Published Sep 08, 2023

The origin story of All Blacks Performance Labs

A journey through the Me, the We, and the Go

The foundation of All Blacks Performance Labs started with one simple question.  What is the difference between a team of champions and a championship team? What we couldn’t have anticipated, was the intrepid eight-year journey we would undertake to answer it.

We spent time in the boardrooms of Silicon Valley's best and brightest, and while all their insights were expectedly phenomenal, the most fascinating outtake was where these C-suite leaders sent us next, to study surgical teams. A sector that carries out roughly 310 million procedures a year globally, with some of the highest stakes of any high performing environment. The epitome of performance under pressure.

The life and death insights we took here were again world class. We then found ourselves studying the pit lanes of Formula One.  If we take Team Ferrari as an example, ahead of the 2023 season, they made over 1,000 practice pit stops. The goal is to make the pit stop as repetitive as possible, without mistakes that could compromise the result. In 2022, 73% of Ferrari’s stops took less than three seconds. So far this year, they have raised that bar to 84%.

We then found ourselves studying philharmonic orchestras. A philharmonic can consist of up to 100 musicians, led by a conductor who is aware that each gesture will have an impact, and that there is no room for an unintentional gesture. Every gesture means something.

And then elite soldiers from the New Zealand SAS, an environment so elite it has an 88% failure rate when it comes to selection.

Six years later, we came full circle and found ourselves back home, adding the All Blacks and Black Ferns to the team environments we were studying.  In a sporting context, these teams hold the most unprecedented success rate in sports history.

By reflecting on the common threads of all of these high performing environments, whether your tool is a scalpel or keyboard, or whether your work space is a board room or pit lane, we uncovered what we believed to be the DNA of championship teams. We distilled these learnings into simple methodologies, frameworks, and models summarised by three words: Me, We, Go. It is these three words that in volatile times, separate the best from the rest.

In most cases, executive and leadership teams are focused on the ‘Go’. They have stand-ups, they're collaborative and agile, they do sprints, they use OKRs, they break, but then they go again.

But what we now know is that championship teams start earlier, with the ‘Me’ and the ‘We’ conversations. No, this is not the company values likely to be in your induction manual, but instead, what are our standards and rituals? How are we going to hold ourselves accountable? What will each individual bring to the team? This forms our scaffolding for high performance and the key to unlocking bigger and better outcomes.

But we could all be members of this type of team. We can agree to the standards and rituals, perform them well publicly and achieve great things. But what we also know, is that even across the most successful teams and boardrooms, there comes a moment in all of us where that irrational fear that we’ll be found out by those around us for not being up to the job. It is almost inevitable that imposter syndrome will prevail in the minds of even the most senior executives and leaders in the world.

What we have identified across our eight-year journey is that every championship team, from Silicon Valley to the SAS, to the Black Ferns, starts at the ‘Me’ level. Championship teams encourage individuals to consider  how they think, work, react under pressure. Do they fight, flight or freeze? Do they become the victim or the bully? The journey must start with public acknowledgment of these responses. It is raw, honest and empowering.

It’s once teams crystalize the ‘Me’ for each person in a team environment that they truly discover how much each individual has in common. It’s through ‘Me’ conversations that individuals uncover what it means to belong, to be accepted for who you are, so you can be expected to perform at your best. Belonging is what we consider to be the core ethos of a high-performing environment.

Let’s for a moment liken individual mindset in a team environment to a petri dish. If you put two healthy cells in a petri dish, they will multiply into a healthy culture. On the contrary, if there are healthy cells alongside an unhealthy cell, while they might politely sit side-by-side, their culture will eventually become polluted.

This is the foundation of All Blacks Performance Labs; a journey through the Me, the We, and the Go. This high performance coaching experience gives teams exclusive access to the DNA of what it takes to create and sustain high performance on a global stage.

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