Learnings from the book Legacy, by James Kerr
The All Blacks have transcended their sport. They are a symbol of strength and elite team work. Their jersey resembles the armour of titans, donned by beasts who can’t be stopped. The war cry of their haka, a Māori challenge before each match silences the stadium and cracks the opponents composure.
Legacy, by James Kerr deep dives into the foundation that the coaches and leadership team established in order to build the epic team we have witnessed for the past decade. Here are the key things they instilled into their team for sustained success.
Create a legacy for your team
“You don’t own the jersey, you’re just the body in the jersey at the time.”
The All Blacks employed a number of methods to align individual players to the team legacy, with the statement “leave the All Blacks jersey in a better place than you found it”. This reframed the players effort towards playing the game to improve the team, instead of playing for their own gain.
To pass the torch on from the old generation to new, the team also invited revered captains and players from older teams to share about the successes and struggles to the current team. Providing mentorship to their players allowed the old leaders to help shape the paths of new leaders.
Character development is the key to a stronger team
“Better People Make Better All Blacks.”
The leadership team understood that once you build character, the wins will come.
- By building character, team members were able to face greater adversity and overcome harder challenges.
- “No one is going to do your job for you”. The team embraced a culture where no one was going to look after the All Blacks. The All Blacks look after themselves. As such, the All Blacks sweep the sheds after their games, they do everything properly by doing it themselves.
- The All Blacks create the necessity for the team to understand their identity – who they are, what they stand for, and their collective and individual responsibilities as All Blacks.
- They created training programs with psychologists purely to create mental toughness so their players wouldn’t choke during crucial moments. Management observed players under moments of stress and taught them how to get out of the ‘red zone’ when the brain shuts down and into the ‘blue zone’ where calmness and execution reside.
They create an environment for success
“If integrity is a central leadership tool and everyone in a team does exactly what they say they will do, clarity, certainty, productivity and momentum are the results.”
Creating an environment for elite teams is achieved by aligning your team members and setting a path for them to develop personally and as a unit. Here are some of the key plays the All Blacks made to achieve team success.
Find and keep the right players
- They eliminated players who hindered the need for change and built the capability of those who remained.
- The team also strived to build good links from off the field, becoming a team who was able to spend time together, talk to one another and be honest with one another. They believed bonding creates social capital, which is the intangible benefit of closeness and cooperation, with the end product being trust.
Humility is the key to relentless growth
- The players are taught never to get too big to do the small things that need to be done.
- They placed heavy emphasis on humility, reinforcing that successful leaders balance pride with humility: absolute pride in performance; total humility before the magnitude of the task.
Collective problem solving
- Each individual is invited to contribute solutions to the challenges being posed.
- No one person has all the answers, but asking questions challenges the status quo, helps connect with core values and beliefs, and is a catalyst for individual improvement.
They trailblazed their competition and chased continuous improvement
- When they were at the top of their game winning 70-80% of their games, they realised they still had to change their game. They achieved this by exiting relationships, recruiting new talent, altering tactics, reassessing strategy.
They utilised ‘Sigmoid leaps’, a series of scalloped jumps along the Sigmoid Curve, to throw off any competitors who were observing their patterns.
- The All Blacks created an institutionalised system of continuous improvement, working on three levels.Structural level (the season and the four-year World Cup cycle).Team level (selection, the tapering of performance, tactical preparation, etc),Individual level (‘Things I Do Today’). They embodied the original
meaning of kaizan, that it begins with self-empowerment; developing the individual’s ability to stand up and take the lead when called upon.
I hope this summary helps you understand what key ingredients have helped the All Blacks become the team we have seen dominate for the past decade. Stay tuned for more learnings from elite teams around the world!
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