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New Zealand’s national rugby team, the All Blacks, are the most successful professional sports franchise in history, undefeated in over 75% of their international matches over the last 100 years.

And you might be asking yourself “how did they do it?”

A man named James Kerr asked himself that exact same question, and it’s why he went deep and studied the inner sanctum of their team and culture.

From this, he produced Legacy, a compelling book that delivers 15 pragmatic and powerful lessons for today’s business leaders from studying the All Blacks.

However, when looking at this book, there was one lesson that really stood out to me...

That is, to Pass the Ball.

'Pass the Ball' is an analogical way of saying “pass on the leadership and responsibility”.

By passing the ball, the All Blacks decentralise command and leadership at the top, and actively create leaders throughout their ranks.

This way, the success of the team becomes everyone’s responsibility… NOT just the coach and captain.

Shared responsibility means shared ownership. And a sense of inclusion means individuals are more willing to give themselves to a common cause.

This is how you grow a successful trade business – leading by creating more leaders.

A team of ‘followers’ are immediately on the back foot, whereas a team of leader’s step up and find ways to win.

As Tom Peters (a business management expert) famously wrote…

“Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders!”

So, what can you learn from this?

In over 90% of trade businesses, the owner is completely central to everything in the business. Without them, everything falls over.

So, you need to decentralise yourself!

Pass the ball and create more leaders within your ranks!

Empower your team members with greater responsibility for the success of the team and the business, without micromanagement from the top.

Now, if you’re thinking “I’ve tried to handover responsibility, but my employees always drop the ball.”

More often than not, the problem isn’t because the employee can’t take on the responsibility… it’s because you haven’t effectively passed the ball.

The key to a successful pass comes down to how you actually pass it.

You can’t just give people more tasks to do and expect it all to just work out. That approach is flawed and is setting them up for failure!

The ONLY way to successfully pass the ball of responsibility and ownership is to provide:

  1. 1
    A clearly defined goal,
  2. 2
    A clear set of expectations,
  3. 3
    The necessary resources; and
  4. 4

A clearly defined goal: Without a clear goal, how is an employee supposed to know what to strive for? You need to give your employees complete clarity on what you want them to achieve because they can’t read your mind! Once you set the objectives and parameters at the top, you can then ‘pass the ball’ to the team and hand over the responsibility for implementation and detail.

The necessary resources: You can’t just pass over responsibility to your employees without giving them the necessary resources, whether that’s through the right tools, field systems, support, procedures, etc. You wouldn’t send a Rugby player out onto the field without football boots, would you?

A clear set of expectations: Without a clear set of pre-defined expectations for your employee to strive for, how is an employee supposed to achieve what you want them to? Whether it’s timeframes, quality standards, material usage, etc. your employees need to have a clear criterion of expectations that they need to achieve for you to be satisfied with their work.

Accountability: It’s no-good setting goals and expectations without holding your employees accountable to them. Without accountability, delegation of responsibility can go by the wayside. The best part about accountability is that the A-Players in your team will rise to the occasion and thrive in this environment of ownership… while the poor performers will drop from your payroll like flies.

It’s important that you start small and hand over more responsibility with time! If you load them up too much, overwhelm will kick in and they WILL make mistakes.

Slowly release the reigns. Overtime, the more responsibility you release, the easier it becomes.

If you're an electrician, plumber, painter, carpenter, or any other trade business owner who is looking for assistance with developing your team and leadership skills, click here to learn more about how our team can help!


Troy Larkham | Engineer & Trade Business Coach

About the author

From being raised on a cattle farm, to running around the workshop of my families V8 Supercar race team, my upbringing was nothing short of unique. The cowboy-motorsport influence naturally...


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