On the weekend I watched the AFL Grand Final and witnessed probably two of the greatest AFL teams in history battle out an exciting tight contested game. Neither team deserved to lose, Geelong prevailed in the end. St Kilda’s leaders will use the loss as a motivator for next and subsequent years.

Many parallels can be drawn between successful sports teams and businesses (teams of people as well). A quick review of the two teams leads to some interesting (though not unexpected) conclusions.

Both clubs have recruited and selected well. Without the raw talent, no amount of excellent coaching will transform it. This is a fundamental precondition for any successful organisation. In the business world, there has been much criticism of recruiters of late. In my opinion, much of it is justified. However, specialist, consultative recruiters have continued to do well and be in demand throughout the financial crisis. This is because they create genuine value for their clients. In the AFL football world, most clubs recognise that sourcing talent is a critical skill that they may not have in-house. These clubs routinely use external talent scouts (the code’s equivalent of recruiters) to spot talent in the junior leagues, remote leagues (e.g. the NTFL and even Gaelic Football in Ireland). Not only do these scouts (recruiters) identify the talent, they then facilitate bringing the individual to the respective club. All AFL clubs will acknowledge that good talent scouts can make the difference to their clubs’ successes. It is no different in the business world, and let’s face it, AFL clubs are big business.

Once the talent is sourced, success is then determined by club leadership and coaching. St Kilda is arguably one of the least successful clubs in the competition’s history having famously only ever won one premiership (by a single point) in 1966. Although I’m a Kangaroos supporter, most of my local family are passionate St Kilda tragics so I have some insight into the club. It is a club renowned for management instability and dubious Machiavellian internal politics. For decades, club members have watched their beloved club tear itself apart from the inside. Lack of success on-field has inevitably followed. Only in the last few years has management/leadership stability finally come to the club and with that success has followed. A key lesson to be learned therefore is strong, stable, consistent focused leadership. The club has devised a strategic plan and the management team, functioning as a team, has delivered it. Success has followed. Geelong similarly has had a stable successful leadership team that has now delivered them two premierships in three years. For success therefore, businesses must have stable, consistent and proactive leadership with a defined plan for success.

And finally, one of the keys for delivering on-field success for all AFL clubs is performance management. Every player is meticulously measured and tracked. Many wear miniature GPS units on the field to track how far they run, where they run etc. Each player is constantly measured on dozens of KPIs; fitness, skin-fold tests, handling-errors, teamwork, skills, time-keeping, tackle-counts, goals, to name but a few. Each player knows their individual KPIs and also recognises that if they don’t meet them they could be dropped. Equally, if they do meet them, they will be rewarded with more game time, better contracts etc.

In summary therefore, like football, your business will be successful if you recruit and select well (don’t hesitate to use outside advice from competent consultative recruiters if it helps to get even a marginally better result). Ensure your business has a stable cohesive and focused leadership team and make sure you scrupulously measure what you actually do (both company and individuals).

The Mindset Group, can assist with all three areas; recruitment and selection, leadership development and performance management. Contact us for a confidential discussion on how we can help your organisation win a premiership.

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