SHIFT to team alignment


What can we learn from 10 year olds playing rugby that we can apply to teams in business?

I have watched my son play rugby now for 4 years. He is 10. What I have observed over time is the development of technical skills, communication skills and of course fitness.  I was grateful to have time to watch his two games last weekend. The first one was the season clincher – 2 of the best teams. At this age, there is no trophy but it was clear to see there was mana. Being able to come away with a win was something they hadn’t had against the other side for 3 seasons.

I was quietly amazed at how the team played. There was passion for sure but there was something else. What was also evident was for the first time, good structured ball play, practised moves that worked and got them the win. But there was something else at play here – I believe that on the day they wanted it more.They worked as a team – they communicated, offloaded the ball, set up the tries and defended with good team support. They were hungry for the win.

The second game was on Sunday where I got to watch the Under 11 Rep side play. What fascinated me here is that this team was newly formed with the best players granted, but they had been playing as a team for less than a couple of weeks. Yet when you watched the game, it was like they had been playing for years together. Sure, there were moments of individual magic, some good quick thinking moves but on the whole again, it was great team work, strong communication and good solid ball play. It showed in the result.

So what makes junior rugby teams (and I am sure this will be a pattern of other sports) so inspirational? And if this is something learned at a young age then where does it stop working in the business world?

If children are learning and experiencing team work and commitment and respect at 10 then surely this would be transferred into the workplace when they grow up.

Some may say it’s down to the coaches but I disagree. Sure they are great coaches and they push the boys to do the best they can but there’s no bullying, there’s no blame and lack of responsibility. The boys are just as accountable to the team as the coaches are. And you can see the mutual respect.The boys individually want to make a difference to the team, they want to contribute and there’s a kind of tribal culture going on. AND yet they only meet twice a week for practice and once a week for the game. How does the team build such a strong bond so quickly?

So where can businesses learn from these examples? Perhaps explore the following questions:

  1. Do you have a team that actually wants to win?
  2. Is the team connected – do you have a mantra or tribal understanding that the team can feel connected to and with?
  3. How are you coaching them? Are you ? Or are you just showing up on the day?
  4. How do you foster good performance and keep everyone accountable?
  5. Do you have respect from the team,  a kind of mana that allows also for individual brilliance?
  6. Do you have the skills to lead the team ?

Here’s the thing, I reckon that if businesses operated like these young kids in their sport’s team, business performance would be exploding across the board.

And the more interesting fact is that these kids are 10, when did we become resigned to accepting status quo – somewhere we lost the passion, the desire to want to win so badly, the connected and committed team and the collaborative approach. More simply, perhaps, we just got too busy to care.

Maybe it’s time to shift the paradigm and get present to what it is costing us both personally and in business to keep operating at this level and more importantly look for new strategies to accelerate your team and business growth.

Thanks to those of you who send me comments, I love hearing about what’s going on in your world. And as always, leave them here.


Rebecca Morris

Rebecca set up Paradigm Shift in 2011 because in her corporate career she repeatedly observed leaders choosing to let chaos reign rather than work out strategies for effective change. Or put simply – poor leadership.

With a background in educational psychology, roles as CEO, sales executive, business coach, business owner and teacher, Rebecca uses her proven experience and insights along with her practical tool box to get results.

Rebecca observes human behaviour and associated patterns and enables leaders to become present to their patterns through her IP, Observational Intelligence (OI). Rebecca uses her 'cycle of interruption' approach to interrupt, innovate and lead from new paradigms creating collectively powerful leaders and culture-safe organisations.

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