Doing the right thing, even when it’s hard

by | Sep 9, 2019

The best leaders have successfully created environments that enable their teams and organisations to access the full range of their capabilities.

High performance happens in the moment, and we celebrate it. But the important stuff takes place away from the spotlight.

These are the conversations between teammates. Those seeking to influence team performance, set the standard by asking:

“Will the person do the right thing by the team, even when it’s hard?”.

In the most successful teams, the members of the team ultimately determine its composition. They do not tolerate behaviours that have the potential to undermine team performance, regardless of the profile (and capability) of their teammate.

In my experience, teams gain their resolve from their shared experiences, the most important being the tough times when individuals falter and team ethos is tested.

This Australian team has gone through so much together. They have been broken and rebuilt. While no one would recommend the path they have taken, and they will forever pay a price, the team somehow seems stronger for the experience.

They had a lot of talking to do.


As the group has come together, they have also won back the faith of the lovers of Australian cricket.

Image result for tim paine


So much kudos must go to the captain, Tim Paine. He also shows the benefit of his hardships. He faced into his sporting mortality a few years ago when an injury cut him down just when he seemed ready to make his mark.

In 2010 he had five operations on a finger, including having bone taken from his wrist and hip and grafted to help the break knit. He has a plate and eight pins holding the finger together, not ideal for a wicketkeeper/batsman.

“It just wouldn’t get better, then when it did, I would start to train again and it would break again,” Paine said last year.

“The fact that the break across the top [of the finger] was quite big, and because I was holding the bat, the bottom had sort of shattered a little bit.”

Paine said overcoming the mental anguish was just as difficult as recovering from the physical damage.

“You only have to look at my numbers in those few years when I came back,” Paine said last year.

“I was battling mentally.

“I was out there thinking I was going to get hit and if I did get hit, that I would never play again.

“It certainly rattled me a lot.

“The first step was actually going to speak to someone about that and be honest about it, that I was really battling.”

Leadership found him when he wasn’t looking. He now has his own chapter of cricket folklore, a narrative and a legacy that he deeply understands and respects.

People often ask what business can learn from sport. More than anything else, it is the capacity to individually and collectively learn from mistakes, to reflect, and to make these learnings the platform for creating a better version of itself.

There is no reason business cannot adopt this mindset, and it starts with the leaders.

How do we go about this?

In all the confusion that accompanies disappointment, I recommend that the leader reflect on the following questions:

1. “Do I believe in my people?”
2. “Do they believe in me?”

Neither of these are possible without asking…

3. “Do I believe in me?”.

By extension, you will need to ask “What makes me believable?”, and also what do I need to see in my people for me to believe in them, to trust, both their character and their capability?

Australian cricket is fortunate that Tim Paine could answer yes to all three questions, but the answers would not have come easily.

That’s what high performance looks like.

I always enjoy the opportunity to talk all things culture and high-performance, and the development of leaders to achieve it.

Here are three ways to start the ball rolling:

  • I teach and coach an integrated leadership performance system utilising sophisticated learning models and systems garnered from elite team sport, ideal for leaders who are committed learners, who understand the responsibility of leadership. To learn more, please arrange your FOC 30-minute leadership telephone consult to discuss your personal, team or organisational challenges or aspirations, please use this link.
  • Participate in our next one-day Leadership Masterclass which I personally facilitate. It is a sophisticated, intimate and practical leadership intensive for aspirational leaders, both current and emerging. To learn more, and to register, please use this link.
  • Sign up for the “More to the Game” weekly email, and receive a copy of my “What business can learn from football” White Paper. The emails are short leadership reflections, no more than a couple of minutes to read and we will always treat our communication with respect. Please use this link.

You can also contact me at and let me know how you think we can work together.

Cameron Schwab
CEO & Founder


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