Basils & Pauls · Nov 26, 2015

Improving Team Performance – The Rugby Approach

New strategies for improving team performance

I always find it fascinating to follow the progress of others who have made the transition from sport to business, as Ben Hunt-Davis  did. The skills and habits that Ben and the team developed in the run up to the Men’s Rowing 8s final in 2000 became the Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? Performance Principles, which have helped many entrepreneurial business leaders and companies achieve their goal of improving team performance.

Ben isn’t the only person who has transferred his sporting experience to the boardroom. Recently, an article in The Australian newspaper caught my eye. Its title, “Rod MacQueen, how he keeps team boardroom on the ball” immediately put me in mind of what we do here at Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? Rod MacQueen reached the peak of his sporting success in 1999, taking the Australian Rugby Team to victory in the World Cup. One year later, Ben won his Gold Medal at the Sydney Olympics.

In the article, Rod writes about the importance of building teams that you trust. I was curious to examine Rod’s approach and compare it to our third Performance Principle. Whilst there are many similarities, there are a few areas that Rod concentrates on specifically.

Nobody Does it Alone

The third Will It Make The Boat Go Faster? Performance Principle is ‘Nobody does it alone’. Rod takes a very similar approach. In the article, he discusses how important it is to surround yourself with the right people, describing people who help him to work more effectively as enablers. This struck me as very similar to the Basils and Pauls approach that Ben wrote about in the book. Whilst enablers are critical, it’s just as important to prevent negative people from sapping your energy and damaging the performance of your team.

Is your team too big?

One theme that comes up repatedly is Rod’s belief that a smaller team makes better decisions. One of his first recommendations when working at InterOil was to reduce the size of the group that made key decisions –  from 15 people to around three or four. He advises that this group makes the decision and then takes it back to the original committee and convinces them to get onboard with their decision.

Are you working with the wrong people?

Rod’s final point is a very interesting one. You have to get rid of the wrong people and do it quickly. This is something which he believes many managers struggle to do effectively. Just because a person on your team is no longer suitable, doesn’t mean that you made a bad decision. As companies grow and change, different skills are required. Macqueen believes that effective managers should be able to regularly change their team (the management team at InterOil has changed twice in the time he has been working with them) and that this is key to improving team performance.

Macqueen takes a blunt approach to some areas of business. He is a very private person and the article only offers a limited insight into his strategies for improving team performance. However, it’s certainly valuable to consider these strategies in line with our own Performance Principles. How do you ensure you’re getting the best possible performance from your team?

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