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Business Lessons From the All Blacks

Working on making the players better on and off the pitch has been an essential ingredient of their continued success in world rugby.
04 Jul 2021 16:43
Business Lessons From the All Blacks
Team AB.

Sport is a lot like business.
You have to work together as a team to compete against other competitors in order to achieve victory.
Yet no matter how hard you work, that outcome always has an element of uncertainty.
The question is, how can you move the odds in your favour so that you win more than you lose?
The answer may be to look at how successful sports teams perform.
This weekend the All Blacks start their 2021 season with a match against Tonga and while no one will be able to predict what will happen this season it is widely expected that the All Blacks will continue their record of being the most successful rugby team of all time with a winning percentage of close to 80 per cent.
This prolonged success is the envy of not only other rugby teams but also all teams in sport and business.
Therefore, by exploring what makes the All Blacks so successful we can find valuable lessons that we can apply to our own teams in business regardless of the industry we find ourselves in.

Focus on behaviour rather than outcomes
A key aspect of the All Blacks success is where they place their focus.
Instead of the usual approach of focusing on the result, they focus on having an 80 minute performance because they know if they do what is necessary which is to have a great performance for instance, make their tackles, clean passes, no penalties and more, then they will win the game.
They can’t control the result because the opposition may play amazingly or they may make mistakes.
The referee may have a great game or not, yet the All Blacks can drive what is within their control which is their performance.
In business we can do the same by identifying what behaviours the team needs to adopt, which if performed correctly will produce the required results.
This is not easy but I’ve helped many leaders do this and they have found that performance increases because by breaking down their business into practical simple steps.
It empowers the team, making them responsible for their own performance, and its impact on the wider team.

Adopt a collective leadership model.
I recall a story from Dan Carter, one of the greatest rugby players of all time.
He spoke about when he was on tour in the United Kingdom with the All Blacks and one night he went drinking with some friends and lost track of time.
When he returned to the hotel, he was way past the curfew time and he knew he was in trouble.
Yet while he was worried about what the coaches would say, he was more worried about what his teammates would say.
The All Blacks adopted a collective leadership model which means that teammates hold each other accountable for their actions.
In business when there’s a problem, particularly within a team, someone escalates the issue to the boss for them to deal with and that’s fine.
But with the better teams I worked with, they don’t escalate issues which they can take care of themselves.
By this, I don’t mean serious code of conduct issues but whenever someone lets the team down then the team addresses the issue immediately.
This is a far more quicker and effective way of leading a team with a collective approach.

Create a meaning greater than the individual.
You have to be an incredibly talented player in order to become an All Black.
Even if you are a very special individual, when you become part of the team you are made aware that no matter how talented you are the All Blacks jersey is not yours.
Instead, you are its custodian and it’s your role to leave the jersey in a better place than it was when you were given it.
The All Blacks jersey may be made of simple fabric but it stands for so much more. By wearing it you are representing your family, your community, your country and walking in the footsteps of those who have gone before you.
In business you need to ask yourself what is your purpose, what is it that your team actually does and most importantly why.
It needs to be more than a product or service.
Think of the people who are impacted by what you do.
You need to create a meaning for your team that is greater than the individual and like the All Black’s jersey is more than a jersey, people’s jobs have to be more than just a job.

It has to stand for something more.
Give people something to believe in and they will surprise you with the motivation they bring to the team.
Talent is nothing without the right attitude.
There have been many talented players who never become regular All Blacks because talent is only one part of becoming an All Black.
You also need to have the right attitude, a willingness to put the needs of the team ahead of their own personal ambition.
When asked about his coaching philosophy, former coach Sir Graham Henry, summed it up as “better men make better All Blacks, it’s really about self improvement.”
Working on making the players better on and off the pitch has been an essential ingredient of their continued success in world rugby.
In business, too often I see poor behaviour being overlooked or justified because of their position within a company or their performance.
Yet we need to learn from the All Blacks and not only appreciate but encourage qualities such as humility, respect and honesty.
And be prepared to turn away people with poor attitudes regardless of their technical ability because the benefits their talent brings are no where as much as the negative impact that their attitude will have on the wider team.

Better people make better teams.
Leading a team is tough.
You have many obstacles standing between you and success especially in today’s unpredictable business landscape.
But no matter how tough it may seem there’s always a path to victory and to find that path we need to sometimes look outside our usual scope of vision and take lessons from teams like the All Blacks who have discovered a recipe for continuous success and apply those lessons in our own workplace.

Mark Wager is an international leadership expert who regularly runs programmes in Fiji. Mark can be contacted at

Mark@Leadership.com.fj



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