By Travis Barker, Consulting Partner at Stellar
As the sun sets on an unforgettable 2015 Cricket World Cup, I’ve been reflecting on how the boys in black inspired our nation and won the hearts of cricket fans around the world.
What is it about these Black Caps that makes me, like so many other Kiwis, so proud to call them our own and so delighted by their achievements in this CWC, even though they did not win the ultimate prize?
What lessons can we take from their fantastic achievements to inspire and lead teams in our own professions?
I think it comes down to three outstanding qualities which are at the core of many successful sporting and commercial teams:
When I think about the defining characteristics of this Black Caps team, I think first and foremost of passion. I think of a team that oozes enthusiasm, a team that strives to exceed their own expectations.
When we’re truly passionate about something, we enjoy the pursuit of excellence. The more dedicated to the task we become, the better our chances of achieving success. Passion makes us want to innovate, to gain a competitive edge, and to constantly improve our performance.
Just like professional sport, business presents us with a steady stream of ups and downs. Passion is what helps us maintain momentum through the “downs”. It changes “work” from something we do to survive, to something that motivates and satisfies us every day.
The Black Caps showed their passion for the game throughout the World Cup, savouring every step on the road to the final. As captain Brendon McCullum put it, long before reaching the final: “This is the greatest time of our lives.”
Working alongside a talented group of passionate individuals turns a day at the office into a challenge to go above and beyond the ordinary for our customers in the pursuit of excellence.
McCullum batted, on average, for little more than 3 overs per game during the World Cup, yet his bold approach at the top of the order set the tone for his team.
His “free spirit” approach engendered a sense of self belief and determination in each and every team member – a confidence in their ability to face the world’s best and win.
Like their 1992 CWC predecessors – whom many of us still remember fondly – McCullum’s Black Caps galvanised our nation by playing an aggressive brand of cricket that challenged the norms of the game.
I’m a big believer in challenging norms to enhance one’s competitive edge. But that takes courage: courage to challenge mediocrity, courage to foster and embrace innovation, and courage to pursue excellence at the risk of failure.
The Black Caps represent all that we admire in our sporting heroes: honesty, respect, fairness and authenticity.
While the Black Caps’ ability on the pitch was obvious, it was their attitude on and off the field that endeared them to a growing fan-base and apparently unnerved some of their opponents. They were even accused of being “too nice” by the Australians – in an attempt, ironically, to justify the Australians’ own lack of integrity.
We all love a winner – and of course winning is important, especially in professional sporting events like the Cricket World Cup. But, is winning enough to make your team successful and your supporters proud?
“The Black Caps provided a much-needed example of how teams can win without compromising the values and ethics of sport that are so often threatened,” commented University of Canterbury sports coaching professor Richard Light.
New Zealand Herald cartoonist Guy Body captured perfectly the mood of New Zealand the day after the final: an Australian cricketer stands alone, holding aloft the World Cup trophy, while behind him a smiling and contented Black Cap is carried off the pitch on the shoulders of players representing the other countries in the series.
In business, short-sighted “wins” that compromise the integrity of your team and brand will only result in one outcome – long-term failure – as customers and staff become disillusioned.
Vision is the glue that binds these outstanding qualities and directs efforts on the sporting and commercial battlefields.
The Black Caps are a team that dares to dream, to “dream big” as Brendan McCullum put it in those TV commercials filled with hopeful young cricketers.
We all know that big dreams don’t come true without big effort and an ability to appreciate the bigger picture. The Black Caps recognised that. Head coach Mike Hesson described his players as “selfless, putting their own milestones and targets behind what the team wants to do.”
Coach Hesson and captain McCullum’s vision of giving players freedom to express their individual talents in an environment that fostered passion, courage and integrity took the Black Caps to the Cricket World Cup 2015 final and cemented their place in New Zealand sporting folklore.
I, for one, will remember and relive the Black Caps’ achievements in World Cup 2015 for many years to come. But, perhaps more importantly, I will continue to draw on their success as a sound reminder of the importance of staying true to your vision and values – in sport and in business.
Well done to the Black Caps – thanks for the memories.