From Cultural Drift to Triumph: Strong Leadership Lessons from how the All-Blacks Reclaimed Their Culture of Excellence

Best-selling author James Kerr in his book titled "Legacy", wrote about the famous New Zealand Rugby team called the "All Blacks".  The “All-Blacks” are well known around the world for two things… One is the Haka.  The tradition of the Haka, a fierce display of a tribe's pride, strength and unity, is performed at the beginning of every “All-Blacks” contest(See the Haka performed here).  The other notable thing is that the “All-Blacks”, for many years, were regarded as the most successful professional sports team in the world…regardless of sport!

But like nearly every great team, regardless of sport or level, they eventually began to lose.  They began to drift from the core values that had made them exceptional!  They were no longer adhering to their fundamental core value of "Sweeping the Shed".  James Kerr’s book, “Legacy” is the story of how the “All-Blacks” regained their once-powerful team culture…and returned to dominanceCheck out this excellent summary of the 15 leadership lessons presented in the book, “Legacy…”.  FYI – James Kerr’s “Legacy” is one of the best coaching books I have ever read!

“Sweep the Shed" is a powerful metaphorical concept used by the All-Blacks that encapsulates several powerful leadership lessons for creating and maintaining a powerful and resilient sports team culture…a culture that will often be the difference between who wins and who loses, especially when two great teams play each other!!  Here are just a few of the many “Sweep the shed” leadership lessons and examples that will create a powerful team culture necessary for success:

  1. Humility and Accountability: “Sweep the Shed" emphasizes the importance of humility and accountability. No matter how successful or talented a player is, everyone is expected to contribute to the team's success by performing even the most basic tasks, like cleaning the locker room. This fosters a culture where ego is set aside for the greater good of the team.
  2. Attention to Detail: The act of “Sweeping the shed” symbolizes attention to detail. In sports, as in life, success often hinges on small, seemingly insignificant actions performed consistently and with care. By focusing on the little things, such as keeping the environment clean, athletes learn the importance of attention to detail in their training and performance.
  3. Respect for the Environment: Keeping the shed clean reflects respect for one's surroundings. In a team context, this translates to respecting the team's facilities, equipment, and resources. It instills a sense of ownership and pride in the team's environment, which can contribute to a positive team culture.
  4. Servant Leadership: The concept of "Sweep the Shed" embodies the principles of servant leadership. Leaders within the team are expected to lead by example and serve the collective needs of the team rather than seeking personal glory. This fosters a culture of mutual respect and support, where everyone is invested in each other's success.
  5. Continuous Improvement: The act of consistently “Sweeping the shed” reinforces the idea of continuous improvement. Just as the shed needs to be cleaned regularly to maintain order, athletes must continually strive to improve their skills, fitness, and mindset to stay competitive. This mindset of continuous improvement is essential for long-term success in sports and in life
  6. Team Unity: “Sweep the Shed" promotes a sense of unity and shared responsibility among team members. Regardless of individual roles or positions within the team, everyone is equal in their commitment to the collective goals. This sense of unity strengthens bonds between teammates and fosters a supportive team culture.
  7. Cultural Traditions: "Sweep the Shed" represents a cultural tradition within the All Blacks that reinforces their identity and values. Establishing and maintaining such traditions can be powerful tools for strengthening team culture, providing a sense of continuity, belonging and significance for both current and future team members.

“What is the food of a leader?  It is knowledge.  It is communication.  It is story.”  Māori Warrior Wisdom

Great athletes and great teams have a leadership culture in which they will consistently “Sweep the shed”.  Coaches are leaders. …And so is each member of the team, regardless of playing role.  As part of this leadership calling, the best seek to make each person around them better.  Leadership defined is behavior that influences. Good leadership is impacting others so that they can influence those around them in ways that benefit everyone. Great players can more accurately be described as being great teammates. Great teammates are people who make those around them better.  This begins with great coaching. Billy Graham once said that a coach will impact more people in a year than the average person will in a lifetime.

By incorporating these “Sweep the shed” lessons into your coaching approach, you can help strengthen your team's culture, fostering an environment where athletes and teams thrive both on and off the field.

Huddle Up!

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