James Kerr’s ‘Legacy‘ attempts to answer that question. Kerr spent time embedded with the All Blacks in the run-up to the 2011 World Cup, and through his observations and interviews with key figures he’s distilled the 15 principles of high performance that, he believes, hold the key to their success.
While some of these will be familiar to anyone interested in engagement or leadership – setting expectations and creating a learning environment, for example – the sporting lens gives each a fresh perspective.
And many of them really get you thinking on what high performance is all about, and how to develop it. For example:
- Go for the Gap highlights the need to change your game even when you’re at your peak, to stave off complacency and an inevitable dip in performance
- Pass the Ball addresses the importance of leaders creating other leaders – of devolving responsibility so that everyone in the team takes complete ownership of the team’s goals.
- Sweeping the Sheds looks at humility and responsibility: in the All Blacks, everyone in the team mucks in, no matter who they are, to do the dirty jobs that need to be done.
For me, the most fascinating chapter is on pressure: ‘keeping a blue head’. This looks at mental training, staying cool in the heat of battle and controlling your attention through techniques like anchors and mantras.
Clearly this is a key issue for elite sportspeople, but it also plays an important role in business. After all, how many people get nervous making presentations, pitches or in important meetings? And how often does that anxiety affect their performance?
Peppered throughout with Maori wisdom, Kerr’s book is a great study of what contributes to high performing teams, relevant not only to sport but to any team environment.
It’s also an inspiring read: you can’t help but come away feeling more personally motivated to be the best you can be.