by Pauline Willis on

For the last couple of weeks our Australian team was spotlighted for all the wrong reasons. It has become a national point of shame that two of our team members have been caught trying to give themselves an edge in a manner that breaks the rules of fairness.

Cricket is known for being a sport where Australians proudly display our cultural values to the world.  And of course this seemingly innocent game takes on cosmic importance in the work of Douglas Adams. Tongue in cheek, certainly, but this game represents far more to the wider world than just the opportunity to play out international rivalries through a sporting outlet.  Commentators have observed that there has been more news coverage of this event than was dedicated to recent terrorist incidents.  Why is it so resonant?

These talented young men were tempted by the dark side and their moment of transgression has had serious consequences.  It is often in the crossing of a shared boundary that the importance of that boundary is most brought to our collective awareness. Some norm-breaking results in a useful learning experience for teams and their members, and lets us examine the usefulness of those norms.   At the same time, for anyone who crashes through norms rooted in fundamental values, the consequences for them and their team are serious.

What we may be seeing in the Australian Cricket team is some threats to the fundamental underlying values and team norms since the introduction of performance related financial rewards. The tension has been expressed in ‘win at all costs’ behaviour and the erosion of sportsmanship at matches, leading up to the egregious ball tampering incident.  Teams and their members can learn from painful experiences and use incidents like this to re-align and underscore core values. It is what the team’s leadership and team members do next which is the most important part of the story.  And, for most of us, seeing them learn and grow can lift our spirits again.

Does everyone on your team share the same views of what constitutes ‘good’ or ‘bad’ behaviour? Are your norms explicit and are they working in the service of your team’s success?

The six conditions framework and the Team Diagnostic Survey have been designed to help you address your norms and other key team features.  They enable leaders, coaches and HR partners to be effective in creating, leading and managing superb teams.