What We Can Learn From the Richmond Football Club’s Transformation

What We Can Learn From the Richmond Football Club’s Transformation

The Richmond Football Club’s transformation is a great story, going from a struggling club (poor form and extreme debt) to winning 2 premierships in the last 3 years and becoming one of the strongest clubs in the AFL. Let’s look at some of the key cultural changes they made and what can be applied to a small business.

1. Crystal clear vision
Back in 2010, the newly appointed President of the Richmond Football Club, Peggy O’Neal, submitted a vision to the board. It involved the appointment of a new coach (Damien Hardwick), growing membership from 30,000 to 75,000, making a finals series and eliminating $6.8m of debt. They achieved all of that and much more: Zero debt and $9.8m in cash reserves, made 3 finals series, won 2 Grand Finals, attracted over 100,000 members and created a great culture.
What we can apply
Create a 5 year vision of your business and how you want your business to be. Include a summary of your team, sales, marketing, profits, systems and culture. Communicate it to your team (exclude details like actual intended sales and profits). By preparing and presenting a vision, you will develop clarity and a commitment to make it happen and most importantly involve your team.

2. Vulnerability
in 2016, while Richmond AFL was still struggling in the competition, the board sent Damien Hardwick (Richmond’s Coach) to the US to attend a short course in how to connect with his team. When he returned he stood in front of his team and spoke of something close to heart – his love for his family. He showed his vulnerable side, something the team had never seen. His team were surprised because they had always considered him a strong, tough man with a controlling nature. This was the beginning of the team connecting and respecting him much more and the beginning of a dramatic rise in team performance. Hardwick also asked each team member to stand and talk about something close to their heart or something they feared.
What we can do
I think many of us (business owners), feel we need to always be strong leaders and definitely not show our vulnerability. But building a stronger connection with team members is crucial to growing a stronger business, so creating a session where you and each employee tell the group about a fear, something heartfelt, a passion, a mistake made, would help break down the ‘us and them’ paradigm that can often exist between employers and employees. Conduct this session every 3 or 6 months.

3. Focus on what the team was doing right
Rather than focusing on the mistakes of every team member, Hardwick and his coaches started focusing more on what they were doing right. This created a positive attitude and morale shift which boosted individual self-esteem and individual performance.
What we can do
This may require a focus shift for many of us. When employees make a mistake, understand its part of their learning process and explain the mistake, show them the correct way, encourage and praise their effort and encourage them to continue.

4. Showed a genuine interest in one another

Hardwick asked the entire team to commit to connecting with every team member, in meaningful ways, and as often as possible.
What we can do
It’s an easy thing to do, we just need to decide to do it. As business owners, show more interest in each employee, their families, hobbies and career progress will pay huge dividends. Also teaching managers and seniors to show a genuine interest in all team members is crucial to building a strong happy team.

5. Let each team member be themselves
Hardwick and his coaches developed the skills and strengths of each player and created a simple game plan, but he stopped micro-managing and controlling everyone’s role and instead trusted each player to do their thing and be instinctive. Over-coaching became a thing of the past.
What we can do
We need to have clear job descriptions for each employee and documented procedures of the way tasks should be executed, but don’t micro manage each individual. Everyone has a slightly different style and method of executing something, and that should be encouraged.

If we set a vision, express more vulnerability, get to know each team member, provide positive encouragement and let team members be themselves, we will transform a business environment into a happier, more productive and fun place to be.

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