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The Game of Teams

Teams are the new unit of currency in business. Harnessing the wisdom and brilliance of teams is not easy. It can be messy, confusing, non linear and complicated. Learn from your peers and thought leaders about what it takes. Listen to their stories, pains, and pride when it works. This show is about the magic of mining work and relations for high performance, satisfaction and fulfilment on teams

Dec 15, 2019

Introduction: Donal Courtney has married an incredibly successful commercial /corporate as an Executive and now Independent NED career with an equally impressive career in Rugby refereeing.  Donal started his career as a Chartered Accountant, was practice Manager for Author Anderson, held various CFO/Executive board positions for companies like Airbus, Orix and GMAC Bank. He is an independent Non-Executive Director for Dell Bank, IPUT, Uni Credit and Permanent TSB. His is a former International Rugby referee and Head of European refereeing and he is now World Rugby disciplinary panel member. 


Podcast episode summary: This particular episode shared Donal’s insight working/leading and managing teams both on the pitch and off the pitch in corporate life. Donal peppered this conversation with numerous examples & lessons we can learn from the world of sport.  As many of my guests have shared & Donal agreed the demands on people at work are increasing, regulation has increased, governance is tougher, there is a greater focus on culture in a good way, pace & the speed of change is relentless. We are living in an increasingly digitised and networked society and this ask for new Leadership and a collective approach to solve some of our more wicked problems. Much can be learnt from the world of sport. 


Noteworthy points of discussion

  • Whether you are leading a 2-man team or a 10 -man team, Leadership is critical. Leaders need to think in terms of not just the resources available to the team but about the right skills, the right balance & mix of people making sure people feel safe to contribute and be part of a collective 
  • Regular check-points and feedback is required -Seagull management is a misnomer 
  • Continuous discussion and a process to surface issues, escalate concerns and have the conversations that matter. This means more agile ways of working.
  • World is more complex, Brexit for example creating uncertainty, banking change and regulation has heightened, Culture and creating a culture that allows for Diversity and Inclusion is important -belonging matters 
  • Everyone one is different, and people need to feel OK to bring themselves to work 
  • Huge opportunity for innovation and learning but that requires a willingness to adapt & learn
  • In sport players are encouraged to look at videos to see their play and their patterns we spoke about how this approach is akin to coaching effectively in organisations 
  • Donal’s approach at the Irish Rugby Union is coach like-he asks questions because he knows he is not close to the action the players are. 
  • People have to move away from the idea of failure and embrace continuous learning and experimentation -a lot of it comes down how you communicate and the values you model
  • Best team in Donal’s opinion as an example of great team work is the All Blacks. He shares how the All Blacks stay on the pitch after a match to practice their routine. They have about 7-8 different Hakas that they need to perform. They demonstrate togetherness, organisation, shared or distributed leadership, clear purpose, co-ordination and an ethos of belonging to a bigger cause. It is all about the Jersey. 
  • Joe Schmitt brought that ethos to the Irish Team-Joe is committed to practice, planning and clarity of play. 
  • Donal loves the Adidas logo “Impossible is nothing” and he shared many examples of teams who came from obscurity to becoming winners by virtue of their belief & commitment, witness Japan versus South Africa in the last world cup, Leicester City a few years ago, The Europeans in 2012 at Medina in the US. 
  • TEAM acronym to mean Togetherness, Empathy, Attitude and Management 
  • His lesson from his transition from Executive to INED is to know your role and understand you are working on a team and not as a sole trader.
  • Things will go wrong on teams but it is how you deal with the fallout that is important 
  • Golf is often thought of as a very singular sport but Donal commented on the very important role the team plays in a professional golfers career. The relationship between caddy and player is vital.