THE JOURNEY TO THE TOP OF THE STAIRCASE
I was very fortunate to travel the world coaching the men’s and women’s Japanese teams. I took them to tournaments in Dubai, Botswana, Australia, Singapore, Vanuatu and Samoa. But the biggest of them all came in November 2011 when I went to Dhaka in Bangladesh for the Women’s World Cup Qualifying tournament.
We landed from Dubai in the dead of night and I immediately fell in love with the place. The passionate people, how they had nothing yet were so happy and hospitable.
When Bangladesh was liberated in the 1970s from Pakistan, the Japanese were very helpful for the Bangladeshis cause. The Bangladeshis never forgot this, hence why their national flag has the same rising sun as Japan’s.
During our three week stay there we were cheered and followed around wherever we went. Nothing was too much trouble for our hosts – embarrassingly, an entire shopping mall was shut down just so the 17 of us could browse some shops. It showed the lengths that they were prepared to go.
My girls set themselves high goals of making the top four and reaching the World Cup the following year in India. I didn’t have those expectations as we were joined at the tournament by the likes of Pakistan, South Africa, West Indies, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. I believed we had done well to qualify for the event, but my biggest error in judgement was not to communicate the plan I had for the team with the players.
We struggled to adapt in the first three matches against Bangladesh, Ireland and the West Indies, but all the same showed improvement in each outing.
After the West Indies defeat I gathered them all in the hotel meeting room and told them how proud I was of them for their improvement in hot, dry conditions against some really good teams. I emphasised the point of taking what they had learnt and applying it to the next match and then the next tournament.
An hour after the meeting I had a phone call where two of the senior players wanted to meet me in the bar by the pool. When I arrived they said that the girls were shocked by what I had said. Sometimes the translation gets lost and the captain, who translates, had translated my speech to say that we need to forget about this tournament, forget our dreams of playing in the World Cup and start to think about our next tournament which was to be held in Vanuatu six months later.
I smoothed things over with them and the two players understood what I had really meant, but I told them that I wanted another team meeting first thing in the morning.
I spent the rest of the night preparing a PowerPoint presentation around the strategic plan I devised for the team.
I presented it to the team, showing them that Japan Cricket is still in its infancy compared to our opponents in Bangladesh. I reminded them how far they had come as a team and showed them two staircase methods which indicate that it’s important to take what you learn from each match and tournament and take another step towards the top of the staircase which is your overall long-term objective.
What we were building towards overall was a Silver medal at the 2014 Asia Games in Seoul, South Korea with a world ranking of 10.
The meeting was concluded by announcing that we need to take what we have learnt thus far in Bangladesh and make our final two matches against Pakistan and Zimbabwe our best matches.
I was careful not to say what my objectives for the team were. Because you should focus on the process, not the outcome. Our process was getting better each day and if we did that the outcome would take care of itself.
One objective I had was to beat a Test playing nation by 2015. Three days later, we did it, beating Zimbabwe. Following that game, little old Japan had a World ranking of 13, which was astonishing to many observers.
This whole experience showed me that strategic planning is a must, but what is equally as important is sharing that plan with your team members. My players were my biggest stakeholders and if I had communicated these focus points with them prior to the tournament, the anxiety wouldn’t have been there and we may have achieved an even bigger outcome.
It’s the same within any business in any industry. If you have team members who feel valued and empowered to contribute to a strategic plan document then you will have a more loyal hard working team in the long run.
Sport is a business, and the most successful businesses look towards the future and map out what they want to achieve. Team NZ did it, the All Blacks do it every four years, and thousands of businesses do it across the globe.
Our organisation are big believers that small business can have the efficiency and success of big business, within a small business budget. We have been able to illustrate this on many occasions and your business could be next.
We can help you grow and look into the future for what could be achieved and assist you in developing your own staircase. A strategic plan is not a daunting or time consuming document either. Our one-on-one workshops make the process very simple.
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