The Perfect Team

The Perfect Team


One of our most popular programs is the Perfect Team module. A lot of organisations are searching for the explanation of the dynamics behind a perfect team.

The Perfect Team. Darren Shand, All Blacks Manager at New Zealand Rugby Union, explains some of this theory in his article on leadership lessons.


In 2004, when Darren became manager of the All Blacks, the team was in a difficult place. They finished last in the annual Tri-Nations tournament, having lost heavily to South Africa. For a team that used to winning, it was an absolute disaster. They realised that something needed to change. Recognising that much of their success was in the players’ hands, they had to completely re-evaluate their culture. If they wanted to succeed and get back to the pinnacle of rugby, they had to learn important lessons about building a team.

I quote Mr. Shand on these great lessons and synergies between sport and corporate. I invite you to feel the vibe and get inspired.

“We feel we’ve done this, and these learnings still sit at the heart of everything we do to this day. We applied them to a rugby culture, but there are undoubtedly parallels with business. In order to succeed, you have to continuously evolve your approach, learn from your mistakes and come back fighting after defeat.  Here’s how:

Build a ‘we’ culture

The power of many is greater than the power of one – don’t run a dictatorship.  If you’ve got great minds in your team, make sure you bring them together to share all of their expertise. Richie McCaw may be our captain on paper, but we feel we have 15 captains on the pitch at all times. Businesses can learn from this approach.

Empower your teams

Get individuals to take responsibility for their performance. We’ve realised that to succeed, our players need to run the game – not us. We’ve developed a self-managing, self-improving environment where we cultivate leaders, not just players. One of the key traits of New Zealand business is Kaitiaki, the Māori concept of guardianship. This is at the heart of what we do – looking after and developing our team.

Create an environment where individuals learn to make great decisions under pressure

If we don’t train our players to do this all the time, then how can we expect them to do it when it matters most? We make it part of their every-day lives. For example, we recently didn’t fancy a two-and-a-half hour bus ride from South West London to Canary Wharf. So I said to the players, here’s £10 each, let’s see who gets there first. They had to work as a team, under pressure and make quick decisions on which route to take.

Make it fun

Although getting performance right involves stimulation and learning, it should also be enjoyable. We don’t want players to look back on their days of wearing the All Blacks’ jersey as a chore or a burden. We want them to be the best days of their lives.

Get mindset right

During World Cups in particular, teams often perform way above expectation (as we’ve seen in this tournament). So every game matters. Players have to treat every game as the World Cup Final. They can have all the talent and physical strength and tactical awareness they like, but at the end of the day the brain drives everything. Mental fitness is as important as physical fitness.

And finally, be resourceful and resilient. New Zealand is a small country that punches above its weight because we have developed a resourceful, resilient and outward way of thinking – both on the rugby pitch and in business. It’s what you need to be creative, it’s what you need to adapt to changing and challenging circumstances, it’s what you need to bounce back from defeat. It’s what you need to succeed.”

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