Sir Gordon Tietjens – Owning High Performance

Estimated reading time: 6 min

Speaking at the EMA Managers and Team Leaders Conference. My notes.

I’m playing for Samoa and my goal to take Samoa to the Olympics in 2020 – as a coach it’s always about we not about I.  TEAM = together everyone achieves more.

When I was first appointed in 1994 I wanted to create a culture on traditional values, honesty, humour, humility, respect.  Athletes go out and perform for me – you empty the tank.

You can see humility in someone quickly.  Federer got beaten by Nadal at Wimbledon – Federer gained in defeat, losing although painful was still a gain.  it was the greatest game of tennis ever.  It hurts when you lose but it doesn’t mean failure if you gave it everything you have.

Why were the AB 7s team successful? 12 world series, 2 world cups and beaten in the quarter final at the Olympics by Fiji. I saw that as just one tournament. I didn’t have the best players, but I had the best teams.

Nobody is irreplaceable, the new person I have confidence they can do the job when they come into the team.

  • Unity is family – we are smaller in number in overseas tours.  My training is harder than any game they’ll do.  The harder you work your employees, it unifies them and makes them close.
  • Passion – for who you represent. What your company means to you.  You also need the enjoyment factor – have fun in your team,.
  • Discipline – you must have a work ethic, be driven or motivated.  And secondly, our game is about conditioning and culture because you need to push yourself mentally d physically  – push yourself when I’m not there.
  • Nutrition has played a massive role in us winning tournaments.  Working environment is no different.  It has a massive influence on your mood swings when you’re hungry.  You need the fuel to perform your role.  At my company, Bay Engineers, we subsidise half their food costs at the cafe.
  • Fun – A workplace that’s fun attracts good people which creates better morale, not also generates higher attendance and the momentum of wanting to achieve generating job satisfaction.

Boots on = switch on.  Our AB 7s team.  Enjoy yourself until 30 minutes before we go to work.

Recruitment is so important – how to know you’ve got the right person?  

Two similar players – what is the point of difference?  I always select on character because with character you get coachability.  You get a good gut feel – I love to go with it.  When you recruit wrong it’s generally when you’re under pressure.  A good manager is what makes a good coach – it’s not our technical knowledge, it’s about people skills and how you deliver messages to your staff.  Never pretend to be something you are not.  Earn the respect.  If they like you, they’ll work hard for you.  If they don’t, you will have a battle on your hands.

Positivity in the workplace – after a mistake, it’s about picking them up and moving forward.  Focus on the next job and be positive.  When you have to discipline someone, I always address the positives before the negatives and try to do it in a positive way.  So when he leaves his head is high and he still wants to work hard for me.   If they don’t feel supported, they go and whine to friends and then you have 3 people with a problem.

When you have someone with huge potential and they sometimes could go one way or the other – you see how good they could be.  What I do is I go and meet their parents.  I wanted to find out all the good things about their kids, and the areas they needed work on. I understood what I needed to do to get the best out of them. From that meeting builds trust.  They knew I was meeting their parents and showing real interest.

Evaluation of players – what makes a champion? 

A contender who refuses to give up.  Someone with zero talent but has the determination. 

These take ZERO talent.

Be on time, work ethic, effort, body language, energy, attitude, passion, being coachable, doing the extras, being prepared. 

Everyone can do this.

Habits of Greatness = HOGS [we have a monthly Hogs meeting – looking for something of value to add to their teams]

Play from Courage, Hold to what works, Clarity of your role and the came plan , switch off switch on, Fun, connection through hard work as a team – empty the tank together,

Red flags – people who are not themselves, exit and use bater, cutting corners challenge them because that’s moving to the exit.  Have a courageous conversation.  I call it that.

People going missing / not ready / not doing their job – exit and challenge them

Complacency – exit and challenge them.    

Changing what works – don’t move away from what works for you – exit = challenge

Focusing on results – exit – the ext job focus.

Too serious is also an exit Planned fun.

Evaluation I use  traffic lights.  You can’t have any reds in our team – they destroy you.

I had a chair in the middle of the room with a bell for the person to ring.  In the armed forces, you ring the bell and you get cut.  The Captain sits there first and the whole team tells you which colour they think you are.  You cannot respond to what they say.  We had one player who was a red.  He came and apologised to management and the team leaders.  We do this once a year.  Sonny Bill Williams is an awesome green player across all the areas.  But he knew nothing about 7s when he joined us he worked really hard to move from red to yellow to green in that area.

The team sits in the board room and we discuss.  Which box is this player in?

Red – never does enough – always rings the bell.  Gives up “too hard”

Yellow – does just enough – sometimes rings the bell

Green – Always does extra – never rings the bell

The yellows cruise through life because they have never been challenged.  We all have yellow days but as leaders 90% of the time we need to be green.  If someone is drifting to yellow and red it’s normally something is happening outside their sporting life, and they won’t admit it.

Great teams have a good leader.  Eric Rush was my captain for 13 years. He generated humour in the teams.  At 39 years old I had to have a courageous conversation with him.  “I will never drop you from my team but I will tell you when it’s time to retire and it’s coming up.” He went out in a blaze of glory.

In company restructures we can let people go with kindness.

Motivation and getting people up.  I put together a clip called Inch by inch because the team loves their music.  Never Give In.

Because that’s what living is.  

Al Pacino in a football film.  the pre match motivational talk.

attitude is everything.

Know your values and live by them.

Self and team analysis

Be honest

Every team is beatable, even us.

We need to start well in the competition

A good Monday makes a good week.

Nothing ever comes easy – achievement is about commitment, you make sacrifices when you make excuses.

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