In the world of HR leadership, the game is always changing. And just like in sport, you need to constantly adapt and refine your strategies to keep your team at its best.
To bring this idea to life, we sat down with former England cricketer, and now small business owner, Stuart Broad.
We asked him to share the principles he picked up on the field that now drive winning performances in his business.
Add these strategies to your game plan, and your team will be playing to win.
In this article, we cover:
- About Stuart Broad
- Why focus on team performance?
- Remove the fear of failure
- Connect leaders and teams
- Use data to adapt to uncertainty
- Final thoughts
About Stuart Broad
During his Test cricket career, Stuart became one of England’s leading wicket takers, and helped his country win the 2010 ICC World Twenty20.
Since retiring in 2023, he has focused on running his small business, where he’s instilled a winning mentality, spirit, and tenacity in his team.
Why focus on team performance?
Stuart played a pivotal role in England’s successes for many years, but he won nothing alone. Everyone on the team needed to perform to secure every win.
Running a business is no different.
How your people perform—both individually and together—has a huge impact on whether your business will be successful.
As an HR leader, you can think of yourself as the coach. It’s down to you to help your people reach peak performance and drive your business to glory.
Focus on improving performance and you’ll:
- Maximise potential: By identifying strengths and areas for improvement, you’ll help employees grow and unlock their full potential.
- Retain top talent: Recognising and rewarding individual and team performances will help to increase the chance that you’ll hold on to your stars, while solidifying morale.
- Adapt to change: Through strategy and training, your people will become agile and responsive to shifting priorities and market demands.
With these benefits in mind, let’s get into Stuart’s top principles.
Remove the fear of failure
One of the most common issues that could be holding your people back is their fear of failure.
If your team is hesitant to make mistakes, they’ll tend to play it safe. This leads to a lack of innovation, less creative problem solving, and a comfort zone that’s hard to get out of.
And if your competitors are experimenting and pushing boundaries, your business will be left behind.
Stuart says the way you communicate as a team is vital in keeping everyone positive and feeling unstoppable:
He adds: “Removing the fear of failure is easy to say, but not easy to do. In the changing room, we always kept the conversation positive, and focused on how we were going to win the game.
“You still need to be aware of the negatives but approach them with a question of how you’re going to win from this position.”
Here are three ways to reduce the fear of failure:
- Create a safe environment: Employees need a safe space to make mistakes. Foster a culture where failures are seen as opportunities for growth rather than reasons for punishment. Acknowledge them when they happen and make a conscious effort to learn. Reinforce and celebrate when your team succeeds the second time round.
- Set realistic expectations: For any business to succeed, there needs to be some ambition. It’s healthy to aim high as that will keep everyone motivated and make you more competitive. But your goals and the expectations that underpin them need to be realistic and attainable. It’s ok to be pushing, but targets that are way too high can be overwhelming, leading to anxiety in your team.
- Give regular feedback: Whether your team is smashing it out of the park or trailing behind, timely and constructive feedback will keep them on a positive track. Regular check-ins provide everyone with opportunities to address concerns, offer guidance, solve problems together, learn from losses, and celebrate wins.
Connect leaders and teams
It’s no secret that having a strong team chemistry will help your business succeed. Yet, many still find it a challenge to get everybody to gel and work effectively towards the same goals.
A common reason for this is a lack of connection between leaders and their teams. It can sometimes feel as if it’s ‘us’ and ‘them’, when really everyone is on the same side.
Reflecting on the best management style he ever worked under, Stuart explains the importance of connection.
He says: “Our top leaders would go around, just connecting with the players and making sure everyone is comfortable and confident for the next match.
“It was important that every player—whether they were young, old, inexperienced, or very experienced—felt connected to the team.
“Ultimately, both sport and business are about people. You need very motivated people to drive towards your target.”
Here are three ways to foster stronger connections:
- Open communication: Employees and leaders need open channels for communication. Otherwise, the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality will continue to fester. Transparency, trust, and ensuring everyone is heard removes that distinction. Encourage both regular 1-2-1 meetings and team discussions. These need to be a priority and should be strongly embedded into your culture.
- Lead by example: To get buy-in from everyone in your team, you have to embody the behaviours you expect from them. In other words, lead by example. This doesn’t mean you need the skills and experience they have. It means living the values of your business, holding yourself accountable, and dedicating your efforts to your shared goals.
- Recognition and rewards: In sports, players are recognised and rewarded for their individual contributions towards a team victory. Try to replicate this by acknowledging and celebrating employee achievements, and you’ll reinforce a sense of belonging and motivation.
Ensure you have solid connections between leaders and teams by adopting continuous conversations. Not only will this drive business performance, but it also gives people the opportunity to gradually progress throughout the year.
In fact, 82% of HR leaders believe continuous conversations will replace annual appraisals entirely.
Use data to adapt to uncertainty
Uncertainty is the only thing in business you can be certain of.
As an HR leader, it’s vital you support your team in adapting to whatever challenges the world throws at you—whether that’s economic shifts, changing consumer behaviour or disruptive competitors.
Managing these conditions requires resilience, and that starts in the minds of your people. You need them to stay level-headed, think strategically, and respond with confidence.
Stuart says that to make your team adaptable, you need to empower them with hard data. Even as an experienced player, he still relied on data to reach the top of his game in all conditions:
He says: “Part of my job as an open bowler was to adapt to conditions as quick as I could. Both instinct and data really took over there.
“Yes, I’ve got experience in my instinct of where the top of off stump is, but I still got messages from the analysts with exactly the number of meters I needed to bowl.
“The more data I could get, the quicker I could adapt to different situations.”
Here are three ways to help your people prepare for whatever the world bowls at them:
- Data-driven insights: Tap into HR data to gain a better understanding of the performance of your people. As a leader, you need to be analysing when and why performance drops, as this will help you address the situation and solve problems before they spiral.
- Scenario planning: Though you can’t predict the future, scenario planning offers you a way to be as prepared as you can. This involves creating possible business scenarios and laying out strategies and plans for how you’d respond. This gives your team clear direction when they need to pivot, which they’ll be able to do quickly.
- Continuous learning: If your people are continuously learning and acquiring relevant skills, they’ll be able to manage unexpected challenges. So, embed this into your culture, and commit time and resources to training. This will ensure a skills gap won’t be a barrier when you need to quickly adapt.
Much like cricket, business is a team game. Each person needs to perform at their best if you’re going to win.
As an HR leader, it’s your job to give people everything they need to reach their potential and sustain success with a high-performance culture.
By removing the fear of failure, fostering stronger connections, and using data to adapt to uncertainty, you’ll bring the winning wisdom of sport to the competitive field of business.
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