You will often hear business leaders talk about how the culture within a company directly influences the success, or lack thereof, of their team achieving their collective goals.
For me culture is driven by great leadership and the installation of parameters which allow personnel carrying out their duties the greatest chance at success. Whether that is through the outline of framework in which they must operate or the provision of autonomous freedom to pursue their ideas, alluding to the adage that “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do”, it differs greatly between each and every enterprise.
Establishment of and continued focus on company culture is something which sounds entirely pretentious yet it is an essential necessity in modern businesses in order to attract talent and establish continued growth.
Culture is born when the initial embers of the company are stoked and this is how the future culture is set in motion. It all begins with the visionary leadership principals of the founder/general manager/CEO but they must possess the capability to implement his dreams as reality and have other follow. If nobody follows your culture is only a pipe dream. The following 5 principals that follow are my take on what it takes to produce great teams which constantly endeavour to exceed expectations and goals:
Character & Humility
Prior to leaving the changing room after each training session or game, the most famous names in world rugby — including Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Mils Muliana — stay behind and tidy up after themselves. They literally and figuratively ‘sweep the sheds’.
Former All Black Andrew Mehrtens describes it as an example of personal humility, a cardinal All Blacks value.
Though it might seem strange for a team of imperious dominance, humility is core to their culture. The All Blacks believe that it’s impossible to achieve stratospheric success without having your feet planted firmly on the ground. To me this is the most important element in the establishment of any culture.
Being a leader involves setting an example and showing those who follow you the path to success. Doing the little things and allowing your team to see you are not above doing anything that needs to be done creates a link between the leader and his team which makes them more inclined to appreciate what needs to be done. The culture is established by the leader and followed by the team
Follow the spearhead
In Maori, whanau means ‘extended family’. It’s symbolised by the spearhead.
Though a spearhead has three tips, to be effective all of its force must move in one direction. Hence the All Blacks mantra ‘No Dickheads’, a term shamelessly stolen from the Sydney Swans rugby team.
The All Blacks select on character as well as talent, which means some of New Zealand’s most promising players never pull on the teams jersey — considered dickheads, their inclusion would be detrimental to the whanau and prevent the collective advancement and growth of the team.
The same applies to buisness. This is a hugely important element of the leadership that is often forgotten and highlights the importance of selecting the right personnel who align with the companies ethos.
The smartest potential hire might not always be the best hire.
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 incremental ways to do more — in the gym, on the field, or for the team. It is much like the philosophy of marginal gains used by Team Sky.
A focus on continual improvement, the creation of a continual learning environment, and a willingness to spill blood for the jersey was at the core of Graham Henry’s All Black culture.
This is something you must follow every single day, you can’t choose to take days of from excellence; you either are or you aren’t.
How can you do more and how can you improve yourself today with view to the challenges tomorrow? I constantly appraise my skills and seek ways in which I can learn to improve both myself and my team.
Keep a blue head
Following their premature exit at the 2003 World Cup, the All Blacks worked with forensic psychiatrist Ceri Evans to understand how the brain works under pressure. They wanted to overcome their habit of choking.
‘Red Head’ is an unresourceful state in which you are off task, panicked and ineffective. ‘Blue Head’, on the other hand, is an optimal state in which you are on task and performing to your best ability.
The All Blacks use triggers to switch from Red to Blue. Richie McCaw stamps his feet, literally grounding himself, while Kieran Read stares at the farthest point of the stadium, searching for the bigger picture.
Keeping calm in the face of adversity is the most important aspect of business.
“If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too.” If by Roger Kipling.
I constantly look for external ideas as examples of great leadership.
There is a Maori concept I recently read about which inspired me, whakapapa, which captures the idea of our ancestry from the start until the end of time. The All Blacks strive to ‘add to the legacy’ to everything they do personally, knowing that higher purpose leads to higher performance collectively.
The result of an extraordinary environment is extraordinary results.
Organisations that know what they stand for — and most importantly, why — consistently outperform those who do not. They achieve better commercial results, deliver higher shareholder value, attract better talent and retain it.
Clearly, many of the challenges business leaders face are different to those of the All Blacks. Scale creates complexity, individual ambition can trump a collective spirit, organisational structure often undermines strategy.
Nevertheless, if we seek to align all our people, resources and effort around a singular and compelling central narrative, and reinforce that story through communications, rewards, resourcing and training, the results will come
Where I put This Culture to Work
I’m building Cleeyk; a lifestyle management system alleviating life’s biggest annoyances; wasted time and effort. It removes your need to worry about insurance renewals and monthly subscription services, ensuring you never talk to another call centre or haggle on price again. Your services renew automatically at the most cost efficient price meaning you never have to search or compare.
We also review what you pay for your monthly subscription services in comparison to other users on the platform and negotiate on your behalf to reduce all your costs to the lowest price possible. Let me know what you think.