A career change and high performance organizations: The good, the bad & the ugly

23 Jan 2015 Posted by

As I posted the other day, I’ve just finished my first (of presumably/hopefully many) stint in Dublin, working for World Rugby in a career change.  I resigned from the University of Cape Town at the end of last year, and rugby’s global governing body came forward right away to offer me an excellent opportunity to consult and work with them on issues including injuries, concussion, high performance and doping.

So that’s the first of my exciting news for 2015, hopefully to be followed soon with more, including a very positive relationship with the University of the Free State’s innovative and forward-thinking School of Medicine, which will allow me to continue to research and publish in my field, but more on that later.

Nothing changes in terms of the website, with the (hopeful) exception that I’ll have the freedom to explore more topics and write more in the future, so it should be a positive change on that front too.  The website has lapsed into “phases” in the last few years, driven mostly by the calendar and my inability to control my own time, but that should be a thing of the past now.

As I prepare to leave Dublin, the change of scene and challenge has me thinking about high performance and organizations and leadership, and then I happened to stumble across this excerpt of a book on organizations, and it’s so apt and accurate, I thought I’d share it under the guise of high performance leadership.  Whether it’s coaching or leading a sports team, or a business, the principles are basically the same, and so I’m sure you’ll see the obvious parallels.


The good, the bad and the ugly of organizations and leadership

It’s pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t editorialize, other than to say the simplest definition for high performance leadership I recall reading was from Harvard Business Review, in which it was said that provided a team is built around skilful, capable people, and they are given a purpose larger than themselves, the team will perform.

A big part of that is a shared vision, which produces confidence that everyone benefits from each individual’s best work.  Think of a rugby team – specific roles, each enabling another to perform theirs.

If leadership fails to provide this, then the best people will leave, because they keep bumping up against unnecessary obstructions (usually personal), and will gradually build resentment that their hard work benefits others, but not a larger purpose (and certainly not themselves).  They will become progressively unproductive and the team’s performance will be dragged down, and they’ll be accused of selfishness or laziness or one of many other possible slights.

And funniest (most tragic, that is, where it gets ugly) of all, the solution may be stated, but almost by definition, weak leadership will fail to see it, because there’s no shared purpose through which to view it, and certainly no co-operation.

Here’s that excerpt – it will make you think instantly of one example of each.  I know I certainly can.

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