Leadership is about framing the problem

Looking at the issue with a different perspective – what was it that made me look at cricket from a different angle that departed from traditional coaching, for example computer technology?

Applying for the role as Coach of the Queensland Bulls in 1994 was a watershed moment in my life.

My initial task was to convince an interview panel that a person who had limited playing history (one part-season for Queensland in 1978/79) was suitable and capable of coaching a group of experienced and talented cricketers (Border, Healy, Rackemann, McDermott, Hayden, Law, Love, Kasprowicz, Bichel, Rowell, Symonds, Maher, Dale, Barsby, Tazelaar, Seccombe, Jackson, Foley and so on) to capturing the Sheffield Shield which had never been achieved previously in 69 years of trying.

The incumbent coach, former Test great Jeff Thomson who had been coach for four years, as well as a swag of former Test and long serving domestic cricketers, were all applying for the prestigious role.

In order to present my best case, I had to work out what might differentiate myself from the other contenders. This meant that for the first time in my life, I spent time understanding why I did what I did  – my fundamental purpose and philosophy.

I did this by reflecting on my life from my time as a young boy at home dreaming of playing cricket for Australia, to a young man chasing and losing that dream, and onto my then current situation married,  a father of 5 young children and working as a middle manager within the public service.

As a consequence, I distilled my fundamental purpose and how I deliver it through philosophy, values and principles into the above diagram. It is how I check-in with myself daily to see whether I am living my life with integrity, that is being true to myself.

So when it came to the Queensland Coaching role, I needed to explain how this philosophy would play out with respect to the squad and the expectations of all stakeholders.

The Vision is always the starting point for me – it is Base Camp for either the individual, leader or team. It is all about being a game changer, being ahead of the pack, setting new benchmarks. An inspiring ( the dreamer in me….) picture of where you want to be personally, the legacy you would like to leave as a leader, or where the team could be and what it could do, enables the next steps of Inspiring Strategy, Mobilising actions and behaviours to deliver that strategy, which finally ignite results that surpass any previous achievements.

I was asked at the interview, “…how was I going to win Queensland its Holy Grail, the Sheffield Shield?…”

My response was that that was not the job I was going to do. My picture for Queensland was to ‘…dominate domestic cricket for the next decade….and then somewhere during that period we would win the Shield…’

And our key strategy to achieving this dominance was, ‘…to aim to have the best systems and processes we could resource…’

One of the actions I took immediately then was to look to the new world of developing technologies, and facilitate the introduction of computer technology to enhance the then current game and individual player feedback and analysis process.

The existing process involved a combination of player input in team meetings coupled with a tedious system of video (VHS) analysis. It was time to complement the invaluable insights of the players with a more accurate and interactive system using computer technology to catalogue every moment of a cricket match.

I was fortunate that in our ranks, one of our coaches, Jim Hunter had a brother who was a programming and computer technology genius – and thus spawned the first use of computers in cricket, as well as a very successful sport analytics business, Fair Play Pty Ltd.

The system evolved throughout the seasons, but initially provided Queensland with significant competitive advantage over its interstate rivals.

Here was the vision at work. Queensland were changing the landscape of cricket. We were the pacesetters, requiring others to chase.

As a footnote for those unaware, Queensland happened to win the Sheffield Shield in that first year I was coach – an occasion that is forever etched in my memory and those who shared in the first-ever victory!