This is your Everest: how a unified message can help a team reach its potential

Tim Swinson

Tim Swinson

Consulting Manager

05 October 2023

This is the first in a series of blogs from Tim Swinson, Consulting Manager, looking at the impact of purpose, vision, and values on organisational performance. In this piece he discusses how a clearly communicated vision statement can boost employee engagement and ultimately performance. 

This is your Everest…

The 1997 British & Irish Lions tour was ready to be etched into rugby folk lore – three tests against reigning world champions, the first tour of South Africa since apartheid, and the Home Nation’s best players - everyone in the rugby world was watching.

As the Lions arrived, the South African media, their own media, and supporters rated them as nothing more than rank underdogs. A nice bunch of blokes who were making a bit of history, but were more likely to win friends than matches.

On the morning of the first test at the team hotel, assistant coach Jim Telfer and 11 forwards sat in a circle of chairs in the corner of a conference room. The next four minutes is immortalised in the documentary, Living with the Lions. Jim’s ‘This is your Everest, boys.’ speech is described as the finest the players had ever heard, a sport psychologist’s case study on motivation, and a gold standard example of motivational leadership.

The most rewarding speech of his life

Jim’s speech was part of the team’s foundation, accomplishing a first test victory, a series victory. Both had eluded Jim as a Lion previously, twice as a player, and once as a coach. But why is it universally seen as a triumph of leadership?

Undoubtedly, the delivery of the speech was masterful; but focussing on the rhetoric, showmanship, or wisdom misunderstands the challenge.

Jim’s ability to change the behaviour of his charges by tapping into the individual motivations of each player, communicating a clear unified message to each of them, was the difference. He made certain that as a group they knew:

  • Their objective and the story of the Lions - “This is your Everest, boys. Very few ever get a chance in rugby terms to get to the top of Everest. You have the chance today. Being picked is the easy bit. To win for the Lions in a Test match is the ultimate.”
  • The expectations shared by the team– “Remember the pledges you made. Remember how you depend on each other at every phase, teams within teams, scrums, line-outs, ruck ball, tackles. “
  • The tactics needed to win – “The only way to be rated is to stick one on them, to get right up in their faces and turn them back, knock them back.”

What’s the challenge facing organisations today?

Despite a wider spectrum of motivations, multiple divisions or functions, and a broader range of roles all increasing complexity, the challenge facing organisations today remains the same – connecting and communicating with employees to inspire them to accomplish their best. How do we get our team to engage with our story? How do we ensure their goals align with our organisation’s? How do we effectively communicate our vision for the future? How are our values and expectations best shared with the team? How can we actively show that we genuinely care about our team?

To realise the benefits, organisations have to be sure that their purpose, vision, and values are clearly communicated, and connected with, from top to bottom. Some of the key questions to consider could be:

  • Can your employees emotionally connect with your purpose or mission statement?
  • Does your organisational vision set a common goal for everyone in your organisation?
  • Does your vision statement enable employees to make decisions that further your strategic plan?
  • Do your organisation’s values set clear expectations and drive behaviours you would like your employees to demonstrate?
  • Does everyone in your organisation know the actions needed to make the vision a reality?

Get in touch

Ensuring that employees can engage with your organisations purpose, vision, and values can be difficult and challenging. We know what good looks like – and we can help you realise your objectives and build a fully aligned team. If you would like to have a conversation with us about helping you, please get in touch with me or our Consulting team.

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