The rugby World Cup semi-finals have arrived!
As the dust settles on the quarter-finals and we clean up our lounge rooms after the weekend’s rugby watching festivities, it’s worth asking the question; of the teams which remain, which ones are showing signs of true high performance teamwork?
In disarray as recently as 2 years ago, the Australian rugby team has transformed itself. In October 2013 coach Michael Cheika inherited a dysfunctional unit prone to controversy off the field and poor results on it. That he now has the reigns of one of the tournament favourites is testament to the work his team have undergone to develop a new identity and culture (a “reset”) of their own. Media reports about the 2015 Wallaby team refer to them as a side who have clear direction, a well defined plan, delegation of responsibility and widespread buy-in across the squad. Clarity of direction is the pivotal element that galvanizes a group of individuals to become a team and achieve alchemy. The players appear to have healthy self-belief and a real commitment to give their all to each other.
Team Alchemy relevance: Reset & Direction = Teams sometimes need to refocus and reset their team due to a number of different reasons. In the case of the Australian rugby team; it was extreme internal conflict and a significant change in personnel.
Often a word that is overused in modern day sporting lexicon, how much does “momentum” really factor into the success of teams? In the case of Argentina, it would appear to mean a lot. They are a side who have built steadily over the past few seasons, based their success on collective growth as a group rather than reliance on star individuals, and have timed their run to perfection. Having notched their first victory over Australia last year, and maiden win against South Africa this year, the Latin Americans now find themselves in the World Cup semi finals full of belief. In Team Alchemy terms, they have progressed through the life cycle over the past few years with purpose, and are arriving at the state of alchemy when it matters – the sudden death stages of the World Cup.
Team Alchemy relevance: Transitioning to the alchemy phase of the life cycle = One characteristic is that the team learns from each other and it is exciting and fulfilling being part of the team. There is a positive energy and strong team-first ethos.
South Africa’s tournament has been one of overcoming obstacles. After suffering the greatest upset of Rugby World Cup history and losing their captain to injury they have got their campaign back on track with solid wins and a return to their traditional strengths and game plan. Reports from within the team have been that senior players have stepped up and in conjunction with their coach they have returned to a playing style that is natural to the South African psyche. While not overly glamorous, the direction the game plan gives the team means that cohesion is returning to the Springboks at the time of the tournament they need it most.
Team Alchemy relevance: Trust & Respect = The team benefits from clarification of functional roles and responsibilities. This provides definition and structure on how individuals will interact with each other and the roles they will play (and not play) in the team. Knowledge and respect for professional and/or technical expertise flows from this exercise.
The form team of the tournament after their stunning quarter-final win, the All Blacks are playing with a level of confidence and trust in one another only seen in teams at the top of their game. Of all the teams remaining, NZ are currently the closest to achieving true alchemy, or high performance teamwork. The All Blacks hold themselves to extremely high standards on and off the field. While these standards are undoubtedly planted by the coaching and management staff, the responsibility to maintain the standards and be accountable to them is accepted and even administered by the players themselves.
Team Alchemy relevance: Accountability = The most difficult element of the TA model to adopt (and therefore often the final piece of the puzzle for high performing teams), accountability starts with the adoption of high performance standards applied equally to all team members, who then consistently deliver on commitments made.
To reach the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup teams must be performing well. Without a high level of cohesion, buy-in, mutual trust and respect, a defined direction and a willingness to put the team ahead of the individual, teams simply won’t reach this stage of the tournament.
To advance to the finals however, a high level of teamwork will not be enough. The teams who win the right to compete for the trophy will be the ones who can lift themselves towards a true state of high performance teamwork; team alchemy. Good luck to all four teams playing next week!
* This is the first blog post published since the passing of Team Alchemy founder, Trevor Laurence. For those unaware of this news and wanting more information or to pay respects, please feel free to contact Bruce Herbert at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also feel free to leave comments or pay respects in the comments section of this week's blog. We think we've written a blog that would be close to Trevor's heart and something he'd have passionate views on - what do you think?