Businesses can learn a lot from successful sports teams, we know this. But the most successful sports team ever is one you've perhaps not heard of. New Zealand's national All Blacks rugby union team has a staggering win percentage of 77% over a period of more than the last 100 years. I know rugby doesn't attract much interest in the USA, but you can't help but admire a consistent level of team performance that has made them the only international side with a winning record against every opponent they can face.
I've examined this team when striving to build a successful business. What makes sure they never get complacent and creates such continuity of performance? And what lessons can my team learn from them?
The All Blacks function using a set of principles that they each sign up to, believe in, embody, live and breathe. There are fifteen principles and you can find the full list at the Science for Sport website.
But, these days, every team, sport or business, seems to have a set of principles, don't they? So what makes the All Blacks' principles different, and what makes these athletes buy into them so wholeheartedly and successfully? Here's a couple of their principles which I've employed in my business to help us build a strong and highly functioning team, and my thoughts as to why they work so well for the All Blacks.
Aim for the highest cloud
The All-Blacks talk about aiming for the highest cloud, and that's an image that I've shared widely with my team. The combination of strength, intelligence and skills is vital in business. In my business we're working together to create a culture that is always asking how things can be done better, examining the fundamentals at the core of what we do, and seeking to improve.
But this is easier said than done. It comes down to keeping a positive mentality and to recruiting the right people. The All Blacks reject some of New Zealand's best players as they don't fit with the culture of the team. It's not about winning at any cost, it's about winning together and ensuring everyone's head is in the same space. This can be achieved via a solid employee value proposition.
If you have never seen the All Blacks singing their powerful "Haka" chant to intimidate their opponents, visit YouTube and take a look. I'm not suggesting you literally create your own Haka, but you do need to create your own culture.
By making sure everyone in my team is on the same page regarding what they are expected to give and what they will get in return, we work together better. We make sure we recruit those with whom we see a great culture fit. Having a strongly defined culture and knowing that a candidate will fit that culture minimizes time spent onboarding. When the All Blacks need to recruit a new player, they know there's a culture fit, and that the new player will be contributing as soon as they pull on the team shirt.
Sweep the sheds
The All Blacks work together after their game has finished to tidy up their dressing room and leave things tidy. Respect for each other at every level of your business helps everyone feel involved and included. In my business we run an employee rewards scheme whereby the staff can nominate their peers for company recognition for a great piece of work, assistance or advice, no matter how small. The team are proud of each other and work with a lot of mutual respect.
Play with purpose
The All Blacks are encouraged to keep asking "Why?" Rather than just the physical task of doing the work required, they are always seeking a better understanding of what they are trying to achieve. Having a deep sense of purpose makes them better players, better people and a better team. The exact same thing is true in business. We send out a quick question each week examining an area of the business and seeking the team's opinion. It works well, and some of the insight can save weeks of solitary thinking, as well as keeping everyone informed on company strategy and identifying training needs.
Investigate the rest of the All Blacks fifteen principles, there's a lot of relevance there for being successful in business, and keep an eye out for them playing next time you're flicking through the sports channels.