Strip yourself bare

“It’s really hard for a grown man to strip himself back and admit fault. He went away and did that. He’s shown openness to the group. He’s led by example. We tried to follow and it’s fed through the group” – Jack Riewoldt, Richmond Football Club’s Co-Vice-Captain.

The above quote was made about Damien Hardwick, Senior Coach of the Richmond Football Club, a team who are about to play in their first Grand Final in 35 years. For those of you who don’t live in Australia, the Grand Final is one of the biggest events of the calendar year.

While the fairy tale hasn’t reached its happy ending yet, there is a wonderful and powerful story behind the team’s rise to the top.

Damien Hardwick was almost stood down as coach of Richmond in 2016 after finishing 13th on the ladder. Fifth from the bottom. He has just been named “Coach of the Year”.

Excerpts from Sam Edmund’s article in the Herald Sun capture some interesting messages:

“Speak to enough people who worked in Richmond’s football department last year and you hear the word “confusing” quite a bit.”

“He became obsessed with statistics and process to the point where he couldn’t see the forest for the trees.”

Saved from being let go by the skin of his teeth, Damien set about doing some deep reflection:

“Hardwick, 45, faced up to his mistakes and set about rectifying them.”

Hardwick said, “I learnt a big lesson last year and sometimes you learn most when you’re in your darkest places. I was probably working too hard, not listening to enough people, not getting enough advice and I was at my worst. I should have been around my players, getting around my staff and absorbing their opinions and getting some advice from people who’d been in a similar position.”

No matter what the outcome of this weekend’s Grand Final, many business lessons can be learnt from Damien’s approach and the culture he has created amongst his players and assistant coaches.

The first and most powerful is his ability to stand back and scrutinize himself so honestly as a leader and coach. Self-reflection when things aren’t going according to plan is difficult for any human being. But when an entire club is dependent on you and you live in the eye of the media, imagine the added pressure required to delve deep and re-emerge with a fresh spirit and outlook.

Five lessons we can learn from Damien’s experience and apply are –

  1. Strip yourself bare – have the courage to emotionally disrobe yourself. Delve deep.
  2. Step away from the situation to get clarity
  3. Time out – Step away from a project allowing yourself time to seek advice and feedback.
  4. Communicate clearly– even when you have so much data and statistics at your fingertips. Keep it simple.
  5. Infect your team – once you have clarity, find the language and actions that infect your team to reach a common goal.

Your Small Act that will have a Major Impact is to be prepared to “strip yourself bare”