After a competitive series vs. South Africa in February, the England cricket team can begin their World Twenty/20 campaign with plenty of confidence. One of the main reasons for this is a renewed attacking game plan, which has been initiated by the new coaching set-up, since mid-2015. This has benefited Jos Buttler, England’s wicket-keeper batsman, who is arguably one of England’s most attacking and threatening players at the present time. However, the last 6 months have been an uneasy ride for Buttler; making particular reference to his exclusion from the Test side, following the 2nd Test Match vs Pakistan in November, after a series of poor performances1.
Since being dropped, Buttler has been on an extraordinary run of form. He scored over 100 runs against Pakistan in his first game back and has been one of England’s highest run scorers against South Africa, in their recent One Day International and Twenty/20 series.
I’m interested to unravel how Buttler has made such a remarkable turnaround with his batting performances, in such a short period of time. I feel that it might have something to do with sticking to his natural talent and conceptualising failure as a learning opportunity within the performance environment.
Being excluded, a tactic?
Whilst many sports experts may view ‘being dropped’ as a punishment; in Buttler’s case, it has actually been a tactical move by the senior management to remove him from the starting 11, with a break doing him ‘the world of good.’
Head Coach, Trevor Bayliss, knew that something wasn’t quite right with Buttler in the Test arena and by excluding him for the final game, he essentially moved him away from the limelight. With the One Day Series taking place afterwards, Bayliss knew that a different format, one which Buttler has excelled in previously, could very easily see the re-emergence of the player2.
A gentle reminder
Whilst Buttler was on the side-lines, he was able to reflect on his recent string of below-par performances and was reminded by coaches to celebrate his natural talent and skill. To help implement this, Buttler has written inscriptions on his bat handle to remind him of his batting style, essentially acting as a prompt to behaviour, which he can refer to during performances3. The Lancashire player felt as though he could hit the ball, right or left handed, if he let his natural instinct take over. A bold statement, which has arguably been justified since returning to the competitive stage, taking effect no less than 3 weeks after his setback.
How was this facilitated by the senior management?
Trevor Bayliss, Paul Farbrace and Eoin Morgan, England’s Head Coach, Assistant Coach and Captain, have facilitated a performance environment which focuses on the individual and have helped to create an environment which the players can enjoy and have fun. Buttler has made particular reference to Morgan and new players, by applauding the element of fearlessness that is now ingrained into the team. The new attacking mindset that’s being adopted is allowing players to play without feeling as though they’re being judged nor being punished for making mistakes.
Even after the team were humiliated by South Africa in their final match of the tour, Bayliss called on his players to continue being bold and was adamant that the team must stay true to their attacking instincts for the World Twenty/20 tournament in India 4. This highlights how the senior management are sticking to their principles, even when the team have not achieved the desired result. It’s almost as if the coaches are implying that mistakes are inevitable and will happen at the elite level, but a player’s response to this adversity is far more important than attempting to avoid them. This will ultimately help shape and solidify the side’s culture, benefitting them going forward.
So what can businesses learn from this?
In the case of Joss Buttler, it is clear that he is now playing in a manner that suits his natural game plan and benefitting the team’s performance in the process. However, it is important to recognise how this has been facilitated and enabled by the senior management team. Without certain messages coming from key stakeholders, would Joss Buttler have played in the manner that he has in recent games? Perhaps not.
To allow employees to truly flourish I feel that businesses should:
Create an environment where people have the opportunity to showcase and demonstrate their talent
Encourage and model a growth mindset so that mistakes are perceived as opportunities for development
Allow space for reflection and effective coaching to ensure that the reaction to a mistake is highlighted rather than the mistake itself
How does your organisation facilitate an environment which helps people to take acceptable risks and still avoid making unacceptable failures?
What is your role as a leader in shaping the mindset and skills to support this?
1BBC Sport, 2015. Pakistan v England: Jos Buttler dropped and Jonny Bairstow in. BBC. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/34687307
2Sky Sports, 2015. Trevor Bayliss backing Joss Buttler to turn his poor form around. BBC. Available from: http://www.skysports.com/cricket/news/12173/10058478/trevor-bayliss-backing-jos-buttler-to-turn-his-poor-form-around
3The Telegraph, 2015. Jos Buttler: It was a relief to get dropped - I got to a stage where I was not concentrating and didn't want to be there. The Telegraph. Available from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/cricket/international/england/12036178/Jos-Buttler-It-was-a-relief-to-get-dropped-I-got-to-a-stage-where-I-was-not-concentrating-and-didnt-want-to-be-there.html
4The Independent, 2016. Trevor Bayliss orders England to carry on attacking for World T20 success. Available from: http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/cricket/trevor-bayliss-orders-england-to-carry-on-attacking-for-world-t20-success-a6890331.html