(As published in the Sunday Star Times, Sunday February 1, 2015)
Whether you like cricket or not, it is highly unlikely that you are unaware of the building success of our national cricket team. From zeros to heroes, some are saying about their streak to success. So how has a previously out-and-out team with major issues sorted itself out so quickly to become close to world-beaters? There are some great learnings for us businesspeople in the Black Caps recent history…
Mike Hesson, in his role as Black Caps coach, is like the owner of a business. Win or lose, most responsibility lies with him. Pretty much, he takes all the good and the bad on his shoulders. But the perception of him is that he’s a little bit maverick – like many of the most successful businesspeople often are. Think the Mad Butcher and Richard Branson and. They all think outside the box and know the rules but bend (or break them) in their innovative approach to business.
When Mike took over the Black Caps, it did not start well. Mike made a few changes (the team and approach etc) and ouch, the South African test series in 2012 was among the worse losses we have ever had. It was like a business not being far off bankruptcy. Partly he probably was let down by his players’ mental aptitude. The lesson here? In business (like in sport), when things are not going well, you need to get to the nub of the issues, consider the different options to fix those issues and systematically implement your ideas to fix the issues. You must do this in a prioritised way.
We also all know part of the improvement plan (in Mike’s head) was to change the captaincy. This was generally viewed as a process that wasn’t carried out as well as it could have been. Lesson in business: communication really matters, as does trust, but sometimes you actually have to make really hard decisions that not everybody will like. This includes redundancies. That is all part of being a leader. Not everybody is going to be your best friend.
In building an A-team at the Black Caps, some people who might be world-beaters on their day are no longer in the team. It takes real guts to leave out 1 or 2 of the best players in the world from your team because you know the impact on your team (business) culture is potentially negative and that you have to uphold certain standards. It has to be one rule for all – you can’t be pussy-footing around your best performers and giving them special treatment. Is there anybody in your team or business who is having a majorly negative impact on your culture? Culture is a huge driver of team performance – fix it!
Once we win the World Cup (ha), I will no doubt write about Brenden McCullum’s leadership virtues but he has really (positively) surprised me with his leadership of the team. With the help of his coach, he has been able to be very strategic in how we go about winning games, plus he has the team all singing from the same song sheet on the field. One of his biggest strengths is that he leads by example – a few years ago, who would have thought that Brenden would be as humble a leader as he is a today. Our business lesson here: a business owner needs the best managers in place to maximise success. Are the managers in your business walking the talk? Do you have anyone in a leadership position who shouldn’t be? What will you do about it?
Bruce Edgar has come to the fore of late as Mike Hesson’s main advisor around selection (and more, no doubt). All businesses need a smart external advisor to give them some reality checks and to be a sounding board in big or difficult decisions. Mike got one of the best in cricket. Have you got a great external advisor? If not, find one.
Perhaps the biggest reason why the Black Caps have become so good is both consistency and also the fact that if one player fails, another is there to step up to deliver towards a winning team performance. There are many elements at play here (‘scuse the sporting pun) in their success, but a lot of it will fall back to culture, self-belief and the fact the right people are on the bus. Sometimes we feel that a player is given one too many chances but man, do they eventually come through and deliver, thanks to people management and having a development plan for the player. Who in your business has the makings of greatness but is not quite there? What is really holding them back and how can you really help them address this? Where does your business lack consistency and how do you fix this? This should come through in your business planning and strategy.
So what hard decisions do you need to make today to help your business go forward and succeed? What are you going to do about them? Go the Black Caps!
Zac de Silva is a business coach, speaker and director who owns www.businesschanging.com and also delivers a business bootcamp intensive. He was recently awarded International Business Coach of the Year.