Business lessons we can learn from the All Blacks

Business lessons we can learn from the all blacks ahead of New Zealand v England

In light of the highly anticipated 2019 Rugby World Cup semi final, we thought it only right to tell you about what we’ve learnt from the All Blacks.

With a win rate of over 86% and a ranking of number 1 in the Rugby World Rankings, it’s clear that the All Blacks are pretty great!

How have they done this? How have they managed to successfully cast themselves high above any other rugby team?

This is not to say that they’ve never suffered defeats and challenges.

In 2004 the All Blacks reached their all-time low, prompting a complete team overhaul. In preparation for his book Legacy, James Kerr, shadowed the All Blacks for five weeks in the lead up to the 2010 World Cup and discussed the 15 leadership tactics involved in the overhaul with team coaches, players and various other parties of the team.

He discovered that the execution of the All Blacks lifestyle is much like a business – the lessons the All Blacks teach us can often be applied to our everyday lives at work.

 After digesting James Kerr’s research, we have compiled it along with our own ideas on how to apply the All Blacks’ lifestyle to business.

Organisation and planning are key

When the All Black leaders were faced with the task of bringing the team back to success, they created a clear strategy for change.

Their plan was centred around rigorous rugby training, fitness sessions and injury clinics, as well as a crucial day off to unwind. Players were required to reflect on the week and decide what they individually wanted to work on and improve.

We can apply the All-Blacks’ routine to business. When planning out a strategy, clearly define what you are setting out to achieve or become – the All Black’s set out to be the best rugby team in history. At the beginning of each week, carefully plan out what each individual day will consist of, including the goal of the day and the steps required to reach that goal. At the end of the week, reflect on your achievements and review areas which may need improvement. If you are a leader, ask every employee to do the same.

Go above and beyond / Smash your targets

The All Blacks don’t settle, and neither should you. It is crucial to always be on the look-out for new ideas. Constantly aim to improve, and if that involves restructuring your plan, so be it. Improving should be both independently, and as part of a team.

Training is a very productive way to help yourself progress.  In both sports and business, training should be regular and rigorous, with even those leading participating. It should not be a one-off thing, but a regular and structured routine. Putting on a little pressure during training can also be a very beneficial thing if everyone’s attention is in the right direction. For example, you could create a tense role-play scenario for your members of staff and ask everyone to assess afterwards how they navigated through it.

Keep a level head

The All Blacks describe their state of minds as ‘Red Head’ and ‘Blue Head’, says Kerr.  In tense situations, often when something is at stake, we tend to instantly think with our red head – stressed, aggressive, desperate, closed-minded. The All Blacks leaders encourage the players to think with their Blue Head in a heated rugby game – calm, collected, focussed, expressive. One way to practice this is a cognitive meditative technique called ‘anchoring’.

Anchoring involves bringing yourself into a peaceful and level state and performing a physical action over and over, such as scrunching up your toes. The idea is that when the Red Head threatens to take over, performing this physical action will bring you back to that level headspace. This could help in everyday life when feeling pressure to meet a tight deadline, for example, or after a particularly intense meeting.

Always keep your values in mind

Something which may surprise you is the humility of All Blacks. Kerr describes them cleaning up after themselves and their guests after post-game celebrations – personal discipline is their key value; it is at the core of everything they do. When working in business, it is always important to remember your values and purpose. Identify what it is that drives you forward, whether it be family or reputation, for example, and keep that at the forefront of your mind. What is the intrinsic meaning and motivation behind your work? (Hint- it shouldn’t be money!) You need to know why you’re doing something in order to do a good job (more on that to come in another blog post…!). In the case of the All Blacks, their ‘why’ was to add to the country’s legacy. And if you have something to perform for, the chances are you will perform better.

We’ve certainly learnt a lot from James Kerr’s research with the All Blacks, and will be thinking about more ways we can apply them. The key lesson we have learnt is that teamwork really is second-to-none. Advising and supporting each other is invaluable, and teamwork can help productivity soar.

We hope you, too, have learnt something from the All Blacks – let us know your thoughts!

Source: Kerr (Constable 2013)