Lessons from the Field: Insights from Harlequins Rugby Player Jack Kenningham | Thomas.co

In the rugged world of rugby success isn’t just measured by individual performance, but by that of the team. We spoke to Jack Kenningham, star player for Harlequins Rugby Club, about the valuable insights he’s taken from his experiences on the field with his team. We loved chatting to Jack, and you’ll find that a lot of the lessons he learned are not only applicable in the world of sport, but also the broader subject of business, ambition and life.

1. What do you believe were the key elements or factors that contributed most significantly to your achievements on the field as a team?  

When reflecting on our biggest achievement on the rugby pitch, winning the league three seasons ago stands out as a pivotal moment for our team. As someone who had just broken into the first team, it was a thrilling and somewhat surreal experience. Looking back, I believe several factors played a significant role in our success. Firstly, there was a lack of external expectation, which allowed us to embrace our underdog status and play with freedom. Additionally, internal belief and camaraderie were key; within our group, there was a shared conviction that we could achieve something special if everyone played their part. This sense of ownership and trust, both among players and with our coaching staff, fostered a player-driven ethos that empowered us to make decisions on the field and unite behind a common goal.

2. What specific strategies or approaches have you personally adopted to overcome setbacks and maintain a positive mindset during challenging times?

Dealing with setbacks, especially multiple injuries and surgeries within a short period, has been a tough journey for me. Each setback presents a unique challenge, but I've learned to approach them with a mindset of continuous improvement. Setting small, achievable targets for myself on a daily and weekly basis keeps me motivated and focused on progress. Surrounding myself with positive influences is crucial; having supportive people around me helps turn setbacks into opportunities for growth. It's easy to feel defeated, but I've realized the importance of resilience and not taking setbacks personally. Instead, I break down the challenges into manageable chunks, focusing on what I can control and finding silver linings even in tough times. It's all about staying adaptable and making the most of every situation, using the downtime for self-improvement and reflection.

3. Trust is a cornerstone of high-performing teams. How do you and your teammates build and maintain trust, and what advice would you give to organisations looking to cultivate trust among their employees?

Building trust within a team is a gradual process that evolves through shared experiences and consistent interactions. Whether it's training together, playing as a team, or following the guidance of coaches and physios, each interaction contributes to fostering trust. Having a common goal, like winning a game, unites us and reinforces trust. Activities outside of work, such as going for drinks or meals together, also plays a vital role in deepening connections and understanding among teammates. Understanding each other's backgrounds, motivations, and personalities strengthens the foundation of trust within the team, a lesson that extends to businesses, where respecting individual differences enhances teamwork and collaboration in today's dynamic work environment.

4. As a professional athlete, you've likely encountered various leadership styles throughout your career. In your opinion, what qualities or characteristics define exceptional leadership in the realm of sports, and how do these qualities contribute to building a winning team culture?

Exceptional leadership in sports encompasses a nuanced understanding of individual preferences and needs. While some athletes thrive on direct feedback, others require a more supportive approach. The best coaches know when to push players and when to offer encouragement. Building a winning team culture involves striking a balance between different leadership styles and tailoring interactions to suit each player. It's about knowing the team members personally and recognizing that one size doesn't fit all when it comes to motivation and guidance. By fostering relationships built on mutual trust and understanding, coaches can maximize the potential of each player and contribute to a cohesive and successful team dynamic.

5. What do you believe separates winning teams from those that fall short?

What sets winning teams apart from those that fall short, in my view, boils down to belief and hard work. Sure, luck can play a role, but it's the sheer dedication and persistence that truly drive success. When a team shares a deep belief in their goals and is willing to go the extra mile, magic happens. We experienced this firsthand - our triumphs were not just about talent or luck, but about the relentless effort we put in, together. In business, it's no different. When everyone shares a common goal and understands their role in achieving it, silos dissolve, and success becomes inevitable. It's all about fostering that sense of unity and collective drive, both on the field and in the boardroom.

In the dynamic world of sports, Jack Kenningham's experiences shine as a beacon of teamwork, resilience, trust, leadership, and goal alignment. His journey illustrates the timeless principles that underpin success in any competitive endeavour. As we delve into Jack's insights, we uncover invaluable lessons applicable not only to athletes pursuing greatness but also to individuals and organizations charting their courses toward success. Jack's wisdom reminds us that the skills honed on the field are equally vital in navigating the challenges and triumphs of work.