How Culture Drove Performance at the 2014 Waratahs


I would like to tell you a story where a change in leadership style created a much happier and more harmonious workplace, and therefore a more productive workplace.

Early in 2016, I attended a talk by Daryl Gibson, ex-All Black and current head coach of the NSW Waratahs.

In 2012 the NSW Waratahs were often booed by their own supporters, and their administrators publicly spoke about the “alarming drop” in attendance at their home games. I know, because, despite having missed only ten of their home games in the previous twenty years, my mate and I had discussed turning in our memberships. We didn’t want to pay good money to watch a team that had no heart.

In 2013 a new coach, Michael Cheika, was appointed, and he installed Dave Dennis as captain. The Waratahs made the semi-finals that year. The following year, 2014, they won the competition and backed that up with a strong third place finish in 2015, going down to the eventual champions in the semis.

During his talk, Daryl asked the audience for a show of hands. His question was: “What is most important – leadership, performance or culture?”

From where I was standing about 60% of those present voted for performance, 30% culture and 10% leadership.

Daryl then explained why he believed leadership to be most important. He credited Michael Cheika and Dave Dennis with changing the culture of the team. He believed the work ethic of the team was derived from the culture and that work ethic determined their performance on the field.

It’s exactly the same in the work place. Leadership sets culture; culture drives performance.

If you are negative, cranky or unresponsive, then your people will see those traits and behave in a similar fashion. Make sure your place of work is an enjoyable place to be and treat your people with respect.

Thomas S. Monson, in his publication Pathways to Perfection, writes: “When we treat people merely as they are, they will remain as they are. When we treat them as if they are what they should be, they will become what they should be.”

Jim Neilson provides a mentoring service to company managers and frontline leaders. The expertise he provides is based on the learnings he gained from his experiences and safety journey as an Operations Supervisor and Manager at BlueScope Steel’s Port Kembla works.


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