12 January, 2016

A purpose = better people

A purpose = better people

Photo Credit: Alasdair Massie

Now for many of you, this might be a difficult article to read – because it talks about the All Blacks. But I encourage you to see it through to the end, because I truly believe that even all my readers from Australia, England and South Africa could take something away from this blog. It starts with the All Blacks losing to Australia in the 2003 World Cup Semi Finals, which England eventually won and then the All Blacks losing to South Africa in 2004 – so it isn’t all about All Black domination!

OK, so if I haven’t lost you already, then well done for sticking through the intro, you are clearly here to learn, so lets get into it!

When I work with any organisation, one of the first items on my agenda is to understand their purpose. If they don’t have a purpose, then I help them to define it.

The Hole

The current era of All Blacks domination started in a hole, a deep hole, in 2003. They lost to Australia in the Semi Finals of the World Cup, 22-10, despite going into the tournament as favourites. Then in 2004 lost to South Africa with a dangerous alcoholic aftermath that bought to the surface the toxic culture and poor leadership principles being employed. Something had to change.

Under Graham Henry and following a three-day meeting in the NZRU headquarters in Wellington, a conversation began about how to fix the issues. And so began the organisational change required to bring the All Blacks into the Professional era.

I use a similar thought process with sport; no longer are we able to operate on the basis of our amateur status. If we want to survive and be a successful club or organisation, surrounded by people acting professionally, then we have to act as such.

The Purpose

The All Blacks have six words that define their thought process through this organisational change: 

Better people, make better All Blacks.

If you concentrate on your people, then your performance in the arena where it matters most will be enhanced. But before you can concentrate on your people within your organisation, you first need to understand WHY it is that your organisation exists.

Humans want to find purpose in their lives. Finding a purpose, when considering Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, helps people move through the stages of belonging, esteem and eventually achieving self-actualization. Professor Roseabeth Kanter from Harvard Business School has defined motivation being made up of three ‘M’s with meaning being one. Whilst Daniel Pink, author of Drive says that ‘Carrots and Sticks are so last century, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery and purpose.’ Where people are not emotionally attached to a purpose in their work or volunteer lives then their motivation to achieve is going to be reduced.

The organisational leadership must develop a purpose that it truly believes in and regularly reinforces in order to motivate its employees and volunteers to work hard and transform the environment and culture.

This is what the All Blacks did. So whilst the NZ Rugby Union has a high level purpose ‘to lead, grow, support and promote New Zealand’s game.’ The All Black’s set about creating their own purpose driven, high performance environment that focused on ‘leaving the jersey in a better place’. This purpose went deep into understanding the legacy of the All Blacks as a team and the Maori warrior culture.

The current era of players truly understand that they are the current custodians of this legacy and that one day they would pass the ball onto the next leaders. In order to fulfill this there is a strong ‘no dickheads’ philosophy built on a foundation of humility - with the senior players carrying out the most basic of tasks, literally sweeping the sheds at the end of play.


A purpose provides a strong motivator for people to become involved and rally around a cause, whilst helping to create a team environment working towards success. This is why I make sure my clients work out their purpose, because it is a precursor to success.

Many organisations have a vision statement but do they know the WHY? What does it actually mean and how are you going to then deliver the WHY?

Without this understanding that begins at the WHY, then your staff and volunteers will struggle to be emotionally connected to the purpose. They may continue to turn up and deliver the HOW, but will not be motivated, as there is no meaning to that HOW.

My purpose is to ‘create strategic high performance sporting environments, through innovation.’ I do this by being a teacher and leader in the sports industry, not afraid to challenge the status quo and always asking WHY. Always seeking out better ways for my clients to reach efficient performance on and off the field.

What is your purpose? 

Feel free to get in touch with me to discuss or leave some comments below.

© 2018 Paul Mead

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