How to be world class: What Bristol Bears physio taught me about leadership

My physio, Ed Wilson, used to be 1st team Physiotherapist at Bristol Bears Rugby. He’s the only therapist able to get results with my husband’s complicated back, so I’m a fan.

Yesterday, while he was treating my dodgy knee, I discovered what makes him a cut above the rest – and how (with courage and discipline) you can apply these lessons to your own leadership.

#1 He Practices what he Preaches

Ed lives and breathes sport, anatomy, injuries, and rehab exercises. In contrast, I once went to a physio who couldn’t demo the exercises on both sides because his core wasn’t strong enough.

Are you expecting your leaders to venture into leadership territory that you’re too lazy/busy/senior to tread?

Are you doing great 121s, giving and asking for feedback, setting clear expectations of performance and not shying away from crucial (sometimes difficult) conversations?

#2 He Is Scrutinised

Working with the Bristol Bears meant Ed couldn’t hide in a clinic. He treated players alongside other physios, doctors, and coaches – and sometimes in front of 25,000 spectators.

As a leader, it takes courage to invite someone to observe you in your natural habitat – but you will only become world class if you welcome scrutiny.

Invite a coach to:

  • observe you running a goal setting session
  • open your strategic map up to interrogation
  • send surveys to your team asking for feedback.

#3 He Doesn’t Pretend to Have all the Answers

Ed couldn’t fake it when he had a top-class players’ career on the line. He didn’t expect to know everything – so he made referrals regularly.

Leadership can be lonely (let alone counterproductive and exhausting) if you keep trying to have all the solutions.

Remember what Steve Jobs said about how “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do.”

If you’re an advice monster, challenge yourself to invite your team to provide solutions.

#4 Continual Learning is Not Optional

Even through lockdown, Ed had to prove he was developing his practice. His professional credibility rests on him proving it.

You don’t always need coaching to develop yourself as a leader – but one thing you must do regularly is reflect.

Regularly ask yourself (and team): What have I learned about myself? What has made me more effective? What behaviours have I tried to stop or start?

Are you a Mountain Gorilla or a Meercat?

One of my favourite activities is observing teams (David Attenborough style) coming together in the wilds of the boardroom. Contact me if you’re interesting in identifying ways you can all become more effective.

And if you live near Bristol and want a top-quality physio, contact Ed Wilson