Understanding High Performance - Enda Lynch Of The Munster Rugby High Performance Leadership Programme

Understanding High Performance - Enda Lynch Of The Munster Rugby High Performance Leadership Programme

October 08 2019

Paul recently had a fascinating talk with Enda Lynch, Head of Enterprise at Munster Rugby. 

Enda runs the Munster Rugby, High Performance Leadership Programme business in partnership with the University of Limerick. 

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Podcast Interview

Ok, let's get into the discussion . . .

About The Munster Rugby High Performance Leadership Programme

Enda Lynch: A number of years ago Munster Rugby realized that we wanted to look at ways in which we weren't reliant on everything that happens on the pitch day to day. We have a phenomenal team and a great brand, but there are times when you need to begin to take a great brand and stretch it in new directions. At the same time, we were moving onto new premises. Our teams had been training in Cork and in Limerick simultaneously and we were moving to a High Performance Center, Munster Rugby's High Performance Center on campus in the University of Limerick and it was the first time our team were going to be in the one place at the one time, all the time.

Enda Lynch: And we realized that by being on campus in the University of Limerick with our own center that we had an opportunity to begin to bring people into our facility and into our environment and allow them to learn a little bit more about how we go about things. And following as anybody does when they're starting a new product, a huge amount of research in the market, we realize that there was a gap for senior leaders who when they started out working, as technology began to develop, you had a fairly good idea of what the end of the month look like at the start of the month.

Enda Lynch: And now because of the pace of which we all work at, if you know what the end of the week or even the end of the day looks like at the start of the day or at the end of the... start of the week, your close on a savant and we are not inherently trained through our youth and through our early teens and into our twenties in how to be resilient to deal with that stress, to deal with that pace.

Enda Lynch: It happens. It is there, but nobody's ever given you former training on it and as a result we have people coming into senior leadership roles and in senior leadership roles and I know of myself, my own experience where at some point you're worried about your leadership style, you're worried about the work output and the load, but you're not thinking about the holistic picture. What is my style of leadership and how is that driving how I manage this? What am I doing to manage myself physically, emotionally, mentally?

Enda Lynch: We're doing it with our players because we have 12 pairs going on the world cup plane to Japan. They are all incredibly resilient, high performing leaders who have to react moment by moment to whatever's happening on the pitch and they have to be resilient enough that when it's a tackle, three seconds later they have to get up and at it again.

Enda Lynch: They score a try, they have to focus and get back at it seconds later. Something may happen off the pitch to them, but they have to be able to switch and focus on what's going on at that moment on the pitch during a major match, a world cup quarterfinal or a semifinal we hope or whatever that is. So we realized that we had the skills and we had been working on this for a number of years and we were able to work with the University of Limerick on creating an opportunity for senior leaders to learn how we do it and what's best in thinking and in theory, bring the two together into a real-life program and that's how the high performance leadership program came about.

Paul Smyth: Great. I mean, you sent me on a deck actually and it talks about the people in UL. Can you give me just a bit of insight into what their involvement is and the different backgrounds briefly that you have?

Munster Rugby High Performance Leadership

Enda Lynch: There's quite a number of people and the program is unique in that regard in that we have most probably one or two individuals leading each. We have eight individuals upfront and then two in the background who support the program. I'll give you an example, Dr. Patrick Ryan who is the head of the psychology department at the University of Limerick and a leading clinical psychologist. You have Dr. Katherine Norton who is a lead nutritionist in the sports science department at the University of Limerick. And Dr. Catherine previously was Munster Rugby's nutritionist, performance nutritionist before she went to the University of Limerick.

Enda Lynch: You have Dr. Brian Carson and Dr. Mark Lyons who run a number of degrees and postgraduate programs on human performance in sport and human performance in general through the sports science department. You have professor John Fahy, John is a lecturer in management to marketing in the University of Limerick in the Irish Management Institute and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Adelaide.

Enda Lynch: The thing about all these great individuals is they are highly qualified, but they are also working a huge amount in the business, and sorry in the workplace and across businesses. So they know the theory, but they're also able to relate that back to experiences with senior leaders very, very quickly.

Enda Lynch: And that's why we selected and worked with them. And that's why the university selected these individuals because they can relate to industry and yet they can bring the theory and the knowledge and deliver it in such a way that you are empowered to know 6, 12, 18 months down the road, why is it that these changes were recommended in my life and why were these things look that, rather than three months, "Hang on, why didn't they tell me that? I can't remember". And that's the skill that they have and that's why we work with them. 

Paul Smyth: I think I mentioned I was in school with Brian. And the thing that's really interesting for me on something that I've only started to pick up on myself and through a coaching qualification that I did recently is that holistic aspect to management and on leadership. And I think the one thing I've noticed that people seem to forget about particularly these days is you're so focused on running your own business or leading a team or whatever it is that you don't focus on yourself and, but by focusing on yourself it actually gives you more opportunity to be that effective leader, to grow that business or to push your Irish operation forward.

Enda Lynch: Yeah. And I think that we do a little bit on the program and I've done in my own life to be honest with you, the wheel of life. There are 168 hours in a week and if you divide up that [inaudible 00:06:52], how many of our quadrants of the types of activity that you do in your life, working, sleeping, family, travel, commute, all those things and then you put in how much time do you spend on yourself. Usually, it's the least. It might get an hour or two a week. Most of the time, even supporting your... if you have kids or you're involved with a community project or anything like that. If life stretches that way for you, you're putting more time into those things than for yourself. And what we ask people to look at is, it's not that you don't have time, you have time. It's what are you doing with that time.

Enda Lynch: So you can exercise. You don't need to go for a three-hour cycle on a Saturday if that's your thing, fantastic. But if all you want to get out is, I want to be healthier. I want to be fitter. I don't want to be sick as often as I was. I want to shed a couple of pounds because I know it's impacting on my ability to have energy going forward through the day. All those types of things. 20, 25 minutes of a workout, three times, four times a week, five if you're lucky, maybe it means you go to bed 20 minutes earlier at night and you get up 20 minutes earlier in the morning. There are small steps you can make, but most people don't view it because they don't ask themselves, what time do I need for myself? Because if the engine isn't running then sure as hell, the work that's coming out at the far side isn't going to be optimal.

Enda Lynch: And you could push 80 hours in a week, but are all 80 really optimizing your time? Are you really getting the best results out of those 80 hours or if you did 55 to 60 hours and put even three or four hours into yourself? All the evidence is there. You will produce the same output, the same work, have better conversations, your mind will be clearer. You'll look after, all of the things we look after, like fueling yourself before you have a major pitch or a meeting or you're going to your investors or you're going for another investment round meeting, or you're meeting Enterprise Ireland. Did you ever stop and went, "Am I ready to go into this? Have I had enough food? Have I fueled myself?", because fuel in, energy out.

Enda Lynch: So if you turn up, I had a coffee at seven o'clock this morning, it's three o'clock in the afternoon and you're in East Point Business Park with Enterprise Ireland. I don't think that meeting's going to go as well as you want it to. But most people don't think that because I'm in charge, I'm running. This is life, this is hectic, but it's okay. I'm going to get there and I collapse at the end of the day.

Enda Lynch: But you're not going to get the results. Like you've said, most people are focused on the results. But the results come from a holistic view of how you are performing.


Paul Smyth: And that's really the thing for me that if your ultimate goal is to build and sell a business or grow as an employee in Ireland, that's fine for that to be your goal. But you do need to look at the other aspects that you don't necessarily prioritize at the minute.

Enda Lynch: Correct. And somebody constantly reminds me, Ireland is a small rock next to another rock on the edge of a massive continent. And when you're setting up, if your ambition is Ireland, you still have to be looking outside of Ireland and think, how am I going to grow? Where am I learning from? And that takes a huge amount of energy as much as time. But if you are not prepared then even your focus on, "I'm focused on Ireland", that's okay. But if you are not focused on yourself, then you're not going to be able to focus on a country.

Enda Lynch: And an entire market because somewhere along the line you're not putting the right time into the right areas that will get you that result.

Paul Smyth: So in terms of the high performance leadership program, who's your target audience or what's your typical students for want of a better term?

Enda Lynch: Very good question. And I'll answer in two parts. Being a typical carrier man, we never answer in one part. The typical audience is anybody at a senior level. Now we'll define that in two ways. One, anybody who, you don't even have to have an interest in rugby. We've had people who've run plants in Poland and the UK and further afield who have no interest in rugby and they've got as much out of it as anyone else. So that's one thing.

Enda Lynch: The second thing is, and by the way, Jerry Flannery does a phenomenal session with us, even though Jerry's no longer a part of the Munster coaching team. Jerry has a number of other businesses and is a very strong leader in his own right and has learned pretty much how we set things out, Jerry is living the values that we talk about and he does an incredibly powerful session on learning to be a leader as you grow businesses and taking from sport into the workplace and the values that he takes from one to the other.

Enda Lynch: You don't need to have any rugby knowledge at all. After that it's... the program is designed for somebody who is in C-suite, so CEO or somebody reporting to CEO or you've identified through your succession planning that somebody is about to make that jump over the next 12 months. And it's about to go from a couple of late nights a year into, life is very different now. Life is going to put an awful lot more pressure on you and you're going to have to respond in different ways and you're going to be traveling and all that. That's that level.

Enda Lynch: Or to an awful lot of your listeners on the podcast, somebody who's building and growing a business who has never actually stood back for five minutes and went, what have I achieved and am I fit for the next stage. And I don't just mean fit, I can run a lap of the pitch.

Enda Lynch: It's am I physically, emotionally, mentally, and as a leader to take the neck, take the business into the next stage. I'm 10 years on the goal, the business has grown, I've come to my investment rounds, but if I want to go again, or even if I'm ready to sell it, am I actually ready to go through the stress of that. And the answer generally is no, you've got to put everything into growing the business. So they're the types of individuals generally that will come on the program.

Paul Smyth: Yeah, and I suppose a lot of the episodes we've had on the podcast so far, have probably been aimed at that kind of junior or mid-tier level, but I suppose I specialize a little bit more in the senior leadership on the executive side of things. And so, a lot of what I see is how do you demonstrate that extra X-factor almost if you're looking at taking on a country manager role for a new Brexit firm that's starting up in Ireland or you're moving into a global head of fund management role or something along those lines. It's that extra one or two percent that you're always looking for.

Enda Lynch: Absolutely. And if you're taking on a global role or you're taking on a more senior role, you might have had five reported to you, suddenly you'll move onto 20. And you'll have PNL of 35 million underneath you. There's a big jump in the time you're going to put in, in the stress. And for most people in Ireland who make those jumps in the travel because it's a go back Ireland, it's a little rock next to another little rock.

Enda Lynch: And the further on you go and earn today and in any, in most businesses you are bound to at some point be traveling and are you looking after yourself when you're... you might be going to a funding round in Chicago and New York, San Francisco. You might be going to the parent company in Berlin or in Munich or whatever. How do you apply the same principles so that when you arrive over there, you're fit for purpose, "Oh well, you know I had a lovely ham sandwich at six o'clock with a little toast on the earliest flight across Europe".

Enda Lynch: Okay, but is that exactly the fuel you need for your funding round pitch at 10 o'clock that morning, or how are you looking after yourself close, and it's not just the physical. It's as a leader, most people who grow into senior roles, have never... there's a thing we talk about quite a lot in the program. We actually bring a guest CEO in for every program and we've had the likes of Anne O'Leary, CEO of Vodafone, that type, Margot Slattery, president of Sodexo who's just become their chief diversity officer globally. That type of individual, every single one of them spoke about becoming very self-aware.

Enda Lynch: And the best leaders are self-aware, but how many people who are growing into leadership are self-aware of their limits, of their style of leadership, what impact that has on their family, on their community, on their workplace, and we actually do a lot of testing before you come on our program to ask you these questions and to ask your family, your community, and your workplace, what sort of leadership does Joe or Mary or anybody have? How does that impact you?

Enda Lynch: And you have to be very self-aware to go, this is feedback that I'm getting that will help me realize that my style of leadership is X. I might be a follower, I might be the Sergeant Major who barks out orders, whatever it is, but once you realize that it begins to open up the challenges that that brings and how you better communicate, how you better manage your people, your time, your life, your style to get better results. And most people don't actually do that and we're going, "You have". The further up you go, you have to be self-aware and ask. "How am I developing and how do I develop myself a leadership?"


Paul Smyth: Yeah. And actually, I think your self-awareness for sure, but it's also how does that style of leadership, how does that impact people? How does that land with people, how is my communication style? Is that working? And being aware of what's around you as well is equally as important I think.

Enda Lynch: Yeah, but we're all, most of us who've been in organizations, or if you're in a start-up, you have to do this yourself, but if you're in a multinational or large organization, at some point most of us have been fortunate to do a 360, but 360s are generally based around peer-to-peer and super easier to reporting and that's fine, but that's only one pillar of your life. And the problem we go on, as I said, your family, kids from the age of 10, your brother, your sister, your partner, your mom, your dad, whoever could go online and do the survey with you are for... to respond back.

Enda Lynch: Generally it's the impact that your style of leadership has on other parts of your life is very much hidden and you don't realize it. "No, no. My partner at home looks after the budget looks after the kids and the whole lot". Then when you up and go, "What do you think of this? What do you think of that?", and if you're not thinking about how am I responding to them as a leader, then you're not seeing how that influences the dynamics of all parts of your life. So you've got to look at it again, you and I've said this word a few times now, holistically. It's not just in work. This is about holistic life performance that ultimately does impact on the bottom line in your office.

Paul Smyth: Yeah. It's funny, it just resonates with me. I think I mentioned we launched a coaching business possible [inaudible 00:18:02] there recently. And a lot of the work I've done through that and even during my own training as a coach, it ends up quite fundamental. And these are kind of base levels that you're working with and all of a sudden you start to knit it all together and choose to do that and work and actually you'll do that at home as well. Just maybe a slightly different lens and I didn't see it before. So, yeah. Really interesting.

Paul Smyth: In terms of people coming on the course, what can they expect or what should they be prepared for?

Enda Lynch: That's a good question. Let's get down to the nitty-gritty for a second. A couple of things there. They have to come with an open mind because within the... in the lead up to the program we do, as I mentioned, the Life360 on that style of leadership. We do a psychological review that they undertake just themselves that then Dr. Patrick assesses with them. When you come on the program, you have one to one time with Dr. Patrick. Your 360 is assessed with you in a one to one with Dr. Nuala Ryan or the support to Cooke is our HR director.

Enda Lynch: They're both practicing specialist in organizational behavior. And they'll take you through a one to one what your 360 is actually saying about you. So physically, or sorry, emotionally and mentally and as a leader we've begun to break down the base scores around the particular life.

Enda Lynch: And then when you come to the program, we do about two hours of the physical test programs. So your bloods are taken, your body scan. We do a very simple fitness test called the Cooper test, which is a 12 minute run around an indoor track in UL. How far can you go in five minutes if you've never run, that's no problem, you can walk. If you have problems with your knees, okay we'll get a bike.

Enda Lynch: There are ways in which we check it, but eventually within two hours of arriving in the program, physically, emotionally, mentally, and as a leader, we've presented you with what everyone and your own body's telling you about your performance. And then we spend the next few days, 25% looking at energy, which is a lot of it is around your nutrition and your mental energy, emotionally through Patrick Ryan and understanding stress in the workplace and how you manage your psychological performance in the workplace and the weaknesses that are inherent in all of us and how we recognize those.

Enda Lynch: We spend 25% of the time on understanding that exercise is medicine. Exercise is fundamental to a strong person and a strong performance and this can be very simple. I myself, I used to run, I did up to a marathon, but I was always overweight, it was never working for me. Then I've through this program learned, 20 minutes with my own body weight, three times a week and suddenly everything began to happen for me and I began to feel a lot fresher and fit and all that stuff.

Enda Lynch: Very simple things around the physical side and then the last 25% is on Authentic Leadership. What is your style? How do you recognize it? How do you recognize the challenges that brings? What does that sound like coming from the CEO, from the charity, and from others? We divide up the next two and a quarter days looking at each of those four pillars, fitness to perform, personal balance and alignment, energy management and authentic leadership. Knowing the scores that you have from all those areas we've tested to give back to you to go, this is where you are. How can we help? So that's what the two and a half days are about.

Paul Smyth: Great. And in terms to go out south, it's run in Cork, isn't it?

Enda Lynch: Limerick in our High Performance Center in Limerick.

Paul Smyth: Oh, Limerick. Sorry. I thought it was Cork.

Enda Lynch: No. At the University of Limerick's campus, we have our high-performance centers as I mentioned earlier. And your a resident and you're by the Castletroy Hotel and you're with us for two and a half days. And we always run Wednesday to Friday. And we will always get you home to those or most important who are the people who gave you feedback that you weren't expecting, which is your family and friends. So we get you home on Friday night in time to settle in with them before you go back to work on Monday.

Paul Smyth: Before I let you go, what are your thoughts on the Rugby World Cup?

Enda Lynch: I'm really looking forward to it. I think Joel Schmidt has created an environment in Irish Rugby where we have accelerated our ability to perform far beyond where we ever were and we're thrilled here at Munster that we have 12 of our colleagues heading across the most we've ever had. The last time it was 20 or seven, when we also had 12 and you've got to remember then we were winning European cups and all that.

Enda Lynch: So it's testament to the squad that we have 12 going. So we're excited, it is cool. One way or the other, if we get out of our group, there is a very strong chance it's New Zealand or South Africa and that in itself is a World Cup Final. Both Joel, we'll have them ready and I think the camp in Portugal and the warm weather training, people don't seem to remember that Japan would be somewhere in the region of about 27 degrees and 90% humidity in most of the time of playing a game.

Enda Lynch: The ability for guys to play in that heat and the weather will be of vital importance. And I think he has them in the best shape, he's made some horrifically hard calls without naming one player over another. There are some really hard calls, but a guy who can make those calls shows somebody who's just prepared to make decisions that need to be made to get the best performance when we get there and he's proven it time and again that he knows the answers better than anyone here.

Paul Smyth: Great. And I really think it's a really interesting program that you run genuinely.

Enda Lynch: Thank you.

How To Contact Enda Lynch & The Munster Rugby High Performance Leadership Programme

You can email Enda at [email protected] or go onto the Munster Rugby, High Performance Leadership Programme website.

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