A retired international rugby union player may not be the first person you go to for advice on how to work.

Maggie Alphonsi won a World Cup, seven successive Six Nations titles (six of which were Grand Slams), and was awarded an MBE. There are plenty of male rugby players with similar achievements, but not one of them had to work numerous jobs to be able to afford the thousands of pounds it cost to play for their country, like Maggie and the England women’s rugby team did for years. 

This is a woman who knows what success looks like and has fought hard to achieve it. So, when I saw that she was speaking at Mo’s ‘Moments at Work’ event, I had to go.

Honesty is crucial in business

Maggie started by asking the audience the simple question: why do you want to be successful? The first few people gave vague accounts of wanting to make life easier for their clients, with one man saying he wants to have the biggest accountancy firm in London.

Then, one woman said: “I just really want to make my mum proud”. Next, a man said he wants to provide his children with a life he had never had and be able to afford their school trips. Finally, some honesty – and exactly what Maggie had wanted. 

The former flanker explained how in both the 2006 and 2010 World Cup campaigns she thought she was part of a team, as the players all subscribed to the generic goal of wanting success, without explaining what success looked like for them. In both World Cups, England lost in the final.

On the eve of the 2014 Rugby World Cup final, the team headed to their rooms and all recorded their very personal reasons for wanting success. 

“I want to show that women with alopecia can be successful”, said one teammate. 

“I just lost my grandad, and I know how much he would have loved to see me win a World Cup”, said another. 

Maggie explained how each player went into the game the following day not thinking about success, but focused on playing to the best of their ability to support each player’s personal dream. That day, England beat Canada 21-9 in the final.

While Maggie was not condoning rugby tackling people in meetings, much to my disappointment, we can all take something from this.

What’s your honest reason for wanting success?

By Jessica Hayden

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