All Blacks – lessons for business owners

Most people who know me realise I am huge Rugby Union fan, most people who know Rugby Union also understand that the New Zealand All Blacks are fantastically successful – their win rate over the last 100 years is slightly over 77 % – unmatched by any team, in any sport, anywhere in the world! They have won 30 of 33 Rugby Championship games since 2012 (twice as many as the next best team – Australia).


Surely, there is something amazing to learn here – what is it that makes the team so successful for so long?

And surely, there are lessons here for not only sporting teams but also businesses. I recently finished reading Legacy: What the All Blacks can teach us about the Business of Life. 15 Lessons in Leadership, by James Kerr. A few key lessons stood out;

Following an early exit (for such a successful team anyway) from the 2003 World Cup, the All Blacks engaged a forensic psychiatrist Ceri Evans to understand better how humans perform under pressure. The All Blacks learned to use triggers (Richie McCaw stamping his feet – grounding himself, Kieran Read staring at the farthest point in the stadium – looking at the bigger picture) to change their mental state to be on task and performing to your best – Evans “Blue Head.”

A focus on continual improvement, a constant learning environment, Brad Thorn’s mantra “Champions Do Extra” saw him become one of the most successful rugby players ever.

There are many “myths” about the All Blacks – many of them true and two of them are critical to their success;

“Leave the Jersey in a better place” creates a culture of higher purpose – All Blacks represent all those champions who have come before them – an All Black is a role model, and it’s a great lesson for all of us – if we play a bigger game, we play a more effective game!

Before leaving the dressing room at the end of the game, some of the most famous players in world rugby, clean up after themselves, both literally and figuratively “sweep the sheds.” They believe it is not possible to be successful without having your feet planted firmly on the ground.

In Maori, whanau is often translated as a family or extended family, buts its meaning is more complicated, it includes physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions and includes values, histories and traditions from ancestors.

It is symbolised by a spearhead and is all about focus to be effective a spear (though it has three points) must focus all of its energy on one direction. This theme is strongly reinforced by both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett – who describe focus as the key to their success.

Finally, a “no dickheads” (likely “borrowed” from the Sydney Swans) policy sees the team selected on character as well as skills – meaning selection outside this policy would weaken the whanau.

What can business owners learn:

  • The culture of individual character and personal leadership.
  • Personal humility.
  • Follow the spearhead – relentless focus.
  • No dickheads.
  • Continuous incremental improvement.
  • Blue head – clarity to perform under pressure.
  • Play a bigger game.



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