How I do that
Recently I have been working with an ASX listed top 200 company and a major horse racing Club to assist their CEO’s and senior leadership teams not only espouse high performance, but also deliver it daily. In my work, it is critical to emphasise the intertwined relationships between individuals, leaders and the overall business in being able to achieve the results that are required by shareholders, Boards and other stakeholders.
In order to do so, I take the CEO and senior leadership team through my Everest framework of how to sustain high or peak performance. To give you some insight to what this looks like, I am taking an excerpt for Chapter 1 of my book “If Better is Possible” as this is the Base Camp for any business and business leader to set their organization up for success…
“.. It is my view that leaders, managers and coaches need to ‘take people where they have never been before’ as Henry Kissinger was once quoted as saying.
The role of a coach is to challenge individuals and teams with possibilities and take them outside their comfort zones into the realms of uncertainty. In experiencing these situations we learn more about ourselves and grow as people.
This is how a baby learns to crawl, and then walk. This is how we first learn to ride a bike. It is how we move through our education. And it is how we make it through to day two of our first job. In order to achieve milestones such as these, we are prepared to move outside the safe and comfortable ‘world we know’ into a world that is unknown. We usually fall down a few times, but if we get up one more time than we fall, we have learnt something new. If we don’t, we won’t gain that extra learning, but do discover something valuable about ourselves.
Like parenting, coaching is about creating a vision and providing a safe environment that allows individuals to fall down a number of times during their learning, their growth and their development, as they journey towards becoming a whole person. Before I was appointed coach of the Australian Cricket Team in October 1999, I was always struck by the huge potential of the team and the players in it. I also believed the team was only scratching the surface of its potential. So, in my first meeting with the players in Brisbane before the First Test against Pakistan, I talked about a vision I saw for the team. The vision was about taking a journey together to a symbolic place called Everest. However, Everest is never reached because it is constantly being redefined. What we set out to achieve was a higher base camp than we had reached before.
For the first meeting I wanted to give the vision some substance. I also wanted to link history with the present, so I used the word ‘invincibles’. This was the name given to the Australian cricket team captained by Sir Donald Bradman in 1948. The team journeyed to England, won the Ashes, and left the country undefeated in all their games – a feat never repeated. The vision was not that the current team be regarded as invincible, or even compared with that 1948 team. The vision for this team was to aspire to being better than it already was, and it had that capacity. Time and history will ultimately label this team and its era; however, the players had the collective abilities to take this team from being regarded as very good to one that could be referred to as great!
Steve Waugh had just taken over as captain and, while he was uncertain about the concept of ‘invincible’, he too shared a vision of the team putting its mark in the annals of Australian and world sporting history. Indeed, it would do this sooner than we both had envisaged. After winning the First Test against Pakistan reasonably comfortably, we miraculously won the Second Test in Hobart with a come-from-behind win – Adam Gilchrist and Justin Langer’s partnership sealing one of the greatest winning chases in the fourth innings of a game. While there is nothing like winning, there is nothing like winning the seemingly unwinnable to fuel the belief of a team. This Australian Cricket Team went on to win sixteen consecutive Test matches across six series and four countries – a record that still stands.
Having a clear vision of where you want to take people is one of the most important roles of managing and coaching a team. Everything else follows: the leadership, the team ethos and culture, the methodology for achieving the vision, and the type of people needed to drive it.
Here are a few examples of the quotes I used to encourage and inspire the vision for the Australian Cricket Team:
- Aim to have history record this team and this era of Australian cricket as one of the great periods of world cricket.
- Become a great side, not just a very good side.
- Take the game to a new level by changing the way the game is played.
- Have all sides in awe of the Australian Cricket team (for the 2003 World Cup).
- Be the best skilled team the world has ever seen (for the 2007 World Cup).
- Be the first team to score 400 in One-Day International cricket.
- Be the first team to have truly multi-dimensional players (i.e. can use both sides of their body).
The vision must be inspiring to the team. It must be extremely challenging so it becomes a real test of the team’s abilities. It must be exciting due to the possibility of achieving something that has not been done before. And quite probably, the vision may seem too big, too difficult, but nonetheless, it may also seem within reach. The leader or coach must constantly monitor the progress of the vision, accelerating the climb to Everest whenever possible. If the climb has become too difficult, the coach must be prepared to ease the ascent to a ‘base camp’, until the time is right to begin the climb again.
The vision must be inspiring, exciting and extremely challenging. Everest Team – Base Camp
The vision is designed to take the team outside its comfort zone. Everest Team – Base Camp
It takes time to get the vision right – to be able to differentiate yourself from the rest of the market. The vision should show that while you play in the same market as your opposition, you have clearly chosen not to play the same game or the same way as everyone else. That is why you are different. That is why Better is always possible and good is not good enough.
Obviously it is one step to have a vision, but the Leader must bring the troops along with him or her. How to lead and sustain peak performance is all part of the climb towards “Everest”………………..