What Business can learn from High Performance Sport


Visiting New Zealand in 2011 was a pretty special moment for me. Not only was I taking part in a Rugby World Cup and fulfilling a life-long dream, I was also privileged to visit a country (and a culture) which had a global spotlight placed on it for 9 weeks and it certainly did deliver…

In many ways, I felt very much at home in New Zealand even though I was the furthest I’d ever been from my front door. The landscape was similar (even more breathtaking in places) and I seemed to easily find a very strong connection with the NZ people. They interested me. Similar to us… but still different. They loved their rugby, it’s entrenched within their culture. It seemed everyone loved rugby, especially during a RWC and they take that very seriously indeed. It was also seen as their hope, as the had suffered disaster in Christchurch earlier that year.

Since returning, I’ve developed very fond memories of NZ and their people. I’ve even recently done business with New Zealanders. Then I discovered the book “Legacy – 15 Lessons in Leadership”, written by James Kerr and published in 2013


It went straight to the top of my reading list and I was thoroughly engrossed over the Christmas holidays. Out of the 15 Lessons, here are my top 5…

 1. Sweep the sheds

This principle is in place to keep players humble and grounded. After every game, 2 players (even if they are the Match Winner or World Player of the Year) are responsible for literally sweeping up the changing room. It’s about CHARACTER. “Never be too big to do the small things that need to be done”

Sweeping the sheds, doing it properly – so no-one else has to. Because no one looks after the All Blacks. The All Blacks look after themselves.

Humility is core to their culture. The All Blacks believe that a collection of talented individuals without personal discipline will ultimately and inevitably fail. CHARACTER TRIUMPHS OVER TALENT.

Better people make better All Blacks

2. Follow the spearhead (whanau)

This is about teamwork, identifying a goal and everyone ‘flying in formation’. This is the ‘beinng of a team and the essence of a successful organization.

Nicely put, they nicked a mantra from Sydney Swans ‘No D***heads’ so there is no room for players who don’t so-operate with the team.

“Put your hand in a glass of water. Now take it out. That’s how easy it is to replace you.”


3. Sacrifice - Champions do extra

This is a great chapter which rhymes verses of examples of past and current players who worked the extra mile, including Brad Thorns attitude to lift one more rep in the gym, Dan Carter’s father getting him full-sized rugby posts when he was 8, the Franks brothers establishing their goals at 13 in order to become All Blacks and were relentless in their pursuit, to the famous Buck Shelford incident at ‘the Battle of Nantes’ who played on through a ripped scrotum.

“Champions do extra”.


4. Pressure - Keep a blue head

The All Blacks have failed in every Rugby World Cup since 1987. Hosting in 2011 would bring added pressure, so they discussed it and sought to create interventions to ‘Keep a blue head’.

They use triggers to switch from an Unresourceful State (Red) to Resourceful and Problem-Solving (Blue). Richie McCaw stamps his feet, while Kieran Read stares at the farthest point of the stadium. They won the RWC 2011 by a point against their RWC nemeses France. In November 2013, I even witnessed this live when in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin when the All Blacks (calmly) defeated Ireland with the final play of the game and become the first team to go unbeaten through a calendar year. When Ireland turned the ball over in the final minute, I just knew the AB’s would score in the corner.


5. Be a Good Ancestor

Our Social footprint is the impact our life has – or can have – on other lives. It begins with character – a deep respect for our deepest values – and it involves a committed enquiry into our life’s purpose.

Those who wear an All Black jersey, do not own that jersey. They are challenged to pass it on to the next All Black in a better state that they received it from their previous All Black. They are duty-bound to enhance the jersey.

Be a good Ancestor – Plant Trees you’ll never see.

LEGACY: What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About the Business of Life


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