-30 years, sitting there, almost gob smacked going, “Why did no one tell me this 20 or 30 years ago? I feel like I've... I feel like I've wasted 20 years. I feel like I now understand why I'm not getting anything out of people, because I was acting like a cave manager before, or whatever it was. And why didn't no-one tell me this stuff?” So, I'm 100% in agreement with you. Not just because it's one of the things I love doing, but I think people are woefully unprepared for people leadership, and particularly development in what skills it takes. We get promoted on the skill of doing a job before, not necessarily on our capability to manage, motivate and develop people you know. And I agree with you. It's a massive missing.

00:24:29 Rory Underwood

I mean, if you take if you take the archetypal example which has been around for a while, but it's the old adage, “The best salesman, doesn't make the best sales manager.” And you know, because they spend a lot of money, a lot of these companies, that is very much about sales. They spend a lot of money on training their sales people to be better salespeople. But then they don't spend any money on training how to be a manager? But of course, whoever comes top tends to be promoted because they're the best manager, best salesperson. It is a completely different skill set in going from selling something to managing people to sell something. And it's the bit that people sometimes forget. Well, there's no, not sometimes they always forget.

00:25:09 Andy Goram

Well, and that comes to your business. So, we're building this picture up of your experience in elite sport, the different mindset that the military has on development and leadership, compared to business. But in your...

00:25:23 Rory Underwood

Can I just add to that?

00:25:24 Andy Goram


00:25:25 Rory Underwood

I'll just add to that, Andy, because you know, I always describe the military, all the services, all the armed forces; I describe us like a training organisation. We literally train, train, train, train, go to war. But even when we go to war, we're still training. So yes, the ultimate aim is for us to go and do what military people do, but fundamentally we train for it. Go to war. But even we go to war, guess what? Then enemy do different things and they change tactics, whatever. We've got to keep learning as we go along. So, the whole context of us as military people is very much about you know CI - Continuous Improvement, trying to learn all the time. You know, even from a rugby perspective, the constant nagging I always gave myself was, “Anytime you felt as if you knew it all, in a rugby context, mate, just retire. 'Cause you won't improve.” You know one of my wife’s favourite sayings is, “Every day is a school day.” And it's whether you have the mindset and ability to recognise that, and actually grasp it. 'Cause most people don't realise it, and don't realise there's a lesson to be learned. And they don't make the most of it. And that's, that is just such a waste.

00:26:33 Andy Goram

Total waste. A total waste and I guess that's now what you try and sort out with your with your business, right? To stop the waste and realise the potential. So, if we think about your experiences across elite sport and the military, what's that led you..what's the viewpoint you now take into business, then Rory? What is it that you try and focus in on?

00:26:57 Rory Underwood

Yeah, it's sort of like a reverse engineering, Andy, and you know my journey, 'cause having come out of the military and being an ex-international, there was the naivete of me coming out of a... and I mentioned earlier on, it's the slightly closeted world of being in the military, to suddenly being in the world of business and people going, “Oh my God! He's a fast jet pilot and he's a rugby international. I'll throw lots of money at him to help my business.” But of course, you know when you first start, people go, “Great story, Rory. You're my hero, but what the hell do you know about business?” And that was... that was the challenge. And of course, you know little did I know... when you reflect back, actually, when I started the business with two other colleagues, we were learning on the job as it was. There's one day I was in my flying suit, flying and then I retired, and the next day I'm sat there in my shorts and T-shirt in my study back at home, a bit like you are now. “He's not wearing a T-shirt by the way, listeners. He's wearing a very decent shirt.” You know, sitting there, waiting for the phone to ring. But we'd done some business, various things, thinking right, there should be an avalanche of people thinking come pay us. It doesn't happen like that. You've got to go out and find the business. And so, a mass of learning. And so, one of the things that came out of it all was this whole context of teamwork and how people work with each. There was an acknowledgement, there was a recognition that there were good teams and bad teams, and business leaders and managers were trying to get good teams. But the whole context of how they thought about it was purely based around results. Everything was, “If they hit the numbers or exceeded it they’re a good team. If they don't, they're a bad team. And that was the sort of linear thinking about it. But having come from my world of military and sport, yes, that is a measurement, but as we've discussed, as you've been questioning in the in the context of the military in the sport, it is so much wider and deeper than that in the context of how you get a whole bunch of people working together to achieve the goal. But then, how to make that as easy as possible. How to make it as enjoyable as possible. All that clarity to create the environment to be able to enable us to deliver, you know, the end goal. And so, coming out into the civilian world and espousing the whole context of high-performance team and team, they sort of got it, but there was more a question of, “Well, how can you prove you know return investment?” And one of the things that became very clear from my knowledge, for me to be successful at rugby, I needed to be very skill set from my perspective as a rugby player, both as individual, but as part of as a team, as well as how do I work together as a team? How do I fly a jet as an individual, but fly it in amongst three other aircraft? The whole context of how I fly and what I do in my tactics at flying at low level, is done right, but I've got to get the context of how we as individuals work together as a team from a team perspective. And so that connection between doing the job and how you work together to do the job, for me was a crucial bit. It's a sad state of affairs where I go into businesses and I'm not surprised anymore to find that people are not as commercially aware about what their business does and what the people in their business does and what the departments do. Even one that works next door to me. While at the same time the whole context of how do we actually work together as individuals and as teams within our organisation. And so, the lack of awareness around how they commercially work together and a lack of awareness of how they culturally work together as a team, it's just massively missing in a lot of businesses. And so that's what I engendered to do. You know, the whole context of my journey was how do I get those two things but actually join it together? Because what you find is, you know, there's lots of stuff that you can do that sort of measures the ability of how people are being effective from a commercial perspective and MI and Lean thinking and Kaizen, and all loads of other stuff that you can do. But the whole context of actually, what about the team? But then what about all the teams and organisation? And so, there was those at two, so the two slight sides. And there's elements, well, but the two of them fundamentally have got to work in unison together, and so how do you combine that commercial and cultural side of the ways of working is for me the core to what I'm trying to strive to do.

00:31:16 Andy Goram

And how much of a blind spot is the balance of those things, do you think in the businesses that you encounter today?

00:31:24 Rory Underwood

The blind spot is basically, unless it’s tangible, people tend to ignore it, because it's too hard. You know if it's tangible, it's easy to see. It's easy to measure. So, if it's intangible, it's too hard to see, and it's too hard to measure. So, I'll just concentrate the stuff I measure. So, I can understand why people end up measuring money and tangible bits all the time, because it's easier to measure. But of course, as everybody knows and understands the biggest challenge everybody has in business is dealing with people. And I mean it from the nicest possible way. We're all individuals. We're all different. We all, you know, come in and have a good day, one day and a bad day... the whole context of managing and leading people takes a lot of effort. The whole context of how you manage and lead it. It's not a binary. It's not a clear cut tangible thing. You can do the best skills and you use the all the stuff that you've learned around how you lead and manage on one day, and it may be brilliant. But another day, because of the nuances of how we as individuals and the psychology of it all changed slightly, could not be the best day possible either. So therein lies the challenges, and so that's the reason why that blind spot is, it's easy to look at the commercial side of things, 'cause it's just easier to manage and measure. And it's harder to manage and measure talking about people. When they all do their jobs and they all work brilliantly, it's an easy job. Managing and leading people that perform and doing well and have no problems, it's a fantastic job. When things start going wrong, you gotta manage it. That's when you have to earn your big bucks as managers and leaders. And unfortunately, it goes back to comments said before, when you have managing leaders who've never ever been trained, when things go wrong, they have no idea how to do it. They rest on their, as I say, the largest, the largest university in the world is called the “Osmosis University” and you know, people just pick up things as they go along, and of course, it depends on... the determination of whether it's good or not, is whether it seems to work or not, as opposed to whether it is effective or not. So therefore, the number of people that pick up bad habits and bad behaviors is wide scale.

00:33:43 Andy Goram

I think it's the biggest problem, the whole learning from the guy before. Who would...

00:33:48 Rory Underwood

In some ways, if you get a good boss then it's not a problem.

00:33:51 Andy Goram

That's the secret, isn't it right? If we all had good bosses, everything would be brilliant. Uhm, but it's not that easy.

00:33:55 Rory Underwood


00:33:58 Andy Goram

We said at the start of this, that it would be futile to try and cover the whole of what's behind a high-performing team in 30-40 minutes.

00:34:04 Rory Underwood

I did tell you.

00:34:06 Andy Goram

And yeah, it's been a futile attempt, but it's been interesting to try and scratch the surface of it. But in my podcast Rory, I try and summarise stuff. I have this thing called “sticky notes”, where I look for three pieces of advice that people can take away from this thing today and start making a difference back at the ranch, OK. So, on this context of trying to get under the skin and produce a high-performance team or an environment that can create a high-performing team, can you leave behind three sticky notes that would give people some hints and tips on how to do that, my friend?

00:34:41 Rory Underwood

Uhm well yeah. I mean pick three out of lots, it's just quite difficult one really. Uhm, first one is “Seek to understand before being understood.” I think I sort of picked that up from Stephen Covey, I think, but it's I'm just suspecting some way, shape or form it's been.... it's been in some sort of form for a long, long time.

00:35:01 Andy Goram

It all comes back to Covey, everything does.

00:35:03 Rory Underwood

Everything does tend to. He's the God of everything. So, when you think about it from a management point of view, the number of times I've come across people who see, they see evidence, or they see some facts, well, they see things happening and they straight away assume this, this and this. And they just pile in and manage and lead in that certain way. So many examples after I've gone through the whole context of running our programmes and workshops and various things, the number of people that come back (and say) “I went in there to go and sack that person, but actually I tried to find out why they were acting behaving in that way and actually it wasn't their fault. It was this or that, or whatever.” “When actually, I’ve realised I need to do more with them, to do this, this and this.” And so the amount of evidence, anecdotal evidence, that keeps coming back all the time is that, try and understand the other person, the other teams, the other whatever situation and understand it first, before you try and put your perspective on things. And I think it's, you know, it can apply to anything in life. Never mind just things that happen in business. We're so quick to go and give our thought onto something. And of course, if you take the whole context of how do we learn? How do we broaden our horizons? How do we better increase our knowledge and expertise? It is finding out more about other stuff before we impart. If all we do is just transmit all the time, you never hear. You know, it's the same old thing, you know, you've got two ears, one mouth - think about that as a ratio.

00:36:32 Andy Goram

Exactly, good one. Great first sticky note mate, what would you put in your second sticky note?

00:36:36 Rory Underwood

The second one is sort of two-part. It's the difference between short-term pain, long-term gain and short-term gain, long-term pain. A lot of decisions that managers and leaders make, tend to be, it's quicker and easier to do something now and sort it out now. So just give away or make it easier or whatever, rather than doing a decision that causes pain in the context of resource, money, time, effort, whatever. And so, the same old thing, if you keep putting things off that need to be sorted out and just go for the quick gain in the short term, you're kicking the can down the road for problems that are going to come later on. The number of times I hear people saying, “We're just mega busy. We're fighting fires.” The true definition of fighting fires whether you’re in a firefight, and I've never been in one, but I've, you know, I've got friends who have been either flying wise or on the ground in a war scenario, when you're in proper firefight, you know, you're not in a firefight. Anybody in business, you're not in a firefight, anywhere close. Yes, it can be busy, but a lot of people are busy fools, and the whole context of how you manage that situation, how you overcome it, sometimes I'll just do it this way, it’s just easier to do it. “Oh, I'll tell him how to do it because it's just quicker for me to do that.” And of course, if you keep telling people how to do things all the time, well, guess what? They'll just wait there, wait to be told what to do all the time, and therefore you're not developing them for the future. So really think about, is it a short-term gain, which potentially has a long-term pain later on? Whereas suck it up and go for a short-term pain now, 'cause it will be a gain for later on.

00:38:14 Andy Goram

Great advice mate, really good. And what's the third nugget of wisdom, that you want to leave us with?

00:38:19 Rory Underwood

Well, tied into the whole context of, you know, what I'm aspiring to try and do for business, it's a challenge I give to any leader or manager. So, it can either be to the top person, but it's also a challenge I'd give to any single person who is managing or leading any scenario. And it's a very simple question, but it may not be the easiest one to answer. So, “What are you doing to create the right environment, where high-performance is inevitable?” Because a lot of managers and leaders think it is about them, but actually you are the starting point. You're the one that's gotta create an environment where they perform. So, do you think the people that work for you in your team, or in your organisation are actually fulfilling the full potential that they have the ability to give? And if they're not, then you've got a question as to whether you’re providing the environment for them to be able to release that latent potential.

00:39:13 Andy Goram

Love it! I love a question on a sticky note, just to make people think. Rory, I'm lucky enough to have spent a lot of time with you over the last two to three years, we've had 30/40 minutes to sort of scratch the surface on this and that's literally all we've done. But it's always great to talk to you. I know you're an incredibly busy guy, so thank you very much for your time today.

00:39:33 Rory Underwood

Absolute pleasure.

00:39:35 Andy Goram

And well, I look forward to speaking to you again soon, and maybe we'll do this again in the future and try and get a bit deeper on some of this stuff?

00:39:42 Rory Underwood

Fire away. You know we love having discussions. We've had some interesting discussions over time, so more than happy to do this again, anytime.

00:39:48 Andy Goram

OK, my friend. Brilliant! Right, everybody that was Rory Underwood. If you'd like to find out about him and a bit more about Wingman and what they do, then please check out the show notes.

00:40:01 Andy Goram

That concludes today's episode. I hope you've enjoyed it, found it interesting and heard something, maybe that will help you become a stickier, more successful business from the inside going forwards.

If you have, please like comment and subscribe, it really helps. I'm Andy Goram and you've been listening to the Sticky From The Inside podcast. until next time, thanks for listening.

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