What can you and your team learn from the All Blacks? (or any great sports team)

We coach, develop and work alongside leaders and teams to shift ideas on leadership and provide the skills and tools needed to grow teams.

Photos: odt.co.nz, news.bbcimg.co.uk, i.telegraph.co.uk

Photos: odt.co.nz, news.bbcimg.co.uk, i.telegraph.co.uk

Each winter the international rugby season kicks off for another year and I was pondering what lessons we can learn from one of the best teams in the business. There are some things that are just plain obvious. Such as:

  • Focusing on one goal – winning a game, a cup or a championship

  • Working on executing great teamwork

  • Getting the best from your players

But under each of these obvious factors, there are some less obvious and yet valuable lessons to be learned:

Focus on One Goal

Obvious translation: Have a compelling goal or vision of success

The less obvious

What they do: Great teams set clear challenges and goals throughout the season with the long term success in mind. They prepare for each game with clear objectives, focus and discipline. They see even the easier opponents as an opportunity to test new strategies, combinations and players in new roles. They try to anticipate risks (like the loss of a player or surprises offered up by the opponent) and practice how to handle those events.

What you could do:

1. Get your team to set itself some challenging short-term team goals.  Have a clear and shared view of what the team is looking to achieve in the long run and then, with the team, break this down into short term achievable stretch goals.

2. Get the team to plan together how they will execute on each short term goal.  Get the team to construct a reasonably detailed approach to achieving those goals and identify the obstacles that they may need to overcome. Time spent planning this is well invested. Not only does it provide clarity of what the team needs to do, but also gets them engaged and motivated to do it.

Work on executing great teamwork

Obvious translation: have everyone recognise that for the team to succeed, they have to collaborate well as individuals with each of the other team members.

The less obvious

What they do: Great sports teams spend lots of time reflecting and discussing how to ‘execute teamwork’.

They do this by reviewing what is working well and what could be better. They do this using the team itself (not only the coaches) to look at how the team can perform better, both on and off the field.  They identify new practices and game strategies that can make the team more successful and then work exhaustively to get the players to blend their skills into flawless execution.

What you could do:

1. Set aside time with your team to talk about what works well, and how people could work even better together. Don’t shy away from the tough conversations, and don’t let your team do that either.

2. Get your team members to help you review how the team’s work could be done better, faster, with fewer resources at a higher quality. Start this process by regularly getting them to focus on fixing the niggles that get in the way of higher team performance.

Get the best from your players

Obvious translation: get the best players you can for your team and then support them to do their work.

The less obvious

What they do: Beyond trying to select the best ‘in form’ players, great sport teams look at the strengths of each player they have, further develop those strengths and look for new ways the team can blend and capitalise on those strengths.

They also spend a lot of time finding ways to extend each player in their primary role and then expect them to have enough flexibility to take on at least one other role where they can back up another player if there is an injury.

What you could do:

1. Discover your team member’s strengths.  Don’t assume you know them just from having watched them do their work. People often do work well, but don’t really enjoy it. They can even be de-motivated by doing some things they do well because they’ve been doing them too long. Try asking them what they most enjoy doing, what they most want to learn and what they want to become masters of. This is the key to discovering what is likely to be their real areas of strength or future strength (as opposed to just their talents).

2. Challenge your team members to keep growing. Get them to think of and try new creative ideas to improve the team and how it works. Organise them to be able to learn enough of the key aspects of each other’s jobs to be able to back each other up in a crisis. Challenge them to develop in areas that they and the team will benefit from and support them to apply these new skills back in the team.

Our challenge to you is take some of these ideas and test it with your team. What do they think is worth trying? And then help them be successful with it. Good luck!

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