New Year’s resolutions: Change Management the Eddie Jones way.

How are your New Year’s resolutions going? Have you managed to make any successful changes or were the new trainers just a way to get you to the pub quicker in order to avoid dry January? Change is difficult for many people as most prefer to stick to what they know because, well, it’s easier isn’t it.

However, we all have areas of our lives and our careers that we’d like to improve or fulfil, therefore changes are a necessary evil of creating better scenarios for ourselves. The industry term for this is ‘Change Management’ (don’t worry, I’m not going to ask who moved your cheese, though it is a classic) which in essence means making sure the processes for making change are as smooth as possible in order to achieve lasting success. To put this in another context, are you really going to complete dry January if you accept the invitation to the pub?

Eddie Jones is the Head Coach of the England Rugby Union team (don’t turn off just yet — this will help, I promise). He previously coached a team at the top of their game (Australia) and one at the bottom (Japan, when they performed a near-miracle to beat South Africa). He is a manager who knows what he’s doing and achieves success by implementing a number of change management principles. His record as England coach is, so far, unblemished — the team have won 13 matches in a row since he took over…including four wins over Australia :)

So, how;

He creates targets: SMART targets that were short term and manageable, always building on a past success, always pushing the team forward. After his 11th win as coach of England (against South Africa) he announced that his team were ‘nowhere near good enough’. Winning eleven in a row doesn’t equate to future success — they had to work hard to strive for more, lift a bit more in the gym, retain the ball for longer in matches.

He considers current strengths: England weren’t a bad team before Jones took over. They had some good players and most of them have been retained in his squad. It wasn’t a case of ‘out with the old, in with the new’ it was a case of building on current abilities, making people better, making them believe. You might not be able to run a marathon yet…but I’m sure you can run 2k or 5k or 10k or more. Consider what currently works so well for you or your team and build on it.

He is decisive: Sometimes change can involve a difficult decision or an action that you don’t feel comfortable in taking. You need to confront this and (frankly) get on with it. Jones took the captaincy away from Chris Robshaw but retained him in the team — a difficult conversation to have had, no doubt. He replaced him with Dylan Hartley, which takes me to the next point…

He takes risks: Hartley has made a number of bad decisions and was hardly considered a model professional in the game. He is, however, combative, competitive and a leader. Jones would have known such a decision might have got him sacked and the media would have torn him to shreds had it backfired…but it was a masterstroke.

He has rules: Jones has developed a knowledge of how to be successful. He is the expert and won’t bend his methods to suit his bosses, the media or the supporters — and why should he? Jones believes in building pressure, being dominant, forcing opponents to make mistakes. He doesn’t ask his teams to be flamboyant or entertaining, instead he asks them to work hard and to win. He believes in what he does and he trusts this from day one. Stick to what you truly believe in and keep the faith.

He takes ownership: The media find Eddie Jones quite fascinating, probably because he tells them how it is, is honest about the limitations of his approaches and seems happy to take the blame when his teams lose. This means his players feel protected, they aren’t made into scapegoats and problems are dealt with quickly and in-house.

He communicates: and the communications are between him and his players first and foremost. If change is to happen then people need to know what that change is, why it is happening, the effect of the change and the problems that might be faced along the way.

He wins: In order to keep those resolutions you need to create a winning culture and celebrate your successes. Jones takes pleasure in every small victory and while he is said to be meticulous in his preparation for matches he believes a crucial part of the process of change management is to enjoy the achievement (with a beer or two, it is rumoured) before planning how to approach the next one.

So, think back to your resolution and make it happen…create a target, think about what you’re already good at, make a plan and stick to it, take a risk (enter that marathon), consider what your golden rules are, take ownership (only YOU can write your story), be clear about the process for change (communicate this to yourself and those around you) and enjoy every successful step you take.