National seven- a-side players at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport last week when they arrived from the Rugby World Cup in Moscow. Photo/CHRIS OMOLLO

National seven- a-side players at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport last week when they arrived from the Rugby World Cup in Moscow. Photo/CHRIS OMOLLO

To reach the semi-final spot of the World Cup by a mere semi-professional side is a great achievement both locally and internationally.

That is the reason work almost came to a standstill at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s arrivals lobby last week when the Kenya Sevens team jetted back home from Moscow.

If you are as passionate about rugby as I am, it is difficult not to write about last Saturday’s World Cup semi final between Kenya and England.

Having worked so hard, and waited for so long, the Kenyan team lost despite being the stronger team. It is a good lesson for any businessman. Knowing that you are better just isn’t enough. Results are what count.

If you are Kenyan, it was heartbreaking. I write about rugby because the sport is close to my heart. Rugby is a game of 15 players, each with a specific role to play. There are forwards and backs. There is a fly half and scrum half, linking the forward to the backs.

With maintenance of these specific zones, the critical balance between offence and defence is maintained.

Where else do we see this? In business of course!

Like business, rugby is also a non-stop, free flowing game with little time for rest during the 80 minutes of play. Once the whistle blows, the coach is completely reliant on the team on the pitch to remember their training, coaching, and tactics.

Some say that rugby is a tough, intense game. I would agree and add that today’s workplace can often be no less tough.

In fact, the most successful and high-performing teams in the sport have a lot in common with successful businesses. Two things stand out for me:

The first is that while rugby is often aggressive and fast-paced, it stands on the principles of civility, discipline and respect. This decency and integrity is crucial. How teams play the game is easily as important as the outcome of the game.

Rugby is one of the few sports where players are required to address the referee as ‘sir.’ Each team applauds the opposing team off the pitch at the end of every game.

Some may believe that civility is a minor consideration in the workplace, especially now when we are pressured by time, having to do more with less and plagued by looming deadlines and demands. Who has time to be polite?

Who has time to say please or thank you? And, who has time to think about how our behaviour is affecting those around us as long as we’re getting the job done?

It is my contention, though, that civility has just about everything to do with creating workplaces in which people can do their best and businesses thrive.

Today, workplaces extend beyond our walls and borders through technology. Every day, we send e-mails, text messages and tweets to people, some of whom we have never met face-to-face.


Civility becomes an important part of communicating with others over the Internet. After all, when we say something on e-mail, facebook or Twitter it gets captured everywhere.

We can’t take it back and it shapes the image we create of ourselves which can either reflect who we really are or cast a shadow over us that will be difficult to overcome.

The second lesson is that the game of rugby is a micro-culture to each team. Teammates are reliant on each other, trust each other, and perform for each other. And, importantly, outside of the game, teammates are friends. They have as much fun off the pitch as on it!

There is a link between high-performing teams and the level of social interaction they have within them. A unified team is composed of players who are more engaged and productive.

The power of team-building activities should never be underestimated. Whether it’s group mentoring, a company-sponsored team building or working on a community project, bringing employees together in the spirit of fun is essential.

These moments of togetherness, much like team pre-game huddles or post-game celebrations, go a long way toward unity and productivity. And while focus on team unity is key-don’t forget teams are composed of individuals.

The lessons from our team in Moscow can indeed help your businesses today. After all, the next play is yours.