What the All Blacks can teach us about being a better businessperson.
The New Zealand All Blacks success rate over the last 100 years has remained around the 76% mark, which given the numerous changes seen within the sport during this time, the figure is outstanding, not matched by any other professional sports team. However, when you consider that this was not always the case and looking back through the sometimes, “All Black” history of the team, it’s surprising the team still exists in a professional capacity at all today.
In 2004, something was seriously wrong. The All Blacks lacked discipline, and were starting to be known for being drunk and disorderly, two words that were never in the same sentence as “All Black” and to make things worse, they were losing.
In response, a new management team under Graham Henry was parachuted in and began to rebuild the world’s most successful sporting team from the inside out.
The first thing they set out to do was create fresh approach that emphasised personality and leadership. So a “Mantra” was instilled into the players, the coaching team, the support teams and every single person that supported the All Blacks, around ‘Better People Make Better All Blacks’.
Ok, but do we really believe a manta changed all that was wrong with the All Blacks and made such a massive impact on rugby players? Well the results speak for themselves; win-rates of 86% were starting to be seen and a World Cup win!
If we take this back to our business environments, and we all started to achieve wins or conversion rates of 86%, I’m sure you’d all agree that we would have very successful businesses.
As we know, today there is a very fine line between professional sports men and women, and what it takes to become successful in business. We see more and more professional sports people taking up senior roles within some of the top companies across the world. I thought perhaps this couldn’t simply be down to having a famous name or being part of a famous team.
Being an avid rugby fan and following the All Blacks for many years throughout my rugby career, I wanted to look at the tips and tactics the All Blacks can teach us, that may lead to success no matter what our chosen career / business path.
Here’s what I found – The 5 top All Blacks tips:
1) Sweep the Decks
Before leaving the dressing room at the end of the game, some of the most famous names in world rugby – including Richie McCaw and Dan Carter – stop and tidy up after themselves. They literally ‘sweep the decks’.
They describe it as an example of humility, a true All Blacks value.
Though it might seem strange for a team of sheer dominance, humility is one of their core values to their culture. The All Blacks believe that it’s impossible to achieve success without having your feet planted firmly on the ground.
2) Follow the spearhead
Whanau means ‘extended family’ and in Maori it’s symbolised by the spearhead.
So, as part of the mantra instilled by Henry back in 2004, he added – ‘No D*******s’, a term he stole from the Sydney Swans.
It’s a very known fact in today’s rugby world that the All Blacks select on character as well as talent, which why some of the best players never become an All Black because they are classed as considered d*******s, by selectors & management and goes against the Whanau.
3) Champions do extra.
Former All Black Brad Thorn’s mantra, ‘Champions Do Extra’, helped him become one of the single most successful players in rugby history.
The philosophy simply means finding ways to do more, this could simply be in the gym or in the classroom, this is very similar to the “marginal gains” quote used by Team Sky.
4) Keeping a blue head.
After working with a sports psychologist the All Blacks wanted to overcome their habit of failing at the last minute. So they looked at a method called “Red or Blue heads”.
‘Red Head’ is an unresourceful state in which you are off task, panicked and ineffective.
‘Blue Head’ is an optimal state in which you are on task and performing to your best ability.
The All Blacks have taught themselves to use mental triggers to switch from a Red to Blue head.
Richie McCaw stamps his feet, which is what he calls “grounding himself”.
Players have stated that using these mental triggers to achieve mental focus, so they can perform under pressure much better.
5) Leave the jersey in a better place.
The All Blacks have a saying: ‘leave the jersey in a better place’, meaning that their one task is to respectfully represent all those who have come before them – from Michael Jones to Jonah Lomu, and all those who will come to put on the jersey in the future. An All Black is one of the biggest role models to schoolchildren all across New Zealand.
Although we have looked at an example of one specific game and one specific, but highly successful team in rugby, by understanding the All Blacks “team” responsibilities it creates a compelling sense of higher purpose. It’s a good lesson for us all: if we play a bigger game, we play a more effective game.
Better people make better All Blacks – but they also make better doctors and lawyers, bankers and businessmen, fathers, brothers, and friends.
Looking back over the 5 points, if each of us were to instil some of these values into our businesses, then do we create a mantra of our own and a sense of “team” which in turn leads to success?
- Sweep the decks – Leading by example within our businesses can only bring humility to all those who are helping us build our business and achieve the goals we set ourselves.
- Follow the spearhead – Our companies culture is one of the main parts of our companies brand, bypassing the “D*******s” then surely we ensure that our culture and company remains a good place to work, achieve, learn, develop and strive to meet our own goals.
- Champions do extra – By making very small gains in all areas of our businesses, whether it’s better reporting for clients or being able to offer flexible working hours might not seem like massive differences compared to our competitors. If it makes a difference to our staff and existing clients, do they remain with the company and want to achieve for the company?
- Keeping a blue head – Focus, focus, focus. I for one are guilty of this one, and at times need to refocus my efforts to ensure I meet my goals for both personal work and for my business. Ok perhaps not stamping my feet in the office, but simply walking away from the MAC for a few mins, might help me refocus on the problem at hand.
- Leave the jersey in a better place – Yes, this is very apt for something as prestigious as the All Blacks jersey, but if we instil this into every person that comes into contact with our business, surely we will notice the difference almost immediately. Imagine the accountant who leaves your books in a better place than when they found them!