Ben Ryan is best known for coaching the Fiji 7s Rugby team to a gold medal in sevens rugby at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The gold medal was the first ever medal won by Fiji at any Olympics. In his keynotes, Ben highlights essential insights into authentic leadership, mindful development, open communication and high-performance cultures. Ben Ryan’s extraordinary experience coaching the Fiji Rugby 7s team provides invaluable lessons and the kind of versatile messages and ideas that are applicable to any organisation or team. Moreover, Ryan is a world-class expert in ways to channel motivation and unleash performance within teams; utilising methods based on his successful experience as a rugby coach.
Ben Ryan was awarded the Companion of the Order of Fiji.
What are the main factors of success, applicable to the business industry, that you have learned from your experience as a rugby coach?
You know, I don’t think sport and business are transferable on every level. There are many, many points of difference that make some of the sports and business comparisons sound very superficial. However, there are some commonalities that do hold true and one is creating a clear black and white culture and environment within which you can allow those involved real psychological clarity and safety to be their best.
In your recent book, “Sevens Heaven: The Beautiful Chaos of Fiji’s Olympic Dream”, you mention that you had never been to Fiji before coaching the Fiji 7s rugby team with the aim of taking them to the nation’s first-ever Olympic medal. What was your reaction at first?
I felt so far out of my comfort zone in those opening days and weeks in Fiji. So much was unknown and alien to me. So I really worked on listening and understanding the challenges and cultures I was about to risk my career living and working in.
What did you find most challenging throughout your career?
The challenges have varied as I’ve worked in different environments at different stages of my career, but the common thread has been setting and enforcing clear standards and values, and managing relationships. I’m really confident in how I approach those challenges now but I learnt nearly all of that from disappointments and failures along the way.
Did you ever doubt that the Fiji 7s rugby team would win the gold medal whilst you were coaching them?
My first week in Fiji I found out that the team was bankrupt, had no sponsors, funding from world rugby had stopped, no players were paid or contracted, my boss was the military dictator of the country, and finally that they wouldn’t be able to pay me and I would have to live on the other side of the world and be a volunteer for free for the first five months! With all that buzzing around me, I could also clearly see what was needed and when, so we could achieve our goal of the country’s first Olympic medal and a gold one at that. So no, I never doubted it.
How would you define the notion of performance?
In essence, it’s allowing everyone to be their very best version within a clearly defined and measurable environment.
With the Olympics Games coming this year, is there anything that you would like to change today in the rugby environment?
I think the game could apply some laws and simplify others to attract more players and fans in the future.
You are currently working on a film about the Fiji 7s Rugby Team’s story. Could you tell us more about this project?
I can’t tell you too much I’m afraid! I’ve signed a heap of NDAs but I can say it will be a well-budgeted, high-profile feature film that will be released globally. It’s incredibly exciting!
What is your favourite quote?
“The standard you walk past is the standard you become.”
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