Leadership Lessons from Lions

It’s not coming home. Not yet, anyway. There is a sense of disappointment, but with it, an overwhelming feeling of pride. Despite losing at the semi final, the England Team’s journey to and through the competition has lifted the nation and also shown us some useful lessons about forming and leading a team.

As a relatively young team (and the least experienced in the competition) they have learnt a lot. They have been much more successful than expected. Cynics will point to the opposition they faced and their route to the semi final but anyone who remembers the game against Iceland in 2016 will know that in the past England have been capable of losing to any opposition placed before them.

This time was different. Why were they successful? There are many reasons, but I have identified five key approaches which I believe can be adopted by professions beyond football.

Being well organised and led

The coach, Gareth Southgate, created an environment where the team worked well together. He arranged teambuilding activities with the Royal Marines that helped bond the team. Interestingly, these were conducted without access to mobile phones and social media!

Making good use of specialist coaches

Employing a sport psychologist is nothing new but, in this case, the team identified a key challenge and used the appropriate specialist resources to address it. England are a team who have been accused of not caring sufficiently about international football, especially in comparison with their well-paid club competitions. This was not evident in 2018 and the different ways of working as a team that were introduced delivered a pride and passion not seen for some time.

Creating a safe environment, without traditional rules

Unlike in previous tournaments, family time was encouraged and had the result of keeping the team relaxed and calm. There are many, many people for whom family is the ultimate motivation for work (whether making them proud, providing for them or both). Erecting barriers to work/life balance may seem like a way to encourage focus but can have adverse effects on a team’s performance.

Practicing basic skills

The team focused on set pieces such as free kicks in order to optimise their opportunities. This is invaluable advice for any profession – a successful start-up restaurant will have a small menu of winning dishes rather than pages and pages of choice. For an inexperienced team, focussing on the basics and a few areas where you can really deliver is far more important than variety.

The demise of the prima donnas

The focus of the team was the team rather than individual performance. It could be argued that Neymar’s theatrics cost the Brazilian team their place in the finals, causing annoyed referees to give the benefit of the doubt to the opposition. Off the pitch (and in the workplace) diva behaviour can be equally destructive and was weeded out of the England camp. As Peter Sullivan, the former captain of the Australian Rugby Team said “A champion team will always beat a team of champions”.

Could your team benefit from developing key skills rather than always learning something new? Are you (inadvertently or deliberately) creating a strained environment by limiting people’s family time? How do you deal with the company prima donna? There’s plenty of food for thought. If something here strikes a chord, please feel free to contact PRS and speak with one of our associate leadership coaches.

The England Team were much more successful than expected, but there is no doubt that they will keep working to improve, as all good teams do.

High Performing Cultures – Five lessons from the All Blacks

leadership culture

This week we have a guest blog on leadership culture by PRS associate Richard Watts. As the pundits consider what we have learned on the pitch from the Lions tour, Richard explores five business lessons we can learn from the Lions’ hosts – a team with a winning mentality and high expectations.

In rugby, we have just witnessed the British and Irish Lions draw a series with the All Blacks. What struck me was that the All Blacks captain after the final drawn match said, ‘we lost’. From a population of under 5 million they ‘lost’ to the Lions nations with a combined population of 69 million. However, over the last decade, the All Blacks rugby team have epitomised high performance, their win rate is around 95%, they are without a doubt the iconic market leader.

Much has been written about the All Blacks culture and how it might be applied to business. Sport teams only have to perform for short match periods, they have time to train and rehearse before they execute. In the commercial world, you are always on the pitch and there is not a bench of substitutes. So, what can we in business learn from the high performing culture that the All Blacks have built? Below are some key tenets of the All Blacks culture.

1.High Performance is the combination of Capability and Behaviours. You need to focus on creating and maintaining, under pressure, the right culture to allow winning behaviours. People can have the right skills but need to apply them in the right way.

2. People will rise to the challenge if they own the challenge. Everyone needs to take ownership. Pass the ball, as a leader pass responsibility on. Ask the right inclusive questions of your team and they will feel empowered to respond more positively.

3. No egos. No one is bigger than the organisation. Select, promote and retain people for their values not just experience. Disruptive influencers need to change or be changed.

4. Better people make better All Blacks. Yet again select carefully, you can develop specialist skills to meet your business needs, you can develop and train your people but you can’t fundamentally change a person’s character. Your values need to be more than words, you must bring them to life with genuine behaviours.

5. Leave the All Blacks jersey in a better place. Talking about leaving a legacy in your business is much easier if you are a shareholder, so it is crucial to effectively engage your employees with your brand through: a clear purpose, authentic values, a shared vision and a transparent strategy.

There are many more great examples of high performance, team and leadership behaviours to be learnt from the All Blacks. If you want to find out more about how we can help you create a high performing culture please contact us at People Risk Solutions.

Richard Watts is a leadership and strategy consultant. He has spent over a decade helping global businesses build high performing cultures with a focus on operational effectiveness. He honed his leadership skills as a senior operational leader in the Royal Marines, a high performing organisation which was based on liveable enduring values.

When People Risk Costs £150m

People Risk BA IT
If you want to understand People Risk, take a look at the recent case of British Airways’ £150,000,000 system failure. People Risk is the potential cost and harm that can befall a business when its people make poor decisions. It’s not always obvious how the actions of individuals within a company affect the business as a whole. However, every so often, an example like BA comes along which makes People Risk starkly clear.

The £150m outage is believed to be the result of a single operator’s error. The event is classed as a system failure and, indeed, the IT system did fail. We underestimate systems. It is easy to blame unfortunate events on faulty systems, malfunctioning technology or flawed processes. However, what causes systems to fail? Quite often the root cause is people – in BA’s case, a person.

Security experts maintain that the human element is always the weakest link in the systems they design. High level data security and encryption is most easily undermined by the executive who leaves their laptop on the train or who sets their password to ‘123456789’ or ‘password01’. The BA IT system had its own backup to switch to in case of failure. A likely cause posited for the total shutdown is that someone manually interrupted this automatic switchover sequence, flooding the servers with double the normal voltage.

The BA story is an extreme example. Flights grounded worldwide and thousands of stranded passengers are big news stories. Such large scale errors may not be common, but they do bring questions about People Risk to the fore. How many smaller, unreported People Risk events are taking place on a daily basis? What preventable costs are businesses unknowingly incurring from individual errors and decisions? What is the level of People Risk within your own business?

People may often be the weakest link but that does not mean that they’re inherently flawed. People need to be invested in to the same extent as systems they operate or are a part of. BA had invested in Uninterruptible Power Supplies which have the capability to maintain the current after a mains failure with battery power whilst backup generators automatically spool up and take over. What was potentially missing was an engineer with the competence and confidence to know this, to remain calm and not to manually intervene during the spooling up period.

Reducing your People Risk involves making the most out of your people. People don’t have a backup setting that can spool up in the event of a failure; they need to get things right in the moment. Training, development or coaching your people enables them to make the right decisions at the right time and ensures that your business is as cost effective as possible. As the systems around people grow ever more complex and the stakes of failure rise, reducing your People Risk is more important than ever.

If you would like to have a conversation about People Risk, you can contact PRS here

Or, take a look at our HR Healthcheck:
You probably already make a substantial investment in your people. The People Risk Solutions HR Healthcheck has been designed to help you protect that investment and give you a fixed cost, highly professional, rigorous and independent overview of your people risks. Read more here…