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From drowning to leading. Organisation culture lessons from community sport

Imagine your home away from home being destroyed.  Years of memories, hard work and success gone in the blink of an eye.  Imagine if you can, surveying the damage to your sporting club from a fishing boat, 8 feet above the playing surface.

This was the scene for the Newbridge Football Netball Club back in January, 2011 after the worst floods in the regions history.  After the initial shock and surveying of the damage the confronting question was – can we go on?

Fast forward five years and the club has a community and sporting precinct the envy of community clubs Australia wide – not bad for a town with just a pub and general store!  On the eve of the first game I was invited back to the club to speak at their season launch about my time at the club, a humbling opportunity considering what the club has endured over the previous five years.

Seeing the progression of the club and watching its working machinations on that cool Thursday evening proved a priceless learning experience for me on organisational leadership and culture.  Although the club may run on volunteer muscle, the lessons are just as applicable to the corporate space.

Defining a culture – every organisation loves to espouse the virtues of their culture and how great it is but what would a visitor to your environment say?  What I surveyed this evening was a connected and engaged group of players, supporters and administrators, a welcoming environment that paid due respect to the past and a clear model of what it meant to be a Newbridge person.  One interaction doesn’t tell all about culture, but it sure gives a pretty big insight.IMG_1535

High level leadership and succession planning – both align closely to the aforementioned culture and as you know are non-negotiable aspects of successful organisations.  The club has recently handed over the reins from the previous administration (who successfully rebuilt the club) to a new and enthusiastic group of motivated leaders.  Organisations and particularly individuals can be loathe to lose control of these positions, however a defined and supportive transition process allows a new vision to be established harnessing the legacies of the past.

Roles and Responsibilities – dysfunction can often be attributed to the fact that people simply don’t understand what their role is and who is responsible for doing what.  Defining clarity of purpose through effective communication supports a cohesive approach to operational implementation.  With the launch inclusive of dinner and well over 100 players and supporters in attendance, it was imperative that players and administrators be allocated roles and responsibilities to execute.  Although it might seem trivial, the dining experience spoke volumes of the communication process, commitment to task and provided tangible evidence of club culture.

Thinking is innovation – perhaps the most exciting step forward in the clubs strategy is the purchase of the local hotel. This once under utilised community resource now attracts visitors from surrounding regions and is staffed by players and administrators on a roster system.  This asset sets the club up for financial stability into the future and leverages an important resource within the small community.  Innovation isn’t just about technology and clever thinking will never be a wasted commodity.

The honour of being invited back to the club was a humbling experience.  The opportunity to learn from the environment was an even greater privilege.

If you’re looking to build the capacity of your organisation contact Leaders of Evolution – info@leadersofevolution.com

Damian Hecker

Co-founder at Leaders of Evolution
Keeping an eye on all sports, especially the mighty Hawthorn Football Club, staying fit in the great outdoors and sneaking in some travel wherever possible occupy Damian's time away from designing e-learning curriculum for both Leaders of Evolution and our valued E-learning Hub Partners.
Damian Hecker

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