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Learning from leaders: Siya Kolisi (Part 2 - Teaming)

I recently listened to an episode of The High Performance Podcast featuring Siya Kolisi, the first black captain of the South African rugby union team and the man who led the Springboks to World Cup glory in 2019.


The interview is a powerful articulation of humanity, self-awareness and leadership. As I listened, I noticed a number of points that relate to our own core pillars of wellbeing, teaming and leadership. Here I will look at the element of teaming and how building connections between teammates can improve performance.



Get to know your teammates


Understanding who your colleagues and teammates are and what drives them can foster a team spirit that pushes your collective performance to new levels. Taking the time to talk openly, to be vulnerable and understand each other as people, rather than just as the job you are doing, builds bonds that can push you to fight that little bit more. It can help you achieve success when the odds are against you.


Kolisi discussed this point, saying:


“If I get to know you as my teammate, far beyond the rugby field – what you stand for, what drives you, your struggles, things that have hurt you – it draws me closer then you understand the person himself, not the sportsman. You understand the person and why you do it because there’s always a why on what you do.


For me, the more I know of you, the more I want to go out there and fight for you. It goes so much deeper and brings you so much closer. It’s not just what’s happening on the field, there’s so much more in life.”


Everyone is human. Getting to know each other for who you are and how you fit into the wider system can help you create connections and build stronger relationships. It supports both personal and collective wellbeing. In addition, understanding each other’s purpose and values can help you motivate each other to push further – particularly when times are tough – and deliver your best performances.


In a team environment, knowing each other’s capabilities and preferences can help you identify each other’s strengths and weaknesses in specific scenarios. This will help to ensure you can allocate roles effectively across your team. It enables you to identify gaps that need to be filled and, as a leader, you will know who to call on for leadership and support in different situations. You can read my previous article on leadership for an example of where Siya Kolisi applied this during his first match as captain of South Africa.


To achieve this level of interaction in your team, it’s vital to create an inclusive, psychologically safe space to enable open discussions, vulnerability and the sharing of ideas from all parties without fear of negative consequences. Doing so can help your team move to a new level of possibility in its learning, behaviours and outcomes.

Click here to request your free Performance Teaming Assessment, featuring seven questions that will guide how best to build your culture of teaming excellence.



Look out for the final part of this blog, when I’ll be discussing further learning from Siya Kolisi on how understanding your influence and control and planning for continued success can enhance your wellbeing and improve your performance.

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