Construction and the Sports Sector: What we can learn from sports leadership.
Dan Hipkiss, Cleartrack Coach, former World Cup finalist 2007, and Leicester Tigers player explains what the construction industry can learn from sports leadership.
‘Exceptional results demand exceptional circumstances’ said former New Zealand All Black’s coach Wayne Smith. He might have a point. In the world of elite sport, it appears that individuals and teams that are most successful, often create an environment that differs from the norm and goes beyond just what is expected.
Wayne Smith’s words rang true in my own experience as a professional Rugby Player from the ages of 18 to 29 with Leicester Tigers. The Tigers won 8 Premiership Titles and 2 European Cups between 1998 and 2013, a sustained success built upon humility, innovation and allowing the players to shape and influence key processes. Creating an environment where employees feel valued, can speak up and be listened to seems all too rare in business, where command and control leadership can still be prevalent.
To look at this idea in greater detail, England Rugby Head Coach Eddie Jones suggests his aim ‘is to make himself redundant’. This might seem like a self-defeating and strange goal, but it makes absolute sense. Eddie’s job as a leader and coach is to challenge players or those on the front line in operations, to be involved in understanding what the job is, why it is has to be done and then inviting everyone to speak up about how the work should be carried out. This is a direct movement away from a steep hierarchy where leaders look to gain control and create followers to one that gives control and creates leaders. Passing authority down to those who are playing the Rugby match, the crews setting up the TM, surfacing the roads and laying the lines will provide organisations a chance to innovate, be safer, increase engagement and improve performance. We must close the gaps in levels of leadership, create better dialog, this isn’t about juts a warm fuzzy feeling in our businesses it’s about making life safer, more efficient and dare I say it; happier.
We’ve all experienced a “blame culture”, where everyone loves to blame others, it’s a natural human reaction to get the threat away from me and onto others. However, sports team generally look at what is to blame, rather than who is to blame. Deal with the issue not the person as Wayne Smith the All Blacks coach would always say. It is energising and productive to move away from a blame culture where there is a sense of ‘the boss is out to get you’ to a “just culture” where, although direct violations won’t be tolerated, slips, lapses and mistakes are understood and learned from. This attitude to error in sport, also encourages everyone to speak up about failures rather than sweeping them under the carpet. Leaders in business must create a just culture, if they are to truly learn from error and create safer ways of working.
Having common values and goals in an organisation can be highly motivating. At Leicester we always put the team or organisation first, ahead of personal gain. Former England and Leicester Captain Lewis Moody said ‘A player is only at Leicester for a short period of time, on loan almost. It’s never your club or your position. The culture is drilled into you as a 14-year-old: no-one is a star, and no-one is bigger than the team. Everyone understands you’re here to work, you’re here to win, and that’s the end of it”. We got a real sense we belonged to something greater than ourselves and we were entrusted to maintain the standards of those who played before us and to create a legacy for the next generation of players.
At Cleartrack we help organisations create exceptional circumstances, to produce exceptional results. We help to create the shift from a blame culture, traditional command and control leadership and followership to a speak up, just culture and empowered and engaged teams. Allowing teams and individuals to drive their own performance toward being safer, happier and more efficient.
Cleartrack Performance are a leadership and Human Factors training consultancy specialising in leadership, safety and culture change.
Author: Dan Hipkiss, Cleartrack Coach, former World Cup finalist 2007, and Leicester Tigers player.