Transcending boundaries through a high performance leadership culture, by John Buchanan, ex-Australian Cricket Coach


    “To put your business or organisation in a winning position – leaders must keep their eyes on the ball”

    Winning in sport or business is one thing. To be able to dominate your market place consistently over a decade or more is another – that’s what I’d call ‘transcending boundaries’.

    That is to say, a business may have a very good month, or a good year or two. A sporting team might have a very good season, even winning a championship. However, can that business sustain winning results year upon year upon year? Can the sporting team win or at least challenge for the trophy, season after season after season? The All Blacks won this year’s Rugby World Cup, and their winning percentages over the last 100 years or so demand that they are the benchmark for all other rugby nations to chase.

    The Australian cricket team I coached from 1999 to the Cricket World Cup in 2007 achieved a winning percentage in Tests and ODIs around the world of over 70% – unparalleled in world cricket history. Not even the great West Indies team of the 80’s can demonstrate such results.

    I spend my time these days coaching business leaders in what I believe are the keys to unlocking high performance results – these keys are as relevant to the sports field as they are for the corporate arena.

    All leaders are faced with a world of uncertainty, and at best, constant change – change due to economic circumstances, regulation, technology, mergers and acquisitions, and so on.

    While it is important to scan the horizons for what macro changes are occurring and imminent; and what competitors are doing at a more micro level, leaders must first and foremost understand what makes his or her business tick! What gives it the best chance of winning! What sets the business apart from the rest, and puts it on a path to dominate the industry!

    From vision to an effective coaching process, in my experience I’ve found that there are certain keys leaders should follow to unlock consistent winning performance and dominance within any industry or sector


    1. The Vision
    The leader must be a visionary. He or she must be able to look into the future and picture what the business or company is going to be, what it’s going to look like.

    The vision must provide the fundamental ‘WHY’ for every person in the organisation – why they want to contribute to the performance of the business.

    2. The Leadership Culture

    In order to strive for the company vision, there will be a set of strategies, goals, objectives and tasks laid out in the forms of the strategic plan, business plan and operational plan. However, it is the fabric of these plans that is important – the values, principles, responsibilities and accountabilities.

    The leader must live and breathe the fabric. Everyone who aspires to be a leader within the business must also do the same. And the business systems and the support processes must be in sync in order to mobilise a high performance leadership culture.

    3. The Learning Environment

    To deliver a high performance outcome, the business must be a place where education and learning is valued. It is a workplace where everyone is encouraged to make decisions, and preferably decisions outside their comfort zones – again, an opportunity for the individual to transcend his or her boundaries. For real growth in the business, people in the business must grow!

    4. The Talent Base

    For a business to chase its vision, it will require various skill sets – technical, physical, mental, tactical and team. The skill base will need to be as diverse as possible because difference brings tensions, conflict and if managed well, brings innovation, creativity, and interaction between groups, or divisions, or departments.

    If the business can infuse its teams with a ‘game changer’ or two; that is, people who do things that others cannot or can’t even comprehend, then there is enhanced possibilities to accelerate change, and drive for high performance results.

    5. The Success Measures

    These last two keys are what I believe make or break the high performance vision. Many businesses and sporting teams are consumed with getting short term results. Obviously this is done to satisfy the many stakeholders who have direct interest or investment in the business or sporting team succeeding.

    It also occurs because leadership is driven by fear – fear of losing position within the business, or losing face within the broader industry sector.

    As coach of the Australian cricket team, I was acutely aware of the need for success, the need to win games, series, and tournaments. At the same time, I was searching for the processes to winning, the ‘sacrificial plays’, the numbers that really made a difference to long-term success or not. It was these measures in combination with the traditional results numbers that I used to provide real added value to a team that was already performing well.

    6. The Coaching Process

    Finally, the leader must understand the coaching process. He or she must understand that there are times to coach, to lead, to manage, to parent. The leader can never take for granted at any time that the business will remain on track, no matter how well it is going – to do so would be to take the eye off the ball with potentially disastrous consequences for everyone involved.

    The various styles adopted by the leader of the business or sporting team are done to keep all staff, players on mission. And the mission is to chase the high performance vision.

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