• Transcript

    Most people, do you think it's all about the winning? When you're on a roll and a flow that's easy. The other side of that coin is, is one of set back and self discovery and getting them to understand the bones of the group again and that for me is the interesting part.

    My name is Alex Sanderson, I am director of rugby at Sale Sharks.

    How do you maintain a passion to never settle for ordinary for yourself and the team?

    I think it starts with itself, in terms of this drive for continuous improvement, you have to set that example in terms of striving to be better I guess daily. It's about having people around you that keep you humble and giving yourself those kind of manageable, achievable goals on a weekly and daily basis.

    I've been able to measure those kind of improvements so you can look back over a period of time and see where you've grown or you've shrunk.

    How do you encourage your team to think and act beyond the ordinary?

    Everyone's different, people depending on their age, where they are in their kind of psychological development because we have lads who are 17 to grown men with families who are 39 is the oldest player we have here.

    You can't treat those two people the same. You have to give them what you need as a coach or a friend or a mentor or a peer.

    For the most part, if you can non directional questions, active listening, and if they're lacking that self awareness and unsure of where they're at, then it has to be a bit more explicit, a bit more directive.

    What communication skills work best for getting your message across?

    I think rapport is probably the most crucial aspect to coaching and leading, relationship you have with a player, the trust, the respect, your ability to communicate honestly.

    Decrease the social desirability, the need for you to say something because you think someone else wants to hear it. Increase the levels of psychological safety, where you say things because you actually mean them and you feel it, in every facet, not just in team meetings like around the building.

    How do you identify leaders?

    Leaders for me are the ones that lead by example first and foremost, players that epitomise your mentality as much as they do your game plan.

    They have the ability to put themselves out there in group settings, not to be ridiculed, but to be challenged, and be able to accept that challenge.

    Where do you draw inspiration to push performance?

    Everyone's kind of on a level playing field in terms of how high they jump, what they eat, what they do in the gym. Sport at the elite level comes down to the top two inches. You know your attitude, your energy, your mentality. And yet so little of the training week is devoted to the top two inches.

    It's very difficult to measure these intangibles, which have such an impact on performance.

    How do you switch off and refresh your thinking, so you cope better with stress?

    If I can go for a walk or something like that, just get a wide view in front of you. Get into a bit of nature with people that you cherish, and that's probably the best remedy for any stress I can advise.

    When setbacks occur, what are the best ways to overcome them and bounce back stronger?

    So the first thing we do is a hot debrief. It's a military term. So how people feel, how it went, how they feel it went on because, generally speaking how they felt, although it's never wrong because that's how you felt inside, doesn't always line up with the reality of what it looks like to analysis. But certainly getting a feel from the group because then you can at least gauge how far away you are from reality or whether you just fooling yourself.

    Then post hot debrief, you know, analysis, as much as it can be void of emotion. You have KPIS for that around 30, from around 200 different metrics that we measure and thresholds within that which we traffic light code.

    We get the players' point of view, the leaders, first and foremost, and if necessary, you know the group by ways of kind of self awareness. And if we need to, we'll put our own opinion across to the players if there's a disparity between that, then we'll put our own opinion across.

    If we find that we're not getting the fixes that we want and we're not getting the improvements that we've identified, then it requires a little bit more of an in depth analysis and conversation and reframing of where we're at as a group.

    How do you motivate the team to work towards a collective goal?

    The way I want to run an organisation or a team is from within internal, internally motivated, internally driven. Yet still, if I convey to them what my values are, what I'm driving for me personally, it has its influence and effect on the group.

    So I think it's important that I am open in terms of what I'm about. But as a group, the type of team want to be. That's different. Everyone has individual purposes, and I have slightly different values and I think these are set quite early on in your life if I'm honest. How you're able to align yourself with what the group wants, but using your purpose as a means to be who you want to be collectively, that's the kind of art of coaching for me. It's identifying that they're all individuals. But what is their motivators driving them to do for the group. And that's that common identification of who we want to be and coming back to that.

    Why is mentoring your players so important to you?

    I'm privileged to be able to have an influence on a great number of players lives, people's lives, for the better I hope.