Few were surprised with the naming of the All Blacks World Cup squad – sure there were a couple of surprise inclusions and omissions but considering the planned style of play and competition rules around replacements, the squad makes sense.
Is the selection of the World Cup squad a key determinant in success or failure? Sure, it has a role to play but perhaps there are even more important success factors (in both sport and business.) Any business owner and sports coach will tell you there is a world of difference between potential and actual performance of any person.
Firstly, the Expectation environment: what people believe is expected of them and the non-negotiables.
The coaching team (it seems) has been extremely careful with setting up the thinking (‘mindset’) of the team – semantics matter. How often over the last few days have we heard that the Cup is not ours to defend. We don’t hold it any more. We have to win it all over again. (Strongly aware of the importance of thinking as the driver of behaviours.)
Secondly, the Team ethos. This is the (both) overt and covert AGREEMENT (a form of contracting) to do whatever it takes to be successful. (Thinking back to the pressures of 2011, I recall a cartoon of a seagull covered with oil after the Rena oil spill with the caption “Don’t worry about me. How’s Richie McCaw’s foot?”)
Agreement goes hand in hand with expectations. As social creatures, we understand agreements (e.g. all driving on the same side of the road when heading in a certain direction.)
Last week, Sir Graham Henry told the story about the 2008 Tri-nations – the year after the abysmal 2007 World Cup. Unbeknown to the coaching team, Richie McCaw called a meeting of the team at 4am before the 19-hour flight to SA. (The team had to win in Cape Town and a week later in Brisbane to win the trophy.) Who knows what was said in those wee hours but the team won 19-0 in Cape Town (first time they had kept the Springboks scoreless) and went on, a week later, to win in Brisbane.
Jerome Kaino when interviewed recently, recalled a period of time when he was not selected for the All Blacks and how he ‘went off the rails’ for a while. What brought him back was what he felt he owed to the players – past and present. The legacy of the jersey and the responsibility that goes with this created a strong expectation. This is a unique form of pressure – an invitation to respond. When people respond to this call, it is a fundamental, bone-deep commitment to go as far as they can with all that they have – to leave nothing in the tank.
As we remember how we felt four years ago, it is useful to remind ourselves that the same principles of success are as true then as they are now.
- Expectations: Setting up the right environment of expectations and aspiration. The All Blacks said in 2011: “We welcome the pressure – we walk towards the pressure.”
- Team ethos: Agreeing to do whatever it takes for success. Not only are the players respectful of the enormity of the challenge, but committed to improvement with each game (a commitment that Richie McCaw specifically refers to, that surely has much to do with his longevity at a world class level.)
- Scrupulous planning, taking into account the current rules and competitor strategies to decide on your game plan for success today (while anticipating the future).
- Monitoring and reviewing progress and extracting the lessons for adjustments and next-stage planning and improvements.
Every organisation has its own success formula but most of the elements are common across all type of enterprise. And as Air New Zealand has shown, getting the formula right is well worth the hard work and effort.