Zac de Silva: What business can learn from Black Caps victory


Stunning success from the Black Caps! As a long-time cricket fan, what a feeling. A very proud moment for our country. There are so many lessons from the team and their winning approach that we can take into the business world. Here is only a handful of them:

It all starts with team. Jim Collins of Good to Great fame said it the best when he said you need to get the right people on the bus in the right seats, all heading in the same direction. When you manage this, great things can happen.

The Black Caps have a great bunch of skilled players who actually seem like genuinely good, humble human beings. There appears to be no egos. Ego is the enemy of greatness because it stops you from striving to be better or taking on board valuable feedback.

In your business, to take your success to the next level, you need to get your team sorted. Sometimes you’ll need to make hard decisions around who should be in your team and who should not – this requires bravery and challenging conversations.

Who on your team is letting the team down and not playing like a valued, humble team member?

Kane Williamson has said that the Black Caps of recent memory have been built on getting the behaviours in the team all on-song. His exact words in January 2021 were: “The team has come a long way in terms of bringing an element of consistency mainly to their behaviours, which I think has been really important; simple values which are important to our group and to Kiwis, simple things we want to commit to day-in, day-out. That does not always reflect in the performance being perfect – very rarely is it perfect – but it certainly can help a team grow, and it has contributed to the team moving in that direction.”

So few SME companies that I come across day to day have taken the time to define their core values and behaviours that they want their teams to be living. If you are brave enough to address those who do not live by your defined values and if you pat on the back those who do live them, you’ll see more momentum in the performance of your business.

Kane shows that nice guys can win and you don’t necessarily need to be the biggest, dominant personality to lead. His main leadership approach is to walk the talk. Extremely humble, arguably the best batsman in the world and a strategic brain to boot, it’s no wonder this team will follow Kane into the trenches.

The question I get my clients to ask themselves as leaders is:if they had to work for themselves, would they enjoy it and would they want to follow themselves?

Plenty of business owners want to improve their leadership ability over time, like Kane has done over the years, but it’s sad that plenty ignore the potential to grow themselves as a leader, which means that their team is never as engaged and brilliant as it could be and their team’s performance is never the A-grade that it could be.

Do you truly think about your leadership and actively improve it or do you just think that it’s your way or the highway and you’re already a great leader so why try to improve? I know which sort of leader I’d rather be.

Perhaps Kane’s biggest skill that gets him the respect of his team as a leader is his ability to think about how to win. I’m sure Kane spends a lot of time thinking “on the business”, which in his case is cricket strategies.

In business, most business owners and senior managers focus far too much on the day to day of their business. Of course, the day to day is very important and you want an efficient and effective business but you do need to put time into thinking about how are you going to win in the future, like in 12 months’ or 3 years’ time, not just today.

Kane’s ability to win on the day, like this world championship, is his ability to adapt to what he sees in front of him, on the spot.

This ability comes from the fact that he has already played out strategically in his head, likely 12 months ago, a particular situation and what he would do to overcome an obstacle or to take advantage of an opportunity.

It’s about him preparing the team for every eventuality and spending time working on the ingredients over time that would lead to a winning day.

As a business owner, you need to have dedicated time to think through the strategies that are going to see your company blossom in a year or three.

If you don’t do this business thinking regularly, you’ll never reach the heights of success that you could have. Play for today, prepare for the future.

New blood coming into the Black Caps has been extremely positive. Whilst all up-and-coming cricketers like the Kyle Jamiesons of the world want to play for their country, in business it is a lot harder to stand out as being the business that the best of the best want to work for.

But it is possible – I’ve seen it over and over where companies get known for being great at what they do and for having a great culture and as a result they consistently have the best candidates joining them.

This said, few companies actually focus on trying to grow their “employer brand” so that the best people want to join you. What could you do to be even more of a place that the best want to join? The Black Caps are living proof that when you up the average abilities of team members, glorious successes that will come.

Having great accountability is key. No one is ever perfect but when you have a down day, you need to learn from it and preferably don’t repeat your mistakes.

Be accountable to learn from your mistakes, then chin up and move on to tomorrow.

Be accountable to want to get better and to be proactive to actually get better – hard work, graft and toil make all the difference.

Practice, practice, practice. Whether you are a fast bowler, a salesperson, team leader, accountant or engineer, you holding yourself accountable to want to do better and to challenge status quo is what greatness is built upon. Don’t rest on your laurels.

This cricket team of ours has adopted Sir Graham Henry’s approach that had the All Blacks win the 2011 Rugby World Cup: “Better Never Stops”.

You are never as good as you could be. In business and in a working career, too few are consistently focused on getting better and better and better and are constantly sidetracked by curveballs and fighting fires.

You need to work through how to stop putting so much time into urgent things and more time into how you are going to truly move your team closer to greatness.

Grow your culture to include continuous improvement so that every employee in your team is thinking, a lot, on how they can improve.

The Black Caps and their evolution is a great example of how you can move from being middle of the road to world-class. What can you take from our Black Caps journey to help you be better at what you do?

– Zac de Silva is the owner of business coaching firm Business Changing and Nurture Change, a business retreat for business owners and leaders.

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