The All Blacks in my view are the greatest team in sport, the consistently they have every year is astonishing and their standards never drop. The All Blacks have a clear set of values that drive their winning culture and I want to explore them in this piece.
“Never be too big to do the small things that need to be done” this is one of many metaphors the All Blacks live by. After smashing Wales 42-7 in Dunedin in 2010, while everyone else was praising the dominant victory the All Blacks were cleaning up after themselves, they brushed the sheds, the mud and the gauze into small piles in the corner.
*Sweeping the sheds.
*Doing it properly.
*So no one else has to.
*Because no one looks after the All Blacks.
*The All Blacks look after themselves.
“It’s an example of personal discipline” says Andrew Merhtens (former All Blacks fly half) “It’s not expecting somebody else to do your job for you”
Wayne Smith (All Blacks assistant coach) was apart of the Crusaders set up from 1997 to 99 when the franchise was just starting out, in the book “Legacy” written by James Kerr, Smith emphasised the importance of culture and developing a collective whole, “the problem was that there wasn’t an existing culture”, “we all bought into an idea of trying to create our own culture”, “we had put to forward stuff that inspired us and that inspired the players” Smith says. “Whether it’s family, whether it’s legacy, Whether it’s enhancing the jersey, you need to identify what it is that gives players purpose and personal meaning, those are the two big things”. “We wanted to establish what a Crusader man would look like, what would drive him”
*Playing with purpose.
The purpose of every All Black is to add to the legacy, Ali Williams (former All Black) says “you have to leave the jersey in a better place” Graham Henry (former All Blacks head coach) adds “It’s hugely important to the current guys who carry the responsibility – because their job is too add to the legacy”
Sean Fitzpatrick (former All Blacks captain) says “All I was doing, was trying to make it a better team to pass onto the next generation” He continues “the underlying word would be winning. We have to continue that legacy”
*Leaders create leaders.
“Dual leadership was a very important part of our success” says Graham Henry “Perhaps the reason for that success”
Senior players within the All Blacks ranks are given a portfolio of responsibilities from on-field leadership to new player mentoring to community relations. The players “induct young players, tell them what the expectations are” says Graham Henry “It’s better coming from their peers”
“Modest improvement, consistently done” says Sean Fitzpatrick. Success is the result of a long-term commitment to improving excellence – the small steps leading to a mighty leap. The All Blacks are always challenging the status quo seeking to improve in every aspect, never becoming complacent and never taking things for granted. The All Blacks environment is devoted to learning, the management are students of the game, constantly looking for the edge. “We talked about a learning environment” says Graham Henry “and everyone getting better every day, so if each player improves by 5 per cent, 10 per cent, 15 per cent, the team’s going to improve. If you put these collective percentages together you’ve got something special”
*Better people, make better All Blacks.
The management team designed a structure of the working week, individual players know the activities and plan for the day, which creates focus and clarity. “Each player” Henry says “had their player profile or independent profile, made up of 7 or 8 pillars, and that translated into self-improvement. and that daily map of self-improvement was Things I do today”
One selfish mindset will infect a collective culture. Some of New Zealand’s favourite players never made it to All Blacks status because they are considered “dickheads”; others have made it and never been invited back.
The All Blacks are both rigorous and ruthless with player selection; they insist on the best and always seem to get it. Current head coach Steve Hansen says “put your hand in a glass of water. Now take it out. That’s how hard it is to replace you”. To represent the All Blacks is a dream for many young New Zealanders, wearing the jersey is an honour bestowed onto a select few and the players cherish it. “I can still remember Richie McCaw’s first jersey says Gilbert Enoka (mental skills coach) “He spent about 45 seconds to a minute with his head just buried in the jersey”
*Honesty – the ability to deliver honest feedback.
*Integrity – the accuracy of our actions.
The All Blacks promote a culture of honesty, integrity, authenticity and safe conflict.
“It’s everything in a team, to be honest” says Andrew Mehrtens. “It’s about thinking about the team’s interest before yourself…. if it’s not good for the team, don’t say it and don’t do it”. “For everyone to go in the same direction” adds Mehrtens “you’ve got to have strong links in the team. If there are weak links then you will have guys going off in different directions and that’s not good for anyone”
Wayne Smith invented “The rugby club”, the idea behind the club allows the players to go out on a social night together and connect with each other on a personal level, the players don their club jerseys and go out for a quiet drink. It was a huge success, a chance to laugh and have fun. “To be able to work together, communication is the biggest factor” says Smith “and I think that comes from team that has good links off the field, a team able to spend time together and talk to one another and be honest with one another. It’s incredibly important”
When an opposing team line up against New Zealand they face the Haka, the challenge thrown down by one group of warriors to another. Maori believe the Haka draws up our ancestors to aid us in our struggle here on earth, the opposition face the Haka in different ways. Some try to ignore it, others advance on it, whatever ever their outward response, inwardly the opposition know that they are facing more than fifteen players. They are facing a culture, an identity, an ethos, a belief system and a collection passion and purpose. Before the Haka reaches its conclusion, the opposition have already lost.
Brad Thorn (Former All Black) used a motto that carried him throughout his playing career – “Champions do extra” I think that epitomizes the All Blacks perfectly, Rugby in New Zealand is special and the All Blacks make their country proud.
I would to credit a large portion of this blog to the book “Legacy” written by James Kerr, if you are interested in learning about leadership skills and the All Blacks I would definitely recommend it. I have left a link to where you can purchase this book down below.