What I learned from Sir Clive Woodward about managing talent

Today on the TERMINALFOUR blog I am talking about something completely different but something that has a universal appeal to anyone (or any company that has employees); how to get the most out of your team by effectively managing talent.

As the Head of HR at TERMINALFOUR it’s my job to seek out people that are the right fit for the job and to ensure that as a company we are continually nurturing their talent, developing them further and creating a culture of winning.

In the current war for talent, it is important for candidates (and employers) that they work in an environment where they can be part of a great team and at TERMINALFOUR, we want our employees to be a part of developing that culture and understand that they are instrumental in helping our university clients to attain their institutional goals.

Last week I found myself in the fortunate position of being able to attend the Cornerstone conference in London. Cornerstone is a unique software that helps companies worldwide (including us) to manage their teams’ talent, learning and performance.

I wanted to write about one particular talk given by Sir Clive Woodward which was based on the idea that ‘Great Teams are Made of Great Individuals’, he spoke about the “DNA of a Champion” and how individuals can be coached to achieve high performing teams. As many of you will know, Sir Clive was among many things the coach of the England team from 1997 to 2004, managing them to victory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

What makes a champion?

This was the theme of the talk and from a HR perspective I found it fascinating. Sir Clive spoke about how “Talent alone is not enough” and that in order to be a champion individuals need to have these characteristics; talent, student, warrior and champion that match with the following criteria; ability, teachability, pressure and will.


Talent is where you begin but it’s not enough on its own; it needs to be combined with skill which is ultimately the responsibility of the company to constantly develop.


We hire people with passion for their chosen field and talent and we develop them within the company. They need to be willing and able to learn, to develop knowledge around their role which will increase their awareness of what needs to be done to improve on the talent and skill they already have.

New hires generally adapt readily to being students but the trick is to find a way to maintain this thirst for knowledge as well as make sure we are coaching them through their career. This is why it’s so important to hire people that we believe will continue to absorb knowledge like a sponge and not an unyielding and unabsorbent rock! Often it is the experienced team members who stop learning and put the culture of winning at risk. People who are the most passionate about what they do are the best students.


Individual team members need to be warriors, they need to be able to perform well when push comes to shove. Woodward spoke about how he uses the acronym “T-CUP: Thinking Correctly Under Pressure”. Great leaders need to help their teams think of ‘what if’ scenarios so that when they are under pressure they will be able to think correctly. Thinking correctly under pressure is a skill that can be learned so that individuals will perform best when they are under pressure. He spoke about how athletes in World Cups and in the Olympics, at the moments which count the most have ‘choked’ or ‘bottled-it’ under pressure. Why? His reason is simple; they were not prepared. Winners perform best when the pressure is greatest. By preparing your teams for pressure you help create winners.


Winning individuals, winning teams (or high performing teams) and in turn winning organizations and cultures have the attitude and commitment to win. If there is even one individual on your team who isn’t playing to win then this may hamper your whole organization.

If I take one thing away from Sir Clive Woodward’s inspiring talk it will be to use this approach to ensure we as a company continue to not only choose talented and skilled people, but also to ensure that managers coach and create an environment that develops champions and a culture of winning.

This is advice to live by whether you’re like me and trying to recruit the best and brightest for your organization or whether you’re trying to implement a student recruitment strategy that ensures students at your university will get the most out of their years on campus. It’s just as important to choose the students that will champion your institution, soak up knowledge like a sponge and perform like champions under pressure!

If you would like to know more about working at TERMINALFOUR please visit our careers page.