15 lessons from the All Blacks

The All Blacks are perhaps the best professional sports team in the world at the moment.  They currently hold the record for the most wins in a row and I would argue that their B team is currently the second best in the world.  They didn’t arrive at this point by accident.  The All Blacks have created a culture of excellence that ensures sustainable success.  We should all be humble enough to learn from them, even if we don’t support them!

Legacy is a book written about the All Blacks culture of excellence.  The Head of the UCT College of Accounting lent it to me and it has been a great source of inspiration. James Kerr shares 15 of the principles that the All Blacks have embraced to create their team culture.  Are they applicable to your life?  Of course.  You should aspire to be world class!

Here are the 15 principles from the All Blacks:

1. Sweep the Sheds: Never think that you are too important to do the small things.

After every game, the most senior team members clean the change room to make sure that it is as neat as when the team arrived.  It’s not the junior team members; the most senior players take responsibility.  It communicates to everyone that nothing is beneath you, even if you are a world champion.

2. Go for the Gap: Keep looking for areas to improve.

You will never play the perfect game, gaps will always exist, even if you win.  Look for those gaps that require development and go after them.

3. Play with Purpose: Ask ‘Why?’

Does everyone know what the team is trying to achieve?  Shared goals and vision are as important as the technical skills.

4. Pass the Ball: Get others involved.

Every single All Black is encouraged to raise up others and share their skills.  There of course is a temptation to keep “secrets of the trade” private but that would weaken the team (especially if you were to become injured).  You know that kid that never passed the ball?  Don’t be that kid.

5. Create a Learning Environment: Learn. Teach. Repeat.

Are you hungry to learn?  Do you mentor and teach others?  Then you would fit into the All Black culture.  Take Kieran Reia for instance.  He wants to coach once his playing days are over and so currently he is an assistant coach at a local high school.

6. No Dickheads: Better people make better All Blacks.

The language is strong but it makes the point.  The team comes before the individual, no matter how talented.  The players need to develop their characters to be compatible with world class performances.  That means that talented players that break the team rules are sent home – not by management – but by the players themselves.

7. Embrace Expectations: Aim higher.

You get what you expect.  Put another way, awesome achievements don’t occur without intention.  Dream Big when setting your expectations.

8. Train to Win: Practice like you’d play.

When the pressure gets piled on, those are the times that the All Blacks seem to find an extra gear.  Pressure seems to bring out the best in them.  That is not an accident.  They practice under those conditions.  They replicate pressure in training.  Much like Steph Curry, the NBA superstar, who warms up like this for every game.

9. Keep a Blue Head: Stay focused.

A Red Head is one distracted by stress, pressure and emotions.  It can lead to poor decision making or emotional mistakes that get punished.  Keeping a Blue Head means staying focused on what is important in the moment.  This is mental skill at the highest level.  This is especially applicable for all students in South Africa currently – learn more here in an excellent article about how the All Blacks develop their mental skills.

10. Know Thyself: Be authentic.

The real opponent is not encountered on the field every Saturday.  It is yourself.  You need to overcome your excuses, weaknesses and work avoidance tendencies.  Be real.  Be honest.  Kick your own butt.

11. Invent Your Own Language: Use phrases to create culture.

Words, songs, images, phrases – these can all add up to create a culture of excellence.  I have written about the power of one sentence but the premise is that we need to consistently remind ourselves of what we are trying to achieve through powerful languages.

12. Sacrifice: Start again.

Did you know that after every game, the former All Black captain, Richie McCaw, wrote these words in his journal, “Start again”?  Win or lose.  Start again.  Dig deep and give your all like its the first time.  Watch this 3min video of McCaw to get pumped!

13. Ritualise to Actualise: Create a culture.

You can’t just copy the All Blacks, you need to create your own culture.  What is important to you?  What are your values?  What are your goals?  Create rituals that reinforce these values and start to create a culture that affirms these values.

14. Be a Good Ancestor: Leave the jersey in a better place.

A new All Black player for instance gets given a book that contains photos of jerseys from previous legendary teams.  The last page contains a photo of their jersey, along with the phrase, “Leave the jersey in a better place”.

15. Write Your Legacy: Fill the blank pages

That same book that features shirts from legendary teams includes blank pages for every player to fill. It sends a powerful message that regardless of what has gone before there is still history to be made.

So much here to learn.  Grab a few of the suggestions above and incorporate them into your studying routine.  Let’s all become world class!

Paul Maughan

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