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What business owners can learn from Australia’s cheating cricketers

So much has already been written about the ball-tampering scandal that has hit Cricket Australia. But what could business owners learn from this?

Expectations of staff should be set from the top that projects and tasks will be completed on-time, and to a high level to meet your company goals. But what if there was a perception from the team that these targets should be met no matter what? That the ends justify the means.

The ruinous impact of ruthless competitiveness

In sport, psychologists talk about the ruinous impact of ruthless competitiveness, whereby winning matters above all else. This is exactly what took hold in the Australian cricket team, where the desire to gain a competitive advantage against South Africa led to the hatching of the unethical plan. The final version of events will be confirmed in time, but it appears the ball tampering tactics were devised by the leadership team of captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner, and that they influenced a junior player to carry them out.

It all unravelled and the three individuals concerned have been severely punished as well as facing the wrath of the wider public. There has been a sense of national shame with many, many questions asked about how this was considered an acceptable way of winning.

Setting the right expectations within businesses

Let’s look at this from a business perspective. The owner and senior managers set the expectations, and the managers work with their teams to meet them. If the culture and values are not right and the expectations are unachievable, businesses are risking bad behaviour taking seed. The same is true if there are extreme penalties for not meeting expectations.

Un-diverse, small and closed-shop leadership teams can be subject to damaging group-think, whereby bad ideas go unchallenged. An unhealthy team culture may mean that team members feel they must be deferential to their manager’s instruction – even if they know it is wrong. What if one of your staff wanted to speak out or whistle-blow about unethical team practices or management expectations? Do you have the right policies and procedures in place and the culture to be able to deal with it?

Business owners should be wary of putting too much pressure on their team through unachievable targets or penalties that invite stretching of the rules or bad behaviour. It is worth pausing to consider whether all your team know and live by your values. Are you accessible so that even the most junior person within your organisation knows that they can report bad practice by managers without fear?

Expert help with management culture

Getting this culture right, along with the correct structural policies and procedures, can be a challenge for any business. But, as events from the world of cricket have shown,  it is arguable that you can’t afford not to try.  Professional, external advice can be extremely helpful here, adding vital perspective. To discuss how we can help with this, speak to your local HR Dept adviser.