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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The Australian ODI team has lost its way.

Coming off an Ashes series in which the Aussies dominated England, the old foe has hit back hard in the limited overs format.

Indeed when compared to the English side, Steve Smith’s team is clearly in a developmental phase, and certainly cannot be considered a powerhouse in the 50-over form of the game.

A quick glance at Australia’s ODI results since their 2015 World Cup triumph paints an alarming picture.

Statistics prepared by Krishna Tunga at allthatcricket.com detail the Aussies’ demise.

Post the 2015 World Cup Australia has won just 49% of their ODI matches, and that percentage drops markedly post January 2017, to just 30%.

In contrast, England has won 65.5% of ODIs since the 2015 World Cup, and has increased their win percentage to 76% since January 2017.

A look further into the stats from the past 12 months shows that England’s win percentage when they bat second sits at a whopping 90%, while the Aussies have shown a paltry return of just 20%.

The recent Tri-series T20 results between Australia, England and NZ have redressed some of the lost mojo; however, I believe these T20 results are a combination of –

  • The BBL has helped craft Australian players to this new format, second only to IPL
  • All of the new players drafted into the Australian T20 team have come directly from the current BBL competition, meaning that these individuals have been operating in T20 mode for some time
  • And as England did from Ashes to ODI, Australia has followed suit in T20, with leadership changes and key personnel changes, more suited to the new format at the time of the series
leadership coaching peak performance

So what’s the difference between the two sides?

During the post-World Cup period England has changed captains, they’ve brought in a group of specialist ODI players, and their support staff is better in tune with the requirements of ODI cricket.

The Australian team, its selections and how it is being prepared are transitioning from the long format to ODI cricket.

Such an approach influences the type of game that is being played and the type of players that deliver this game style.

Therefore the technical, mental and tactical skills are drawn broadly from the Test cricket arena .

Australian cricket needs to come to grip with the fact that the future of the game will be the reverse.

T20 cricket will be the major building block to playing all forms of cricket into the future.

So rather than players, coaches, selectors adjusting, modifying and altering their games and game skills from longform (Tests) to shortform (ODI), the future game will require the reverse – adjusting from shortform (T20), and using ODI cricket as the key transition format into the longform game (Test, red and pink)

I’m not for a moment suggesting that Steve Smith should be replaced as captain, but the Australian setup would do well to go back to defining the basics of T20 cricket.

Smith and Coach Darren Lehmann should take a look at the strategies and set plays that bring success to leading T20 and ODI teams currently if they want to return to being the dominant cricket team across all formats of the game, in all countries.

Some of the basics that England, as well as others have been showing are –

  • Batsmen like Buttler, Roy, Hales, Morgan, Billings, Ali and so on bat with a ‘contempt’ of the bowlers. They are audacious (too much so at times) because they have an incredible array of shots to balls that are normally recorded as good deliveries by bowlers and expert commentators. Their use of wrists enables them to get the bat into position to make powerful contact with the ball.
  • Indian batsmen are similar led by Kohli, Dharwan, Rahane, Pandya et al
  • From a fast bowler’s perspective, it is no longer good enough to have 2 or 3 variety balls as batters games have advanced far beyond the bowling skills of the game, and the rules which definitely favour batting
  • Andrew Tye is the archetypal bowler of the future. He has enough pace when he chooses to use this variety ball. Otherwise no two balls appear to be the same.
  • Fielding acrobatics that were displayed in a recent BBL game between Jake Weatherall and Ben Laughlin are becoming increasingly more regular

They seem simple fixes, but they don’t call it “getting back to basics” for nothing.

Regaining the mojo is as much about getting the basics right for today’s game, as it is about preparing for the future of the game.

 

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