Munster High Performance Leadership Programme all about 'finding your voice', says Enda Lynch

Qualification for the Champions Cup knockout stages for a record 17th time last week may have sent head coach Johann van Graan off for a week’s holiday in fine fettle.

 Securing an equally unprecedented 10th home quarter-final against Toulon on March 31 will have been music to the ears of Munster’s business bosses.

Yet everyone in the organisation knows that in the current economic climate, when success on the pitch may come and go, it has to find ways to wash its face away from the sporting arena.

Enda Lynch is the person charged with doing just that. As Munster’s Head of Enterprise his task is to strengthen its financial base with alternatives to the core product and the Kerryman is very pleased indeed with the province’s first such venture.

Lynch yesterday waved goodbye to 16 satisfied customers at the conclusion of Munster’s first High Performance Leadership Programme, which it has started in partnership with the University of Limerick.

Building on the success of pilot programmes it ran last year using the state of the art facilities and “best practice” knowhow of both the professional sports team at its High Performance Centre on the UL campus and the university, the HPLP appears to be living up to the sales pitch of providing a “best-in-class development opportunity” for business leaders.

Doug Howlett, who succeeded Lynch as Munster commercial and marketing manager last September, was something of a guinea pig for the programme. 

The former All Black and Heineken Cup winner has a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) qualification from UCC but he found his participation on the pilot programme to be extremely beneficial.

“It’s valuable as a tool and I guess it’s outside the usual courses that are out there because there are, for instance, modules on managing well-being and energy management,” Howlett told the Irish Examiner.

“A lot of the time you could be just depleting your energy and then you can’t function. I understand that having come from a high-performance sporting environment where you need to be on top of your game physically and mentally. Bringing that into the boardroom is a point of difference for us and this programme. It’s an exciting opportunity.

“It is a crowded market, however, the unique selling point is that you have the team, Munster Rugby, coupled with leading academic thinking and that’s a mix that we feel is a good one.”

Lynch said the intensive two and a half day programme, which will also run in April and May this year and costs €4,900 per person, is aimed at senior executives or people on the “next rung down” who have been earmarked for senior leadership.

There are a handful of similar programmes in the US, in Australia, and Switzerland but Lynch said Munster were breaking new ground.

“They all have some form of physical and leadership piece but what they don’t have is being on-site at a university nor alongside a professional sports organisation.

“If you want to be a high-performing leader then you need to look at sport. Sport builds people to be high-performing individuals who can make decisions at a second’s notice that can have a phenomenal impact on a game or result and on a whole organisation. You can take an awful lot of learnings from them and apply them to senior leadership in the workplace and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re on-site at the University of Limerick, one of the best universities there is, and you have some great talent there.”

Former Munster Rugby lead nutritionist and UL faculty member Dr Catherine Norton, leading clinical psychologist Dr Patrick Ryan and the resources of UL’s Physical Education and Sports Sciences department led by Gary Ryan are among the think tank available to executives on the programme.

Before participants arrive at the Munster HPC, they must complete a Life 360 review encompassing that person’s impact on their work, home and their community.

One week out from the programme, they are sent a Polar Watch fitness tracker device which allows Munster to track energy and movement levels, and sleep patterns, to understand what type of individual is coming, and enables the programme to be tailored accordingly when they do pitch up to the UL campus.

Bloods are taken on arrival to build a physiological picture of cholesterol, blood sugars and other key indicators and the 360 review is assessed.

“It’s about creating a benchmark for the individual. It’s not a competition with the other 15 people on the programme or with anyone else in your company. You set a benchmark and the goals you want to get to. We help devise the mechanics to get there and inform on the best way to do it yourself. It’s not telling you what to do but understanding why you’re doing it. All of it underpins how you are going to become a better leader for your organisation and a better all-around individual for personal and work life.”

After those initial assessments and review, there is a mix of lectures, practical demonstrations and a chance to spend some time over an evening meal with Munster players and management about how they apply all of those principles covered to be a high performer.

“We allow you to understand the cross-paths that exist between sport and senior leadership,” Lynch adds. The Head of Enterprise believes that the meal - this past week’s intake spent time with players Tommy O’Donnell and Ronan O’Mahony - as well as a keynote speech from Jerry Flannery, who aside from being Munster forwards coach successfully balances a business career and home family life, underpinned everything else covered in the programme.

“That leadership piece really elevated the programme for us. It’s all about authentic leadership and how you have to find your voice as a leader. Everyone who came on this HPL programme was either a managing director or senior executive and we found that they discussed their challenges with each other while discussing their true leadership voice.

“Then we had Jerry giving his perspective on balancing all that and the other important elements in his life, and the benefits one can have on the other and articulating the lessons he has learned and those sessions were so well received.

It allows you understand there are different ways of being a leader and you have to find what your one is for each aspect of that 360 life.”

Lynch cites a testimonial from an earlier participant in the programme, John Brennan, a director with Tesco Ireland who completed the course and said: “It changed my life”.

The course, it seems appeals in specific areas and holistically.

“People have got their blood test results and discovered they were not at all where they thought they were and they needed to take some immediate action,” Lynch added.

“Others found their energy levels increased dramatically by following the very basic practical guidelines that we set for them. They stuck to the goals that they had set out for themselves and found their energy levels went through the roof. They were able to get through so much more in a day and manage the balance between work life and home life.

“So we’ve seen those moments of instant reward already and realised that there is a very strong idea here and something we want to drive on with and preach the gospel a bit further. As well as have a bit of fun doing it.” 



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