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​What the All Blacks can teach the channel about leadership

“For many years I've believed there are some strong synergies between sport and business leadership.”
All Blacks - 2015 Rugby World Cup Champions

All Blacks - 2015 Rugby World Cup Champions

By now, you’ve probably heard that the All Blacks won the 2015 Rugby World Cup at the weekend, defeating arch rivals Australia in the process.

In doing so, the pride of New Zealand became the first country to win the most coveted prize in world rugby three times, and back-to-back for good measure also.

As a result, the current world champions are being labelled the greatest team to have ever played the game, and some even say, to have ever played sport in history.

Since their international debut in 1903 only five nations have defeated New Zealand in test matches, with the All Blacks boasting a win ratio of almost 80 percent for over more than 100 years.

In the last four years alone they have played over 50 games, but perhaps more importantly, lost just three times.

For many years I've believed there are some strong synergies between sport and business leadership.

The leadership skills and success factors we talk about in business can also be applied to sport, and vice-versa.

So, what’s driving this phenomenally successful sports team, and are there some learnings we can apply to how we do business?

Here’s four key things I believe businesses can learn from the All Blacks:

1. Get your head right:

Enter Gilbert Enoka. Gilbert holds the title of Mental Skills Coach with the All Blacks, and is described by Head Coach Steve Hansen as the “glue” that holds the All Blacks together.

A few years ago Enoka sought outside help from Gazing Performance Systems, a British company that was initially set up to help sales companies.

Gazing works off the premise that when you’re thinking clearly and are fully engaged you will make your best decisions, which he calls “blue-head thinking”.

Conversely, when you are distracted and are experiencing intrusive thoughts - which might manifest itself into stress, frustration or anger - then you are in “red-head” mode.

“The brain is made up of three parts: instinct, emotion and thinking,” Enoka explains. "What often happens under pressure is that the thinking shuts down so you are relying on emotion and instinct.

“That in turn means you can no longer pick up the cues and information to make good decisions.”

Therefore, as leaders we need to teach our people how to use their “blue-head” and not their “red head” in order to ensure they make the right decisions under pressure.

And one of the most effective ways to do this is to lead by example - it’s easier to be calm and rational if your leaders are doing the same.

2. Vision:

For many teams, winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup four years ago would have been enough.

Instead the All Blacks set themselves the goal of being the most dominant and successful team in the history of the sport - everything they do is focused on that one overarching goal.

The most successful teams I’ve seen in business do the same. They define what success looks like, have a strong vision, everyone knows what that vision is, and how they will play their part in achieving it.

3. Success breeds success:

When a sports or business team learns the ingredients to success then they will repeat that success over and over again.

Spiro Zavos, the respected Australian-based rugby journalist calls this tendency and intention to win every game the “Weight of Wins” theory.

It’s simple - the more you win, the more likely you are to win. You are more likely to win because you know how to win. Thus, the mantra “winning is a habit”.

As leaders it’s our responsibility to nurture that and remind our teams why they are successful, so they keep doing the right things.

Many businesses don't take the time to do this, and instead their focus moves on to the next sale, product launch or deal.

We analyse our losses but do we fully understand why we are successful?

4. Self-belief:

This comes from a team that knows what they need to do to win, and have leaders that foster this belief.

As All Blacks captain Richie McCaw noted after the final; “there was a quiet satisfaction in a job well done, rather than jumping around and going completely nuts, because the team expected to win the tournament if they performed to their potential.”

Who knows for how long the All Blacks can sustain this remarkable level of performance.

The Australian Wallabies have shown what they can achieve having improved from a world ranking of 6th this time last year to World Cup finalists this year.

Head Coach Michael Cheika has just been recognised for his achievements after he won World Rugby's Coach of the Year Award.

Cheika also has set a strong vision for the Wallabies, and has - much like the All Blacks - given them a wonderful self-belief that augurs well for the team's future.

By Grant Cleary - Senior Executive and Leader - Cloud and Software, Asia Pacific