I have been engrossed with what happened over the weekend, with the Australian Cricket team confessing that they cheated. I am a big sports fan but even though my father in law was a former professional cricket player, I don’t go out of my way to watch cricket. Even so, what happened in Cape Town has really caught my attention. I am also fascinated with culture and the role it plays in an organisation’s success or failure. Reading various articles and watching clips on Youtube it’s clear that a lot of the issues and conversations are really about culture in the Australian team.
Sport is about trying to gain whatever advantage you can over the competition, often pushing the boundaries of the rule book. However what happened in Cape Town on Saturday was flat outright cheating. Their captain, Steve Smith, admitted that after tv cameras sent pictures around the world in what has been called #sandpapergate. I know in sport, lines can often be crossed on what is right or wrong. What is etiquette, and what is heat of the moment? That’s what makes this so terrible. This was premeditated and planned during the lunch break and Smith and the leadership team decided to cheat in order to try and win the match.
Smith is an awesome cricket player and was voted man of the series during the recent 4-0 Ashes victory. Under his captaincy Australia have produced a brand of cricket that’s hard but fair. Part of this has been to ‘sledge’ the other team with sometimes personal insults. This is where I think the norms and culture of doing whatever it takes to win, led to Saturday’s actions. The acceptable behaviour set by Smith and the leadership team, laid the foundations for the ‘win at all costs’ mentality. It’s been incredible to read and see the disappointment of many Australians at their behaviour with even the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, criticising the team.
You compare this to the New Zealand rugby team and you couldn’t get a more polar opposite attitude. I have read the book ‘Legacy’ by James Kerr and it’s clear from reading the book that the All Blacks have created a totally different culture. They have certain rituals such as ‘sweeping the sheds’ that keep them humble and reminds them who they are and what they are about. Sweeping the shed is when the players, even superstars such as Dan Carter or Richie McCaw, sweep the changing room after a game.
One phrase that has become a mantra amongst the All Blacks is that ‘better people make better All Blacks’. That their behaviour is more important than the final result. It’s more than just winning a match but creating a legacy. There is a tradition to enhance the jersey that you wear, and as Ali Williams (who has 77 caps) put it, try and leave the jersey in a better place than you found it. The legendary captain, Sean Fitzpatrick, said that it was about trying to make it a better team to pass onto the next generation. This higher purpose has created a culture that has made them the success they are today. It’s not just about winning.
So how does this affect us in everyday life when we turn up for work? You can look at many high profile scandals such as the culture of fear that was created at Sport Direct where people didn’t want to take time off for water breaks or being ill. In fact, one employee was so fearful of losing her job if she took time off, that she gave birth in the toilets! Or at Uber where sexual harassment and bullying led to the CEO, Travis Kalanick, stepping down. You can see how financial pressure meant that in many instances leaders treated their employees in a very poor manor.
I have worked in organisations where behaviours are rewarded and recognised, just as much as the end result. Your behaviours (how I did it) was equally as important as your final output (what I achieved) and you were appraised on both of these things. It’s like when you are at school in your maths class, the final answer isn’t everything. You must show your working!
Another business I have worked in recognised the inputs just as much as the outputs. Part of the monthly meeting is recognising those efforts. They created an environment where your day to day behaviours were just as important as the final outcome. Their saying is ‘take care of the inputs and the outputs take care of themselves’.
I am a big believer that it’s your company culture that is the biggest influence in delivering results. What are you doing to influence your culture and make your team or business as great a place to work as possible? How does culture show up in your recruitment process, during on-boarding or the appraisal process? It’s not just a checkbox exercise. It’s something that needs constant work. The leaders of the organisation set the tone for what is acceptable and what is not and as we have seen this weekend, Steve Smith and his leadership group have fallen way short.