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Can you learn anything from the Australian cricket team?

If you’ve been following the Ashes 2013, you’ll know that the Australian cricket team has been struggling to say the least, much to England’s delight. However, rather than simply revelling in Australia’s failures, perhaps we should be looking at the lessons we can learn and applying them to a business context.

An important issue that’s become apparent, for instance, is that leading a team which isn’t doing well is never easy – whether you’re a sportsperson or a manager in a company. In fact, I read an interesting piece this week discussing Michael Clarke’s ability as a leader, suggesting that he isn’t too good at managing those players who aren’t as talented as him.

As Australia’s captain, there’s no doubt that Clarke is a great technical cricketer. However, when it comes to leading a team, being good at what you do isn’t enough. In order to be a successful senior figure, no matter what sector you’re in, you need to recognise that your team won’t always work in exactly the same way that you do. Without the same level of experience and natural ability, you can’t expect all employees to be perfect. What’s important is the training and encouragement that you offer them so that they can develop over time.

A failure to recognise this can often result in managers taking on too much themselves, which is what we’re seeing with Clarke. The danger of this approach is that, eventually, the strain will start to show. It’s important to understand that – in a team – you can’t do everything on your own. You need the support of those around though, no matter what your hierarchical position.

Here are 5 key tips to help a leader thrive:

–          Manage the individual and not the team – this will help you get the best out of each person. To do this most effectively learn what motivates and drives each person. Yes, write it down and update this regularly!

–          Be approachable – not as a drunken 2am conversation but rather make individuals aware that you are committed to helping them progress so it is important you work together to do this. Your door is always open.

–          Find your management persona – we are all different so embrace this and lead in the way you feel is most effective to you personally, your team and the individual. You don’t need to become a school teacher just because your title says ‘manager’.

–          Don’t be afraid to make tough decisions – you want respect and not friendship.

–          Give individuals responsibility and a reputation to live up to – you will find they will rarely disappoint you and subsequently this builds confidence, trust and loyalty.

When it comes to being a great leader, it’s important to take the good with the bad and be able to manage your team through difficult times. This isn’t only about being the best at what you do, but possessing key qualities to ensure the success of your team and not just yourself. In recruitment, for instance, you may be a top biller, but if you don’t have the right approach to management, then your team as a whole could fail.

Perhaps Clarke would be a great leader of a strong team, but at the moment, Australia needs someone to bring out the best of a struggling side. And, as many businesses are starting to get back on their feet as the economy picks up, the same can be said across the board.

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