Peak Performance: How to recruit your team

Maggie Alphonsi

Strategy. Risk. Focus. Determination. Will. In the world of high-performance sport, it’s the rush of the competition, the thrill of a united team, and the satisfaction of falling, failing, and getting back up to win tournaments that has shaped the most memorable parts of my journey. 

The lessons you learn on the rugby pitch aren’t so dissimilar from those in the boardroom. One may be more physically demanding, but the resilience, self-awareness, and the team you build around you can help you land a game-winning drop goal or a game-changing contract. 

My sporting career has taught me an incredible framework of skills that I continue to use, teach and learn from today.

Respect the game, respect your team

When things aren’t going well, it’s really easy when you’re in a team to be an individual. It’s easy to point fingers at everyone else and claim they aren’t performing up to par – but that’s short-sighted. Everyone contributes a brilliant strength that I call ‘superhero strengths.’ A strong leader knows how important it is to value diversity in different skills and strengths, by addressing them and highlighting them. 

Build bonds

Take the opportunity to know your people more than just what you see on the playing field or in the boardroom. When you take the time to know whom you’re working with – their ticks, their lives outside of work, their embarrassing stories – all of a sudden you’re cultivating a stronger emotional bond with them. Teams that have strong bonds between each other are often willing to go the extra mile and give more for each other.

Set goals and be adaptable

A leader will have a strong vision, a united team, and be able to communicate clearly the road to achieving the ultimate goal. This also means they’re listening to contributions from team members to ensure their individual needs are being heard. It’s important for the team to have an opportunity to give feedback, buy in to the overall objectives, and have a sense of purpose in getting there.

Embrace failure

To really achieve your goals, there’s always an element of failure to tackle along the way. In my career to achieve the big goal, I experienced about four epic failures. Did it hurt? Absolutely. But failure makes you stop, reflect, reassess and figure out the way forward. Each failure brought my team closer, made the way forward clearer, and helped me answer what I needed to do, who to seek help from, and better understand why I was getting up in the morning to accomplish what I set out to do. 

Recruit your team “you”

Recruit the people you find inspirational and who share your goals, too. Find your supporters and surround yourself with them; they are the individuals who’ll help you along the way:  

  • When I was in school my teachers, Lisa Burgess and Joan Walker, helped me raise money to go on my first rugby tour. They were both drivers that helped me go from being the kid with the bad attitude to a disciplined student and athlete. 
  • Baroness Sue Campbell was my first boss when she was the Football Association’s head of women’s football. She focused on her teammates’ passions. She taught me that if you know and chase your passions, then the rest of your journey falls into place. 
  • Debbie Jevans, former chief executive of the England Rugby World Cup is one of my mentors. I look up to her and try to emulate her strength in character and convictions. 
  • And finally – my mother is a single parent and incredibly driven. She instilled in me the importance of an education and an appetite to learn. 

Get uncomfortable

Don’t be afraid to do things you don’t want to do. We all know that it’s easy to say no to things that make you uncomfortable. But sometimes you really need to just go for it to fully realise what you’re capable of. You’ll be surprised at how empowered you’ll feel once you start pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. 

Plan ahead for balance

When life starts to get stressful, you tend to spend more time doing the things you want to sort out, often forgoing the time for self-care. I like to visualise the week ahead to establish a semblance of balance. I have a big whiteboard at home and use it to plan my sporting commitments, my professional job commitments, engagements with friends and family, and also “me” time.