What a series. The mouth-watering decider comes Saturday.
The combined British & Irish Lions are in New Zealand. Where rugby is life. Building up to this toughest of tours, once again fans hear about that wonderfully triumphant trip against another team of imposing World Champs, S Africa, from twenty years back.
Like any typical sales off-site retreat, the dreaded faceless walls of a (here, Weybridge) conference room contained the team-bonding efforts of the 1997 pre-tour Lions rugby squad.
When the then world cup holding Springboks were beaten on their own turf, those earlier events were credited as building the vital platform for the eventual stunning success.
Players split in groups to write down on flipcharts what they were about, what they wanted to do, and how they wanted to be managed. Then these ten were chosen as their rules of behaviour which became famously known as the Lions’ Laws.
- non selected players should congratulate the players selected in their position
- selected players should publicly acknowledge the role of non-players
- any selection queries are taken to the coach, not discussed with other players
- before Tests, on a strictly confidential basis non-selected players should be forewarned by the management – for other games selection is announced at meetings only
- focus must be maintained by all 45 coaches and players for all the games especially the final two midweek games
- make a concerted effort to get to know all members of the party
- make the team room the focus of the party, not the bedrooms
- once a week to go off-site from the hotel to go out together
- have one daily meal together as a squad
- entertainment for people through non-rugby related events
Coach Ian McGeechan apparently documented these in his subsequent book (& at 22 to 25 minutes here). In general such are now commonplace in sport, yet back then was revolutionary.
He sought to create a collective responsibility, knowing the environment gets stronger when everyone buys in. Wherever you add to or change, it doesn’t matter, as they still reflect the group and their ambitions.
It takes a ballsy sales team leader, but if you can create such an environment, then you must try.
If you believe people want to come to work, want to enjoy it and want to do their best – not gimmes I know – then at an apt point, such as annual kick-off or new restructure or key launch, you can give this deceptively simple idea a run.
The Lions coach geared efforts towards what he considered the Tour’s “critical” time; Week Five, Test Week. A kind of final quarter push.
There could be nine ‘laws’, could be a dozen. But how worth it? Career-defining, that’s how.