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Great Ideas: Legacy by James Kerr {interview}

Pinch these 3 unique obsessions of the All Blacks for your own team culture

Like most New Zealanders, James Kerr wanted to be an All Black when he grew up.

Instead, he’s drawing from their world-beating culture to help business leaders create better teams.

In our interview, he shares 3 unique obsessions of the All Blacks, and other insights from his global bestseller Legacy.  And, in our GREAT EIGHT, he shares a fun fact that's not widely known about him. 
 
3 unique obsessions of the All Blacks:  
 
  • Deep humility is one of the All Blacks values. One of their 15 mantras is sweep the sheds. When 40,000-60,000 people are leaving the stadium, the All Blacks are tidying up after themselves.  They live their values out loud.
  • Constant evolution.  I call this ‘go for the gap’. When you’re on top of your game, change your game. Tell your competitors what you’re doing, then do it better. Don’t rest on your laurels.
  • The legacy idea. We have limited time in the sun, in any role in life. It’s about not taking, but contributing. It’s a powerful lesson. For a leader, if you take a legacy approach, not a short-term market approach, then your contribution is more likely to be valued.

Lessons for teams from the All Blacks: 
 
  • It’s a masculine sport, but inside the environment it’s much softer, humbler, more loving environment. There’s a deep brotherhood.  
  • Their official purpose is to Unite and Inspire the Nation. They stand for something - the idea that Kiwis can do anything. 
  • There’s a collective responsibility – former coach Wayne Smith has a saying “People will rise to the challenge if it’s their challenge".
  • They live by the initiative “Better People make Better All Blacks.”
  • The All Blacks talk about having a CEO in every position. How do you create an environment of autonomy?
all blacks wikipedia

What can teams learn from the “No Dickheads” mantra? 
 
  • It comes around self-awareness. The dickhead often doesn’t know they are one.
  • They’re not always dickheads. Often, it’s easier to label and compartmentalise than to have deep conversations about expectations and values.
  • We can make huge assumptions about how things should be. But often there is no actual agreement within teams.  Other cultures come into the team. 


How storytelling plays a part in teams:  
 
  • Storytelling is an incredibly powerful tool. Use co-creation. Ask questions. It’s not what I think. What do you think?
  • The All Blacks evolve the HAKA as a type of storytelling. Rituals, co-creation and dialogue are the ways that cultures are created.
  • The mantras and language we surround ourselves with shapes us. We have the ability to strategise the environment around us.   


Summary: 

To use the vernacular in Simon Sinek’s latest book, The All Blacks are playing an infinite game.
They’re all about leaving the jersey in a better place, and that’s the long game.


James Kerr’s GREAT EIGHT 

Recommended book:  I’m reading War and Peace because I always thought I should, and I’m  loving it beyond measure. 

How did you get your first ever job? As a ski patroller in the mountains of New Zealand. I wrote a letter and offered to work for free. I just begged for a job. I’ve always believed in one for them, and one for me!

If you weren’t doing the job you’re doing, what would you like to be doing? Skiing. Ski instructor probably. Or, an architect. It would be lovely to build spaces that last.
How do you push yourself when going gets tough?  I set myself very clear daily goals, and I just try to do them. When the going gets really tough, I think it’s better to walk away, and do a bit of exercise.

What’s one of the best decisions you’ve ever made to improve your career? Coming to the UK.  I was interested in the creativity of London.

What’s a fun fact that’s not widely known about you? I was born in Malaysia and we moved to a small New Zealand town called Hakataramea in the Waitaki valley, which happens to be Richie McCaw’s home town, and his uncle used to babysit me.  So, there’s some sort of All Blacks connection there.

What’s been your lowest moment and how did you recover?  My first marriage didn’t work out. What helped? Time, friends, community, trying to be purposeful in my work. Time heals most things. And, reflection, and working things through. Professionally, it’s been going okay for me.

What’s one prediction you could make for 2025? The environmental movement will be on a much higher key and more established. And, I feel, and I may not be right, that there will be a retraction from the digital space, and we’ll be living a more analogue life. I hope so.  




To buy James Kerr's book Legacy from Booktopia, click here. The Growth Faculty Members can watch, listen or read a full interview with our featured author James Kerr by downloading the video, transcript or MP3 audio file, after logging on to the On Demand platform and clicking here.  

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