Have you ever heard of the saying, ‘the best players make the best coaches?’ I have definitely heard this said many a time before and of course, when looking at it in a sporting context, you would find it hard to disagree. However, it is clear there is more to it than just simply putting the best players together and expecting the best results. I was fortunate to listen to Margaret Heffernan (acclaimed TED author and business leader) speak about culture and what constitutes a strong and sustainable one. She relayed a story regarding an experiment on chickens and how their productivity of laying eggs was affected by their working conditions. After a period of monitoring output in several different coops, it was decided that the chickens that laid the most eggs would be put together in the hope that they would continue this productivity. These ‘super chickens’ started well but over time, it was their egos that took over and they started to kill each other. They were all so determined to be the best, that they simply couldn’t cope with the competition!

This analogy can be used for sport and business. It is no surprise that those at the top of their respective industries have, wrongly or rightly, inflated egos but if you put a group of these ‘super chickens’ together, chances are that the results would be pretty similar (without the killing anyway!)

It has become clear to me it is much more about creating a balance of these high flyers and ‘squad’ players and managing an environment in which both can prosper. It has also become clear that it is not the most gifted and most talented that will make the team successful. The best teams have players that are willing to put their egos to one side and do everything they can to aid the development of that team. During my rugby career, it was no surprise that the players that were consistently awarded the players player of the season were not the internationals or those who scored the most tries but the ones that had an unbelievable work ethic and contributed positively to the working environment.

I realise it is not that simple and there are lots of factors that contribute to a positive culture but understanding the impact of the stronger personalities can certainly help. Select a group of people that show humility, combine that with a great work ethic and you’re on you way to improved performance.

Is it just about the best players?