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To tame egos, start sweeping

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in Leaders & Managers,Team Building

When Graham Henry became head coach of New Zealand’s national rugby team in 2004, he knew he faced long odds. The once-great rugby powerhouse—perhaps the most successful sports team ever—was in a rut.

Accustomed to winning, the team’s substandard play led to dissension. Discipline collapsed. Players threatened to quit. The future looked hopeless.

Henry immediately began rebuilding morale. To bring the team together, he preached the importance of humility.

Rather than insist that players adopt a humble attitude (it’s never just that easy), he took a more creative approach. Embracing a new mantra, “Sweep The Shed,” he proposed that players make a commitment to leave every locker room cleaner than when they arrived.

He meant that literally. At every facility where they played, teammates bought into Henry’s idea. From the most senior players to rookies, everyone collected trash, swept the floor or performed other maintenance tasks. They gained pride by working side-by-side doing menial labor.

Better yet, they bonded as a group. It’s hard for egos to interfere with team camaraderie when everyone grabs a broom or bucket and cleans a dirty locker room.

In 2005, New Zealand’s squad received International Team of the Year honors by the International Rugby Board—and Henry became Coach of the Year. He won that honor again in 2006.

Follow Henry’s example and put your team to work in ways that bring people together for a common cause. Treat everyone as an equal; don’t show special treatment for your stars.

— Adapted from “The Best Teammates Do This—Two Powerful Teamwork Examples,” Michael Rogers, www.teamworkandleadership.com.

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