Does your team want to be successful?

Does your team want to be successful?

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Does your team really want to be successful?

By Mark Wager

Ask yourself a question – Does your team want to be successful?

You are most likely thinking that’s an easy question. Of course they want to be successful. The scary thing is that  chances are that you are lying to yourself. In my experience as a Leadership Coach over 90% of people who say that they want to be successful are lying to themselves. Yes they all would like to be successful, everyone does but do they really want to be successful – no they don’t. They don’t want to pay the price that comes with success. To be successful you have to be willing to sacrifice what other people will not. Whether that’s time, energy or relationships. Whatever the price is you have to be willing to pay it.

To be world-class you have to know what world-class actually feels and looks like.

When Clive Woodward became Manager of the English Rugby team he installed what he thought was an elite world-class culture. A culture that demanded that every player and official wanted success. Shortly after England lost the Five Nations Championship Grand Slam to Wales 32-31 with a converted try in the eighty-second minute Clive Woodward decided to take the squad to spend time with the Royal marines. The thinking was how they could create a world-class culture if they didn’t know what a true world-class culture actually looked and felt like. This was a huge shock to the English rugby side and a significant turning point in their history. Afterwards Clive Woodward was quoted as saying“We’d been telling our players for nearly two years that we were building them into an elite squad, but it was only after visiting the Marines that we truly had a vision of what the elite culture could be. Our standards lifted immediately as a result”.

Its not about skills its about attitude

The England side was given a clear idea of what the cost of success would be and they had to decide if they were going to pay it. At the camp the Royal Marine drill instructors were asked of their assessment of the players. They didn’t talk about fitness levels but just about their desire and highlighted several players who they felt never had the right attitude and desire to succeed. The players mentioned had great skills and deserved their place on the team so the Manager stuck with the players. Eight weeks later at the 1999 Rugby World Cup England cracked under pressure and lost in the Quarter finals, a disastrous result for a side that the nation felt had a chance of winning the trophy.

After the World Cup Clive Woodward remembered the words of the Marines “It’s not about skills, it’s about attitude” He changed his selection process and focussed on attitude and desire. Four years later England won the Rugby World Cup.

When I’m asked to consult for a team in order to make them more successful I see the almost obligatory team motto or mission statement on the wall. Normally some statement that refers to providing world-class services but it’s a hollow statement, a statement with no passion, fire or drive behind it. Just words that are on the wall because it sounds good and makes the Manager feel warm. When I use the English rugby team as an example I get the usual nods and acceptances, people realise that they need to raise their game in order to be successful. I wait for a few minutes for that typical response, usually from about 10% of my listeners. They will normally  be one or two people who would come up to me and ask the same question.

“You mentioned that there was a difference between the attitude and drive of the marines and the Rugby side, but what is that difference. What is the difference between world-class and everyone else?”

If you thought the same question then congratulations then you are most likely in the 10% that is telling the truth when they say that they really want to be successful. The answer is that the marines go beyond wanting to be successful, they have to be successful, they have no choice because their life and the lives of their colleagues depend on getting it right. The alternative is death.

That’s your true answer. If you want to be successful you have to want it to such a degree that there is no alternative to failure. You have to want success more than life itself

You have to want success more than life itself.

About the Author:

Mark Wager is New Zealand's leading Leadership Coach. To contact Mark regarding Team Building, MBTI Team Building, Team Building for Sports Teams and Leadership Coaching please use the enquiry form below



Posted: Friday 5 April 2013


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