“West Indies Cricket: A Way Forward” First Citizens-WIPA 8th Annual Awards: Keynote Address by Rudi V Webster

Today the world is more complex and competitive than it has ever been, even in sport, and success now requires a new kind of leadership that has motivation, management of relationships and management of change as first important priorities.

Rudi V. Webster - June 5, 2011: POS, Trinidad

In Australia, I often had to remind coaches and administrators that although players are great warriors on the field, they are still sensitive human beings who have a basic human need for love, respect, recognition, and admiration. I explained that if those needs were met they would perform better, particularly in tough situations when they have to give something extra.

Twenty-seven years ago I wrote a best selling book in Australia on performance in sport and what I am going to quote to you now are a few ideas in and around that book. You must tell me if these ideas are still relevant today.

A champion footballer and international polo player said to me thirty years ago. “Administrators and coaches in Australian football can learn a hell of a lot from horse trainers. Their eyes would be opened if they spent some time observing the methods used to train and prepare racehorses. They would learn a few things from the trainers about their techniques and their philosophy on training and performance. Owners and trainers use their commonsense to get the best out of their horses and definitely show more (love), interest and concern for them.” He added that horse trainers focus everything they do on improving the performance of the horse. He felt that in football, administrators too often put their own interests and priorities above those of the players and definitely did not treat them as well or as sensibly as trainers treated their racehorses.

In a separate interview that same footballer asked me what I would do in an Australian Rules football club if I had a free hand to improve its performance.

I told him that I would start with the president and his board and would put them through an education programme to clarify their function, purpose and principles and focus ob the positive and negative aspects of pressure. I would then impress on them that as part of the support team to the players they should do all in their power to get the best out of the players to help them win. Too often, that objective plays second or third fiddle to personal, administrative and bureaucratic goals. That is where they differ from horse trainers. Once I got their heads and egos sorted out, I would move on to the much easier job of dealing with the coaches and players.

That footballer agreed with me and added that in successful clubs the president and his team lead by example because they realize that good leadership starts with self-leadership.

Ladies and gentlemen that was thirty years ago.

The Performance Cycle

Recently, Hillary Beckles, the cricket historian, said his two cents worth about West Indies cricket.

In Narinesingh’s book, LARA; The Untamed Spirit, Beckles is quoted as saying that after the West Indies victory in 2009 against England he saw signs of a maturing team. He also believed that the West Indies slump that started in 1995 had been prolonged by the Board’s failures. He equated the team’s failure with the Board’s failure.

He stressed, “With a revival of interest and involvement of senior players, there is great hope for and confidence in the progress of West Indies cricket.” Beckles felt the team had turned the corner and that the discordant forces were now moving closer together.

But Beckles has now changed his tune. Looking at only a limited view of the situation, he attributes the team’s decline to the players’ attitude, and according to him, to a disruptive culture of ‘donmanship’ in the team that has to be eradicated. He suggested that Chris Gayle was the Don.

Performance: Ability and Motivation

There is more to performance than ability. Ability is an indicator of potential that shows what a player is capable of doing. It does not guarantee that he will do it nor does it guarantee good performance.

Motivation is a better predictor of performance and reveals why a player might do something and how likely he is to do it. It is a powerful force or desire that drives him towards his goals. A player will never reach the top of his sport unless he has that hunger within him.


In competition, a player’s performance usually revolves around his self-image and self-beliefs rather than around his talent and skill. That picture causes him to perform like the player he believes himself to be. The best way to change his performance therefore is to change his self-image and self-beliefs.

On average children receive 460 negative comments to 75 positive comments during the course of a day. That is a ratio of 6 to 1. What would happen to the children’s self-image if that ratio were reversed?

And what could happen to our players’ self-image if the ratio of negative to positive feedback were reduced? Since performance revolves around self-image and self-belief wouldn’t it be sensible for the movers and shakers of our game to try to do everything possible to improve those areas?

People and the Strategic Plan

I was very pleased to read about the Board’s Five Year Strategic Plan. It reads well. Let us hope that they implement it.

Still, plans do not accomplish work. Goal charts don’t accomplish work. It is people who get things done. People breathe life into the organization’s missions, plans and goals. At the end of the day, people are why the plan works and why the organization rises or falls.

Since the players are the Board’s most valuable asset and are the people who will have to implement a large part of that plan, it would be interesting to find out if the Board discussed it or explained it to them. I would hazard a guess that it didn’t.

Change is a funny thing. The person suggesting the change is convinced of its value but the persons who are going to have to carry out the change might not see things the same way, hence the need for discussion and persuasion.

The same is true of motivation. Motivation depends on the ‘logic bubble’ of the people who are to be motivated not on the ‘logic bubble’ of management.

A strategic plan only gets the organization so far. Competent, highly trained and highly motivated people are the key to its execution and success. A good relationship between the leaders and the led is critical for success. That relationship must be built on trust, respect and loyalty.

General Omar Bradley once said, “The greatest leader in the world could never win a campaign unless he understood the men he had to lead.” And George S. Patton Jr., a brilliant World War 11 general also said: “Wars may be fought with weapons, but are won by men. It is the spirit of the men who follow and the man who leads that gains victory.”

Dealing with Conflict

There are basically four ways to deal with conflict. You can argue and fight, you can negotiate, you can problem-solve, and you can design solutions.

The fight approach is the most common but least effective method. It hardly ever produces satisfactory solutions. One side usually wins and is happy, and the other side loses and is angry and resentful. It does not result in win/win outcomes.

Negotiation is about compromise. It is agreeing to a position that is somewhere between two existing positions.

The third approach is problem solving. Here we have a problem so we analyze it, find a cause and remove the cause. But removing the cause might not solve the problem. It you remove the dictator democracy will not necessarily flourish. If you remove Chris Gayle, team performance will not automatically improve: it might get worse. This approach is quite popular and is very appealing to the mediocre mind.

The best approach is to design an effective solution. This is the method that I would recommend very strongly to the stakeholders in West Indies cricket. With design thinking there is a sense of purpose and a sense of fit. You choose a goal or purpose and then fit or tailor your skills and resources to achieve that goal. The three previous methods look back at what is already there but design looks forward at what could be created.

All the parties in our cricket should jointly explore the following questions: “What type of team must we have in five years if we are to become a world power again? What type of players are we looking for to create that team? What attitudes, work ethic and cricket culture do we need to promote? What selection policies and philosophies do we need to put in place? How can we ensure the independence of selectors? How can we improve the identification of talent in the region?

Once that talent is identified, how do we go about developing it fully? Should the Board and players establish a contract of expectations between themselves? Then the players would know exactly what the Board expects of them and the Board would know exactly what the players expect of them. How can the WICB improve motivation, confidence and the performance of the players? How can it re-establish trust, loyalty and respect between itself and the players? What types of development programmes and development modules should be put in place at the grassroots level? How can the WICB change its image and attitude, restructure itself and improve its own performance? Are the regional boards prepared to do the same things?

Beliefs: The key to Behaviour

What you achieve is largely a matter of what you believe. Your beliefs determine what you can achieve. If you believe you can or if you believe you can’t, you are right.

If you grow a plant in a bottle, the plant would take on the shape of the bottle and would be confined to it, even though it has the potential to grow into a large plant. But if you break the bottle it would be free to grow and fulfill its potential. Limiting beliefs are like the bottle – they stifle potential and limit achievement. Someone must now break the West Indies bottle to release the collective potential of the players

A couple of months before Malcolm Marshall died from cancer, Desmond Haynes and I played a golf game with him. He was extremely weak and was in great pain during the game. He played poorly and Desmond started to tease him. On the 14th tee Malcolm told us that he would win the last five holes. We laughed at him and told him he was dreaming.

Suddenly his swing changed and he went on to win the next four holes. A lucky chip-in by Desmond prevented him form winning the last hole. When I asked him how he turned his game around, he pointed to hid head and said, “I believe in myself and in my game. In my mind, I saw myself winning those holes and once that happened you were gone.”

Players, take a lesson from Malcolm. Don’t waste time looking for a secret to success. That secret already lies within you. Instead, work to develop your own system for success. What lies behind and before you are tiny matters to what lies within them.

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