Click image to watch, continue reading below for more of my thoughts…

 

Steve Smith’s admission to cheating the Rules of Cricket to gain competitive advantage have sent shockwaves around the world. The position of Australian cricket captain and the Australian cricket team itself are held in such high esteem by this country due to the way they play the game, aggressively but fairly has been shattered by this decision. In effect Smith and his ‘leadership team’ have broken the trust that the Australian public from Prime Minister down, have entrusted with them to protect the integrity of cricket as well as Australian values and principles on the sporting field.

 

Today, via James Sutherland CEO Cricket Australia’s media conference, we will get a clearer understanding of what actually transpired within the dressing room leading to the cheating incident. The media conference will see the beginning of the actions Cricket Australia propose to take to rectify this situation and regain the trust of the public, sponsors, broadcasters for looming media rights deals, and importantly the loyal participants and followers of cricket.

 

One of the areas which will come under much scrutiny will be team culture and the high performance system which surrounds the team. How could a decision like this happen if the high performance culture was strong, resilient, highly principled, ethical and valued winning but not at any cost.

 

There are so many take-aways for any business or organisation from this episode. It is an explicit case study of leadership and a leader who, in one decision, can betray the trust of everything that he believes in, and others believe of him.

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Steve Smith and his ‘leadership team’ decision to violate the rules of the game is the final product of a team culture that need a significant reboot.

While the coach and captain are instrumental in creating the culture that they believe is best for the team, there are many other parts which contribute, interact with and constantly change the culture.

The players are critical to maintaining and building the resilience of the culture.

The systems that support the team such as High performance, selection, contracting all play their role.

The CEO, other Cricket Australia senior managers and the CA Board all will impact the team culture at certain times.

And of course there are the external factors such as the ICC, the Laws of the game, the Spirit of the game, sponsors, media, and the public, all impacting a team culture.

With the event occurring through this tour in South Africa, it has become clear that a significant reboot of team culture is necessary.

It will be interesting to hear the words of James Sutherland today which should point to this future change and direction.

 

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A leader is always under tremendous pressure to lead his team or organisation. It can become a very lonely place at the top as there are few, if any one, that the leader can unload their deepest thoughts.

After a long summer of cricket, a captain can become jaded, emotionally exhausted as well as physically and mentally tired. I have seen this at close quarters with the teams and captains I coached, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting.

It is at these times the captain, the leader is vulnerable, both onfield and off.

It is where the Coach-captain relationship is so important where the load can be shared or at least recognised and strategies to assist are put in place.

Does this excuse Steve Smith for the decision he has admitted to making.

No.

During the next 24 hours  or so we should all learn most of what transpired in the dressing room. Whatever the story though, Steve Smith has no option but to resign.

 

 

 

 

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Leading through values and principles is a phrase often talked about, but is harder to do than to say. I am sure we can all recall recent examples in politics and business where leaders have not been able to live their values and have paid the price.

While we are yet to hear the full story of what happened in the Australian dressing room at lunchtime on the 3rd day of the 3rd Test, Steve Smith has admitted that he and the ‘leadership team’ were responsible and accountable for the decision to cheat by tampering with the ball.

From all previous knowledge of Steve Smith, it would seem this act of incredible stupidity and which was a flagrant, some say arrogant, violation of the Rules of cricket, is totally out of character.

It is an incredibly difficult job being a leader. The pressures are enormous.

However, once a person accepts the position, the individual accepts everything that goes with it  – good and bad.

So Steve Smith has an opportunity to redeem some lost faith in him as a leader and as a person by his millions of followers through accepting his role in the ball tampering event which means the consequence for the leader is to resign.

Tomorrow’s announcement by CEO James Sutherland will shed further light on what happened, but I would hope Steve Smith and others complicit by decision or by action or both, will live the values and principles we expect of our sport leaders and resign at the same time.

 

For more listen to my radio interview with BBC Live below

 

 

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The recent big cricket issue which unsurprisingly these days is not the cricket, was the David Warner Quinton de Kock who said what about whom.

Firstly, I should like to put some context around the incident – not for providing any wriggle room; but more to understand how other situations, for example, the Senior Leadership team of a business, might learn some valuable lessons for their organisation.

Australia was playing South Africa in a Test match. So everything and everyone is on show to the world across all forms of media including CCTV, and a hometown public which is strongly biased in their loyal support of the Proteas.

International sport is fiercely competitive. Each individual is representing themselves, their team, their country, their reputations, their history, their respective Cricket Boards, their sponsors, their family.

No matter who the individual how calm and composed they may seem externally, this athlete is vulnerable at any moment – emotions good and bad are stretched, fragile, but always present.

Sport is simply about winning and losing, nothing else. How can one team exploit weaknesses in their opposition while imposing their strengths at the same time?

The higher the level of sport, the higher the stakes.

The international sports arena is a gladiatorial cauldron.

So to David Warner’s explosion as the players ascend stairs to their respective dressing rooms.

Warner has past history of being an overly aggressive, ‘ugly’ Australian cricketer both on and off the field – sometimes nicknamed ‘the bull’ as we understand. He openly admits he gives as much as he takes, “…live by the sword, die by the sword…”

He is now a senior player within this team. He just recently captained the T20 team and has aspirations of doing Steve Smith’s role when that becomes vacant.

In a moment of vulnerability, Warner made the choice to forget who he was and display actions and behaviours that a professional sportsperson, let alone a formal leader of an international sports team that were totally wrong.

Warner’s actions have thrown the whole unit into Red Alert, at best thrown an unexpected, unnecessary and potentially destabilising issue into the Australian team during the course of a match, and a series.

There is no doubt the Australian unit would have been fractured and fragmented by the incident.

With the loss of the Test, and a cooling off period, the team may be able to strategically use it as a means to pull the team closer as they ‘battle the odds on foreign soil’.

Whether that occurs or not and Australia win the Test series, there is much to learn from this incident, and hopefully much more that we will learn from Australian team management once the series is concluded.

If this was happening in your business, apart from the different context that would exist compared with international sport, here are some important questions to address –

  • If you have a match winner, a game changer in your team, but he or she is constantly doing his or her role without care for the expected behaviour codes of your industry or the values of your business, do you keep them in your employ?
  • As CEO or a Senior Leadership Team of the business, do you live without fail the values of your business? And if you do not, are you ‘called’ on these misdemeanors? And what are the consequences?
  • If the game changer steps beyond the boundaries of care for fellow staff, the values of the business because it is all about them, do you have a robust culture that allows peers to manage this individual?

So while David Warner is the perpetrator of actions and behaviours that have brought the game into disrepute, is he the only villain?

What about de Kock?

And more importantly, what about the team cultures, and the management of these – what role does that have to play in the ugly scenes that have been reported to date?

Does your business allow its game changers, its star performers special treatment to secure immediate results at the expense of a robust team culture which will secure longer term sustainability and success?

 

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Zilla Efrat speaks to John Buchanan about the importance of good governance in sports.

 

For players and spectators alike the results on the sporting pitch are what get the most attention. We often credit (or blame) those results solely on the preparation of the athletes and the strategies of the coaches. Less visible — but just as important — is the work behind the scenes, of board members, lower-level employees (in professional sport) and volunteers.

I’ve seen the inside of a lot of different governance structures — from national peak sporting bodies to grassroots sporting clubs — and the best of them share a few characteristics.

 

  1. Today’s leaders are fostering tomorrow’s leaders

The board is actively aware that turnover is natural in any organisation — they are keen to bring in new people and help them grow into leadership positions. A strong governance structure guides volunteers and provides a pathway to higher-level positions

I recently visited a small regional cricket club, where the club president, who has been in the role for over 20 years (since his children were first involved) told me he wants to step down. However, he cannot find any younger people keen to take on smaller roles and tasks within the club — so that they could, in a few years, be part of a succession plan.

This is a challenge, in part, of volunteerism. Volunteers are the life-blood of Australian sport; obviously, there would be no clubs without them. Structured leadership helps volunteers move into higher levels within a club. With sports administration changing rapidly, volunteers who understand proper practice, current legislation and regulation, leadership and good governance as best practice are well positioned for success.

 

  1. Checks and balances kerb white-line fever

Some people who come to the boards of our various sports organisations are attracted by a love of the game and the desire to improve the sport. However, once they get involved with the club, they seem to leave the business acumen they’ve gained in their professional lives at the door. The emotion and passion for the sport interferes with their ability to make consistently good objective decisions.

While passion is crucial in sport, it sometimes gets the better of our decision-making. A well-constructed governance system will help guide a board to good decisions even when white-line fever hits.

 

  1. Everyone’s time is respected

As time has become a more precious commodity those involved with sport have less time to spend doing their jobs and preparing for the complexity of the role. Having a sound governance foundation makes a world of difference in the efficiency of board and club functions.

Good governance aids in running meetings smoothly, with decisions being made once, and clear lines of authority over financial and legal matters drawn — all of which contribute to a lesser demand on the time of board members and volunteers and help reduce the risks of poor decision making.

 

Want to improve your governance knowledge and better support your club?

If you are interested in gaining more proficiency in sports governance, I encourage you to check out Governance Institute of Australia and etrainu’s Working in sports essentials, an on-line training program supporting anyone who needs to understand sports governance, from the grassroots to the boardroom.

 

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