Developing People, Developing Players

Sport and business - both invoke passionate responses; both require an understanding of the game, its players and a desire to outperform the competition.

Bearing that in mind, earlier in the month our Auckland Deloitte Private Club hosted Rob Nichol, CEO of the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association along with a spontaneous visit from All Black Conrad Smith for a session on the topic of “Producing highly effective teams”.

We found no surprises; it’s all about the person, their mental health and having a deep understanding of what it takes to achieve at that level (not just on the field).

The NZRPA is the representative body of New Zealand professional rugby players. Established in 1999, today the NZRPA represents current and past professional players – both here and overseas - and aims to enable NZ rugby players to succeed on and off the field.

In fact, the model has been so successful that the NZRPA is used as a best practice case study, providing input and advice on projects and boards in other sports and countries.

One of the lessons the NZRPA learnt early on was that NZ can’t compete on salary packages in comparison to some other countries. They had to work harder to identify what players most valued and create packages that suited the individuals and their families.

The NZRPA encourage and challenge professional players to be proactive about their development on and off the field; to think about their career prospects outside rugby, to put a strong financial plan in place and take responsibility for self-improvement.  One of their goals is to help all players develop the skills needed to thrive as an individual and a player. Through the rugby network they provide access to the necessary experience, knowledge and resources that help players achieve success in all aspects of their lives.

It’s much the same in business, sometimes people are not always motivated simply by money; pride, loyalty and work environment and mentoring come into play. It’s about finding out what intrinsically motivates people and then developing a package that meets all of those needs.

The NZRPA has worked for many years alongside some of New Zealand’s top athletes and can see that there are many similarities to draw on between producing an effective team on the sports field to those required to be successful in business.

Here are some of the key messages that came from our session…

Bring top people on board

We often say in business “always surround yourself by people better than you”.

This is done a lot in rugby. The administration looks for the best coaches, often they are always the ones who are supporters of empowering the teams to play their own game once on the field but also creating confidence off the field too. If the team can’t make decisions in high pressure situations, then all the skill in the world won’t help.

Helping young people deal with the pressure

Coping is a skill young players need to develop. It takes time, effort, guidance and patience; it’s not something that just comes to you. The game teaches you to ‘eliminate the noise’ and to focus on the next immediate task at hand.

In business, it’s similar, on-boarding new people requires induction, time, effort and guidance to ensure that person really fits in with the culture of the team.

Creating the right culture to prosper

In a high performance sporting environment the culture is usually so strong that you can throw any player into that culture and they learn how to grow and survive by emulating the other players. It comes down to strong leadership.

So what lies ahead for the future?

The key to success is to ensure that players feel confident to make high pressure decisions on their own, and ultimately to be able to achieve this both on and off the field…a skill that is transferrable to a business environment.

“We believe in our people, unity camaraderie, honesty, success and contributing to a legacy in which players build for the future and reflect with pride. We believe working with NZ rugby stakeholders to create the best environment possible is key to talent development and retention, and to ensuring the ongoing playing and commercial success” says Rob.

For more information about the NZRPA visit their website