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Who is your company’s Siya Kolisi?

Posted on 14/11/2019
by Nick Boulton

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When South Africa won this year’s Rugby World Cup, there was a lot to savour. The sight of Siya Kolisi hoisting the Webb Ellis Trophy united a country – a truly rainbow nation of diversity, possibility and hope. The Springbok captain could probably run for president right now and win.

As a proud South African, I couldn’t help but reflect on the Springboks’ achievement in Japan. Completely outwitted and outmatched by New Zealand during pool play, they were written off by pundits and fans alike. But anyone who follows sports knows the scoreboard is the final judge and no one will remember those early setbacks.

In the afterglow of the win, I found myself thinking about the way Kolisi talked about the Springboks. He used a word often used in professional sports: brotherhood. More than a team, more than a collective of athletes, they are family.

It’s that sense of creating “brotherhood” that makes sports stars such attractive figures on the corporate speaking circuit. Companies wheel them in to talk about teamwork and working effectively together. They’re amazing as motivational tools, but the connections between their achievements and the world of work are often clunky and mismatched.

Here’s why:

Professional sportspeople have one thing in common beyond their chosen sport – they forge a difficult path for something beyond making money. They do it because, ultimately, they are passionate about what they do.

Every business tries to replicate this, but they simply can’t create that sense of brotherhood or sisterhood. It’s a bond made by years of training, hardships and struggles, one that demands every single person perform to their absolute best to succeed.

Work just isn’t like that, as much as I would love that to be the case. You’re not going to die if you miss your targets, you won’t lose your position in the company with one average performance. You can be passionate about your work, truly believe in the product or service you deliver, but work is work and we need to pay bills.

So, is it impossible to recreate that ‘brotherhood’ at work? Not entirely, but it’s extremely difficult. With the right mission, right leaders, and right values, you can create a culture everyone believes in.  It may not be a passion or vocation, but it means they can get up every morning, bounce into work and give it everything.

This is where having a Siya Kolisi is crucial: a founder, owner, director or leader who can make the difference when things get hard. Someone people will follow into the daily battle of phone bashing, cold calling and business warfare. They are the ones who will pull together a company’s different cultures, ethnicities and diversities. You need to identify them, ensure they inspire other leaders, and then back them completely.

The question is: Who is your company’s Siya Kolisi?


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