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Find the time to lead like an All Black

Apologies to all the non rugby fans out there but this is a big week in New Zealand.  With the final of the 2015 Rugby World Cup only days away, Kiwis and Aussies are working themselves into a patriotic fervour each hoping (praying) for the ‘right’ outcome on finals day. Although rugby is a team game, the spotlight is inevitably on some key players. In the All Blacks, that’s the captain Richie McCaw. His performance in the No 7 jersey, and his leadership on and off the field, is scrutinised, and revered.

The heir apparent to the No 7 jersey is Sam Cane. He was at high school when Richie started to play in the All Blacks and, not surprisingly, Cane has acknowledged the contribution McCaw has made on his development as a fellow flanker.

“I’ve probably picked up more in the last three or four years than I’ve realised. It’s more the mini conversations you have in training and the things you pick up through watching than you learn in the deep, inspirational words of advice,” he said recently to the media. The key words are mini conversations.

The key to great leadership

Cane’s comments tell us a lot about Richie’s leadership style. He knows that the ‘mini conversations’ and leading by example (on the field in his case) are vital to being an effective leader and coach. In fact, “doing” leadership, versus “being” a leader, is the biggest mistake a leader can make.  If we are waiting to make time to “do” leadership, other tasks will often take priority, usually things we can control, which is not people! Making time to “be” a leader is a more effective approach to take on leadership.

Whenever we run our Coaching Culture programmes we ask the leader-coaches what might get in the way of them applying their coaching skills. The most common issue that comes up is a lack of time to do the coaching.

While people conceptually ‘get’ the benefits of coaching they have difficulty translating these into reality as a consequence of not having (making) time in their schedules to spend time with their people.  There is always another thing to do, or they think that it will be quicker to do the job themselves rather than taking the time to coach someone else to do it.  As a result the coaching doesn’t happen and there is a real danger that the leader loses the skills they have learned  as a result of lack of application.

So if making the time differentiates OK leaders from great leaders, what benefits do leaders see when they manage to make the time to coach? We asked some leaders that we work with to give us feedback after they adopted more of a coaching approach to their leadership and you can read what they told us here.

If you struggle to make time to be a leader, to coach and develop your people, to give feedback and ask questions of your people, or to give time and energy to your people, there are three steps you can take to start ‘being’ a leader. We wrote about this in a previous blog.

I read a quote recently, “Time is the most important asset you have – once used, it cannot be brought back”. Of course, many other assets are critical to the success of a leader, however, your ability to leverage those assets effectively and create value depends on how wisely you spend your time for yourself and for your people. Just ask Sam Cane.






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