Business Book Club Brunch: Legacy

Written by Carol Yung.

James Kerr Legacy Book smallFormer 59-test cap All Black, and former Australian rugby league star, Brad Thorn coined the phrase, “Champions do extra”, a philosophy that means finding incremental ways to do more and continuously improve.

The same phrase could be extended to the New Zealand Business Women’s Network (the network) – a 1,400 strong network characterised by our collective desires to continuously improve both personally and professionally, build our networks, grow our careers and businesses, and help other Kiwi women do the same.

This collective desire is epitomised by the continued popularity of the network’s Business Book Club Brunch (book club), where a group of like-minded women discuss a chosen book designed to inspire and challenge us, over a Kiwi-styled brunch.  This book club was no different.

This edition of the book club focused on New Zealand author James Kerr’s Legacy, and again was a sell-out. While we temporarily departed from our usual venue of Ozone, to Anna Hansen’s second Modern Pantry in Finsbury Square, there was no shift from the thoughtful discussions experienced at previous editions of book club. Kerr’s Legacy was the first sports-based book we’ve read, however its lessons are applicable not only in leadership and business, but for other areas of our lives.

Through Legacy, Kerr explores the values-based culture that underpinned the rebuild of the All Black’s culture and performance, which resulted in winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Structured into fifteen lessons of leadership (the “First XV”), Legacy outlines the principles that drive the world’s most successful sporting team. Kerr’s insights from the All Blacks’ set-up are interweaved with examples from other high performance sporting teams and sports people, including the Team Sky and British cycling teams, Sir Donald Bradman and Michael Jordan, as well as examples from other business, military and cultural fields.

James Kerr2 smallLegacy provided a good starting point for the group-led discussion, where members shared their own observations, insights and experiences across the following key themes:

Having a higher purpose and leaving the jersey in a better place: “Living the values” was important for our members; particularly around how we might be more effective, and support others and our teams to do so, by having a higher purpose; and how we might best represent all those who have come before, and all those who follow suit, particularly as Kiwi women in London, and further afield.

Telling our story – a Kiwi woman’s discourse: New ways of telling compelling stories, and changing perceptions, were discussed. This was a topical theme for members, particularly in the context of rebuilding both reputation and capability, when relocating to a city like London or starting a new role.

Different types of leadership styles for different situations: Members discussed the effectiveness of transformational and transactional leadership styles, “getting the right people on the bus” and the importance of human connection in understanding motivating teams.

Getting into the “blue” zone:Legacy introduces us to the concepts of “red head”, which is a state where being heated, overwhelmed and tense results in poor decision making under pressure, and “blue head”, where situational awareness and clarity is maintained, resulting in better decision making under pressure. Members shared their experiences and techniques of how they have tried to regain their “blue head” and how they recalibrated their tolerance for high-pressure situations.

James Kerr smallThe importance of continuous learning: Members spoke of the importance of having ongoing opportunities to up-skill and be continuously challenged, both at work and in their personal lives. It was highlighted that the network played an important role in this context for many members, particularly if their roles at work were unable to provide opportunities for continuous learning.

The group-led discussion concluded with a visit from the author who spoke about his learnings from writing Legacy, observations from a range of high performance environments, and his future project Spearhead. Following a question and answer session with members, Kerr wrapped up the book club with a book signing.

Better people make Better All Blacks, but more importantly, they also make a better contribution to society. Legacy provides us with a “First XV” of how we can get there. For those who’d like to engage with Legacy further, you can grab a copy here.

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