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For the Greater Good

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For the Greater Good

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Human beings crave a sense of belonging, doing something that matters in life, perhaps more than anything – once basic needs are met.

Most people are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Simply put, Maslow identified that we have five categories of needs: physiological (food, water, sleep), safety (psychological – free from fear and anxiety), love (we belong, feeling loved and loving), esteem (feeling good about ourselves, being valued by others), and self-actualization (living up to our potential, exploring and valuing our unique sense of ‘I’). In this theory, higher needs in the hierarchy begin to emerge when people feel they have sufficiently satisfied the previous need.

This way of thinking has informed modern psychology since the 1950s. It shifted the approach to helping humans from managing problems to developing a growth mindset. Ron Barrassi is an icon of Australian Rules Football. Following an illustrious career and long before sporting teams had psychologists, Barrassi the Coach was deeply aware that how he coached, how he inspired the teams he worked with, the depth of understanding he had of what motivated players was the difference that made a difference.

He was a tough coach and his yelling pre and mid-match, in the privacy of the team’s sessions was legendary, and his winning premiership rate was testament to the value of his approach (53%). He was the envy of most other coaches.

Barrassi, together with legions of contributors to Harvard Business Review and no small number of sporting coaches, have sought to emulate the approach, focusing on building alignment to an agreed game plan, recruiting players aligned to agreed values, and focusing on attaining personal bests and being a team player.

However, despite the profile and conversation in sport, and the evident success of the approach, business has in large part, failed to copy this.

In 1996, when the founder of Dattner Group, Fabian Dattner, wrote Naked Truth (an open letter to the Australian Working Community), the message around belonging was the same. After interviewing many hundreds of employees and almost as many leaders, Fabian concluded that alignment to an agreed purpose, sharing common values (and their supporting values) was the most important contribution a leader could make. Barrassi did this in bucket loads.

Twenty-four years later, and having helped many organisations to successful outcomes, here is our best advice to translate the great Barrassi into great business practice:

  1. Have a meaningful purpose that extends over decades (don’t confuse purpose and goal); it has to be something that gets people out of bed and inspires the best in them; stick with it
  2. Establish base line rules around behaviour (values) – what we all agreed to do, how we will behave, together, to ensure success (no executive or brand or marketing company can do this for you; it must be from the people)
  3. Strategy is meaningless if there is no discipline in execution; teach people (including executives) to have strategic conversations over and over and at all levels
  4. Start any change process with a problem that is commonly understood in the context of purpose, values and agreed strategy
  5. Make sure the voice of the people involved or affected is heard (take time to do this; done well it speeds up execution); repeat this quarterly, as the more you listen the more you will understand
  6. Pattern what is heard (the probability of success is always evident in the common voice)
  7. Generate visionary goals from commonly identified problems
  8. Set achievements together – make them believable/doable; humans want to achieve DON’T IMPOSE STRETCH TARGETS THAT PEOPLE WILL NEVER ACHIEVE
  9. Build TRUST – do what you say you will do and when you say you will do it; admit mistakes, listen, be a facilitator not a remote god
  10. Make time to build relationships and have fun


This works.


Fabian Dattner, Founder Dattner Group & CEO Homeward Bound