Ever since his arrival in south Wales last March, Elite Performance Director Andrew Hore has consistently spoken about developing the right culture and values within the organisation, with a view to enabling the Ospreys to reach new heights ...
In theory, it sounds simple enough; for an organisation to progress and achieve its goals there needs to be some common goals, values and agreed behaviour guidelines in place that everyone identifies with and accepts as non-negotiable. But, the challenge lies in the whole process of identifying what those goals values and behaviours actually are. How exactly does a group reach those decisions?
To this end, the Ospreys have turned to Leading Teams, an organisation that specialises in delivering values-based leadership and team development training to elite athletes and sporting organisations, enhancing the athletes' holistic development, leading to an improvement in team and individual performance. Based in Australia, Leading Teams has enjoyed success working with teams in the Super 14 competition as well as Rugby League and AFL (Aussie Rules) sides and the New Zealand cricket team, before expanding into the UK in early 2008, where they now work with a number of Guinness Premiership teams.
Trent Hotton, CEO, Leading Teams Europe (Pictured) has been working closely with the squad since pre-season, helping to identify the core values that will come to shape what it is to be an Osprey for many seasons to come. A former AFL professional with Collingwood and Carlton, Hotton combines his experiences gained through a teaching degree and his invaluable knowledge from elite sport to help sporting teams and organisations "find their identity and enable them to take more control of where they are going."
Speaking about Leading Teams relationship with the Ospreys, Trent said:
"Our relationship with the Ospreys is a very positive one. Andrew Hore had seen some of our work with Super 14 teams like the Hurricanes, Chiefs, Reds and the Blues and was impressed enough to invite us along to work with the players here and to assist with the development of a culture and core values that would enable the Ospreys to achieve their undoubted potential.
"Obviously when we come into a new environment there will initially be some resistance to what we are trying to do as it does, to a large extent, take individuals out of their comfort zone and make them question themselves and others, and people do find themselves having to face up to awkward or tough issues. Saying that though, the group has embraced what we are doing very well, they have recognised that individually and collectively, their shared passion for the Ospreys and for each other will allow them to make real progress as a team."
The leadership and mentoring programme that Trent is facilitating at the Ospreys has four essential key components, Aligning Teams, Effective Leadership, Mentoring, Personal Development, each of which deals with particular issues which will impact on team performance. It may be about understanding how culture and values effect team performance, analysis of the current culture, creating a desired vision, honest performance review, the role of both a mentor or the person being mentored, identifying personal needs and adapting to change or about discussing personal visions. The end goal is to create a strong organisation with functional dynamics that produces maximum terms.
Trent Hotton commented:
"It can be very difficult to begin with for individuals more used to being out on the field to sit down and talk openly about the issues that are on the agenda as for this process to be successful, you have to look deeply within yourself at times. We encourage the players and coaching staff to develop a framework for how they are going to improve as a group. The key is strong leadership and open dialogue around performance, be it player to coach, coach to player or player to player. We encourage people to be honest, everybody has to contribute a valid opinion, and has to feel comfortable in their environment to be able to do so. Some times it can be hard to tackle the tough issues and we tend to duck out of them for various reasons, when the reality is that usually, the tough issues are the ones affecting performances.
"The other critical thing we do is encourage the group to set down certain behaviour criteria which they believe will help improve performance. When those criteria are agreed, they are set in stone and the group then will not just expect that they be met, they will demand them from their teammates. We help the group to agree what their standards are and how to debate openly and honestly. It's important that debate shouldn't be looked at as criticism. It should be considered as a tool to improve performance and as a way of making people aware of how to be a better player, and in turn, how to be a better team.
"Ultimately, we help people realise that everyone in the group is equally responsible for the team performing well. This may be performing on the field, or those who are observing off the field. Everybody needs to be confident enough in the environment to stand up and be counted if they have an opinion, and that opinion needs to be respected by his team-mates, who thanks to the work we are doing, will realise that pointing out certain aspects or faults in performance is meant to assist and develop both the team and the player.
"An integral component of our work will be to identify and train senior players within the organisation who then work with and mentor other players at the region, to create a stronger group overall, helping to really drive the organisation forward."
Tommy Bowe is one player who had previous experience of a similar system and he says that the benefits that it brings can make a huge difference to a squad. He commented:
"When I was at Ulster I was involved in something similar so I'm probably well positioned to judge the effectiveness of what we are doing, and to be honest, I think that a programme like this is a really positive thing. Since arriving at the Ospreys last summer, it's been clear to me that Andrew Hore has been working hard to build a positive culture and identity within the squad, something that is recognisably Ospreys. It's about creating a culture that youngsters coming into the set-up or new signings like myself can recognise and want to be a part of.
"It's something that all top teams have. You have to have common values and characteristics that you believe in, and which define who and what you are, within your own organisation and to the outside world. The process we are going through is allowing us to identify what is important to us, where we want to be and how we want to get there. It's not something which maybe the outside world can see at the moment, but the impact that it is having on us as a group is huge and will, I'm sure, bring positive benefits to the Ospreys as whole and allow us to really create an identity that people will aspire to."