Journey from Australia’s Most Successful Cricket Coach to Leadership Coach, John Buchanan

Posted on December 8, 2023 in Business Strategy

In episode 43 of REDD’s Business and Technology Podcast, join our host Jackson Barnes and co-host Nigel Heyn in this inspiring discussion with John Buchanan, renowned coach and leadership expert and the founder of Buchanan Success Coaching, as he shares invaluable insights from his illustrious career, transitioning from cricket coaching to business leadership.

Drawing parallels between coaching a cricket team and leading a business, John emphasises the importance of a clear vision, accountability, and the right team dynamics. He recounts challenges faced during his coaching tenure, stressing the need to adapt and avoid assumptions. John’s transition from cricket coaching to business coaching is explored, revealing the genesis of his “What’s Your Everest?” program.

He touches on the evolving landscape of leadership, addressing the impact of technology and the balance required between data-driven approaches and preserving experience. The discussion delves into effective leadership within Queensland’s QBuild initiative, where John serves as the Coach in Residence, illustrating practical application of his coaching principles in a corporate context. With thousands of individuals and teams benefiting from his coaching, John’s wealth of experience offers valuable insights for leaders navigating the dynamic challenges of today’s business world.

#LeadershipLessons #BusinessCoaching #TeamDynamics #WhatsYourEverest #AustralianLeadership

00:00 – Opener
00:27 – Guest Introduction
05:04 – Early Coaching Experiences and Lessons
10:12 – Leadership Insights from Cricket
16:24 – Challenges and Dynamics of Team Leadership
21:10 – Data and Technology
26:00 – Managing Up and Down in a Team Environment
31:12 – Transition from Cricket Coaching to Business Coaching
44:35 – Application of Leadership Lessons in Business
49:10 – Common Mistakes in Business Leadership
51:36 – Leadership Accountability
54:18 – Evolution of Leadership Teams Over Time
58:04 – Closing Remarks
58:20 – Outro

If you would like to discuss any of the topics discussed in this episode further with a REDD expert or if you would like to be a guest on the show, please get in touch either via our website, [email protected], or through any of the links below.


Hello and welcome to Redd’s Business and Technology Podcast. I’m your host, Jackson Barnes, and I’m your co-host, Nigel Heyn. Today we’re sitting down with John Buchanan, who’s the ex-coach of Australian and international cricket teams, ex-director of Cricket, New Zealand motivational speaker, and now own his own business providing coaching and leadership for individuals, leaders teams. John Buchanan, thanks for coming in. That was a big intro. I’m out of breath.


It was Thanks Jackson. Thanks Nigel. Great to be here.


Alright, mate, we appreciate it. Looking forward to getting some insights around your career and leadership and how that industry is changing and what you are working on now. So it should be a good episode. Do you want to start maybe way back when you were a lecturer university and then transitioning to be the most successful cricket coach in Australia? What did that look like?


Well, I might even just dash a little bit further back into history because it really just started with a dream as a young boy in the backyard. So the dream was all about playing cricket for Australia, wearing the baggy green. So I chased that dream for as long as I could till the selectors had a different view about my ability compared to my ambitions. And so that caused me around the eighties to decide it was time to give my baggy green dreams away and then chase something else, which was then I had a human movement studies degree, and so I became recreation officer for the Townsville City Council way back in the eighties, which was a fantastic job. But I at the same stage married and so there was a real strong pull to come back to Brisbane, came back to Brisbane, worked at the Commonwealth Games, 12th Commonwealth Games, then to National Director of Volleyball and into TAFE teaching and then into lecturing.


So there was a little bit of history before I got to that lecturing role. But to get to the lecturing role, I also went to University of Alberta to get a master’s degree so that I could end up academia, which again was another dream. Each one became a bit of a dream. I was going to be this, I was going to be that, and certainly in the academic world, I was going to be a professor. What a great place universities are, apart from when there’s students there. That’s a fantastic place to be, so let’s become a professor. But the rules changed a little bit. Again, they wanted PhDs rather than masters. So I tried a PhD for a little while, but found one that was just going to be real hard work with young family and children. And in the end I just didn’t, and this is no disrespect to everybody that’s got PhDs, but I just didn’t want to be an expert on the top of a pinhead about the top of a pinhead.


You know how you keep peeling the onion and you’re supposed to know everything about just this minute thing. So gathered away, came back to Queensland, was involved in the Department of Tourism, sporting and Racing as the manager of a fantastic programme called Aussie Sports, which was a combination of the federal government, state government through tourism, sport and racing and education. But again, it was designed to provide just real, fun, enjoyable activities for young children and up to sort of early secondary so that their experiences are just really enjoyable. And of course, as we know no matter what, whether it’s sport or whether it’s culture or whether it’s even doing mathematics, if you’re early experiences are great, you’re really quite keen to keep going. So that was the whole idea and it modified equipment, modified rules, modified behaviours and all those sort of things. So that was good.


But somewhere in there, well, not somewhere in there, I went back to coaching because I’ve been involved in coaching my children through the various little junior clubs and so on. So I’d worked quite a bit with young children doing that. And then the Aussie Sport programme, plus the study I’d done over in University of Alberta, which was in coaching, it was in administration, it was in organisational theory, it was a bit of psychology thrown in there as well. So I really wanted to find out whether I could coach adults. So I went back to my old club university career club and coached there for a couple of years and we won a couple of titles, which was great, but I was going to do it for a few years. My wife really intervened there because we were having our fifth challenge, and he said, you’re working through the day, then about two or three afternoons a week you go to cricket training and then I don’t see you on the weekends. I need some help. So I stepped back for a year, but at the end of that year, Queensland advertised the role of Queensland, coach of the Bulls. I want


To pause there for a second before we jump into the Queensland Bulls. It seems like even from an early age you were really passionate about younger kids doing sports. Why is that? Why the drive?


I guess it comes out of my own background because as a young boy, as I said, I had the dreams of playing cricket for Australia, but I used to play so many games in the backyard. I was an only child, so I just create, whether it was rugby league, tennis, not Australian football, wasn’t on the horizon, certainly in my backyard anyway, but cricket and so on. And it was just a whole range of those backyard experiences. Plus at school sport was my way into a community and whether it was a community at school or my parents would bring borders out of a weekend. So we’d create our own backyard community, and it’s something I’ve experienced all through my life. I mentioned Townsville City Council role, even though I had family up there, I found the best way into the community and beginning to know them was actually going and get involved in a range of sports.


And so I’ve always felt one sport is a great conduit for, as I said, understanding community, being involved in community, and it’s physically active, so it’s healthy. And I think everything, if the foundations are strong, then there’s a likelihood that you’ll continue that sort of activity all through your life, which as I said, is I think a very healthy thing to do for any individual. So therefore, foundations begin with young children, and if we can give them the right experiences all the way through, then whether they stay in one particular sport or not necessarily relevant, but provided that they enjoy what they do, they’re more likely than to really continue their physical activity in some shape or form for the rest of their life.


Yeah, it’s definitely important. I’ve even noticed for my son, it’s hard to teach people to be competitive and also that comradery in stuff. So I’m trying to throw ’em into as many sports as possible. Let’s unpack the Queensland Bulls in the journey piece before we move on to what you’re doing now, what made you so successful in coaching? And then tell us a bit about Queensland Bulls and what you did there.


Yeah, sure. Well, I think the first thing that set myself up for success was just that I had to apply for the job Jeff Thompson had, being Coach Queensland, hadn’t won the SHIELD in 69 years of trying. I had one season in there, very unsuccessful, but at least I had the experience of what all players went through. When you’re playing Shefield Shield cricket for Queensland. So to apply for the job and to take on someone like Jeff Thompson who’s for those people who dunno cricket. Jeff Thompson’s was a legend of Australian cricket, not just Queensland Cricket, but a legend of Australian career. So his cricket pedigree, if you look at a cv, it’s almost a book. Mine was probably an introduction, a small introduction to a book in terms of career pedigree. So I had to really think about, well, what could I bring? What would I do differently?


So that just took me on. As I said, I was working for Department of Tourism Sport and Racing, which was in the CBD, and I used to head out around the river and run because that was my quiet place. That was where I could go and think. And so I just used to head out and run and think through all the things that I think made me tick because that became my coaching philosophy, my principle, my cornerstones and values. And so once I understood that, that’s what I could then bring to the job, well, at least to the interview and say, well, this is what I’m going to bring. I’m going to be a little bit different here. I’m not going to have the career pedigree, but I’m going to bring you other things that I think are really important. And with that, hopefully a chef she’ll come along at some stage.


So the pitch to the interview panel was firstly, if all you want to do is win the Holy Grail, the Sheffield Shield, then I’m not the person that you want. But I said, if you are interested in dominating domestic credit for the next 10 years, and to do that, we’ll change a whole lot of system and process. And then somewhere in there we’ll win a Sheffield Shield, then I think I can do the job for you. So that was kind of the pitch. They liked it, it seemed it worked, it worked. So I took on the role in 94, 95. Now as it turned out, we won the Sheffield Shield that first year, first year. So that was the breaking of the drought. I stayed with Queensland then for basically five years. We won the shield a couple of times. That’s a really good trivia question too. The first part of the trivia question could be who was a coach of the Bulls team that won the shield for the first time? Seemingly a few people know that one, but the real trivia question is, who was the first coach to ever lose a Sheffield Shield for Queensland? We won at 94.95 and lost it in 95, 96, but regained it in 96, 97. Yeah, it was an incredible time around that group.


How did you do that if they hadn’t won for so many years, you had the same team as the year prior. What made you successful in winning, especially in that first year? That’s big achievement.


It was, well, one, there’s a whole myriad of things that go into either winning or losing. But one thing happened that first year Alan Borderer actually returned into the team. So he’d been away of playing international cricket and had retired from international cricket and said, well, I’d like to come back for one season. In fact, played two seasons. I’d like to come back for one season to see whether or not we could actually win the Sheffield Shield. So pretty important piece to the puzzle.


You’d been pumped hearing him coming back for the first year in Queensland?


Yeah, it was just a slight story, which is I think a good leadership story is that one of the things that we did, so one of the changes that we were making in that the system and process that we were introducing, technology hadn’t been done before. We were introducing computers. And the reason for that is sitting in a boardroom or sitting in a meeting or for us sitting in a team meeting, there’s lots of experience and knowledge in that room, which is so vital to how you prepare and review and look at games and so on. So you don’t never want to lose that. But I always felt that, again, if we’re sitting here today and if we didn’t note down everything that we did from here on to the end of the day, we’d forget so many things. And so what I believed was that that was what was happening in a lot of team meetings is that when people spoke, they remembered certain things, highs or lows, but there were a lot of other things that happened in the game.


So how do capture that? Oh, well, there’s something called computers. Now, I wasn’t a computer expert at all. I just kind of understood that they could do stuff that would help me analyse the games and provide me the opportunity to give far more precise feedback to our players. So fortunately, one of our assistant coaches, his brother was a Microsoft programmer and he loved cricket. And so in fact, I think I’ve said to Nigel a couple of times, I wish I was a smart enough business person in those days because that business is still going and it’s just grown incredibly. But anyway, so we brought this thing called technology into the business, into the team. And so after a few games, we’d won a couple of games. So things were going along well, and I thought, well, this is a good time just to show the team what this sort of technology was doing and therefore how it could help, and not only them individually, but us collectively.


So I distributed a bit of data around the dressing room after a training session, everybody walks in and Alan Boarder had his corner and he loved talking crickets. So all the young guys had generally gravitate over to him. But I thought, well, if I distribute this around, I’m thinking there’ll be a question. And if there’s a question from Alan Boarder, I’m only three games into being a professional coach here, wow, won’t that elevate me in terms of status with the group just, and it wouldn’t matter what question he asked, I would be able to answer it. I knew that.


What kind of data were we talking here?


So rather than just having a scoreboard and you see certain runs and so on, well, we’re just recording every ball. So now we’re actually talking about right when this batsman faces this type of bowler, therefore we look at the runs that he might score and where he scores them or where he doesn’t score them, or if he’s playing and missing or if he’s edging or whatever. So the idea then is you build that up over time. So you develop a whole set of patterns on a player or a ground or for a bowler, there’s so many things you can do with it. So anyway, I distributed something pretty basic. And so I watch on the board, he goes, he looks at the paper and looks at me, and I’m just growing in stature all the time, and he starts walking towards me. So I’m thinking, this is after only three games as a coach, here’s Alan board, one of the greatest cricketers of all times going to come over and ask a question in front of everybody and wow, this is it.


And he’s about a metre away from me. He looks at me again and then just crumples up the paper and throws out my feet and walks back to his seat. So I didn’t know exactly where to go or what to do at that point in time. Fortunately, there are old dressing rooms and it was quite a recessed area where the showers and toilets were. So I just quietly slinked around into the back room for a while. But going to the leadership stuff, I mean, it pointed to me firstly that you got to know your players. You know, can’t just assume that it’s a good idea and therefore you think everybody else is going to know that that’s a good idea and therefore everybody wants to buy into it. Well, here’s a bloke that maybe he could have done it slightly differently at the time, but it was definitely telling me that coach, I’ve played international career for such a long time.


I know my game inside out, he’s got the blueprint, just there’s got it. Yeah. So what’s a piece of paper with a bit of data? Well, how’s that going to really help me at this stage of my career? No, I know what I need to do, so I don’t need that piece of paper. So anyway, we had a conversation after that and he basically said that. He said, look, let me get on with how I prepare myself. You can get on and do whatever you need to do to prepare yourself, just the stuff that you are doing. Make sure that I don’t have to worry about it too much. I’m not going to say it’s not the right thing to do, or I’m not going to champion either, but I’m here just to play cricket and let me do that, and that’s the way I can best contribute to the team.


And you have got your ways and means of doing and making your contribution. So that was a really interesting lesson for me early on. But yeah, we stuck with the technology, stuck with the data, and it really became a driving force in our team, and I think right through that season, but all the time that I was there, and as I said, it was the first time I think there was maybe a hockey team that was starting to fiddle around with a programme, just can’t remember what the name of it was, sports something, but it was on a Mac and we were obviously operating through a Microsoft system, and I think Bob Woolmer in South Africa was just starting to fiddle around with something as well. But yeah, we were right at the leading edge of that. And in the end, I think it also helped take me into the Australian team because another example was a year later or so, might’ve been two years later, can’t quite remember, but we were playing New South Wales in Sydney, and both teams were at full strength.


So Steve War was Captain New South Wales side, so there was Mark War and Michael Bevin and Matthews and McGraw Emery, basically full side. And we had a full side, Soley, Dermott, love Mar, all the Tesla and so on, Bickel. So it was two full strength sides. Heals was a real strong supporter of what we are doing and how we’re going about it. So we prepared ourselves on the basis of all the data we had. And again, the knowledge in the room combined both and had a really strong game plan about exactly how we were going to bowl and how we were going to bat. And here we were going to not only Sydney, but we were going to Canterbury. Bankstown, that’s where the game was scheduled, which was the home ground of the war brothers and a couple of the other boys in their team.


But in the end, we beat them in three and a half days. And I think that was the first time that Stephen Moore was, and he wasn’t captain of Australia at that point in time, but he stores things in his memory banks and his mantra was always taking the road less travel. So roll that forward a few years to when the selection of the Australian coach was up for grabs. And it was between myself and Steve Rickson, who was coach of the New South Wales team. And normally you would expect a New South Wales captain to support a New South Wales coach, which he did. But he preferred to go my direction because we’re going to do something different than what Steve Rickson would be doing, which would be a little bit more traditional. So he was pretty instrumental in me taking on the Australian role. It’s


An amazing story leveraging technology, but also probably translates to the way you’re doing leadership coaching now when you’ve got someone like Alan Borderer coming in, scrunching up paper on you, there’s probably lone wolfs in management teams everywhere that probably correlates there as well.


Doesn’t always work because after that was reasonably successful because I mean the other part about all that is you still got to execute, right? Oh yeah. So we can have all the game plans and all the data and all the information, but in the end, the players have got to execute. And they did. That was fantastic. So when New South Wales visited Queensland, which was either that season or the first time, the next season, I thought, well, we’ll keep exploring this. We’ll just keep this on a roll.


People do it today, by the way, just everybody data. That’s that standard practise now.


Yeah, standard practise. Yeah. Yeah. I mean


JB was known as BI back 30 years ago. This is intelligence




So yeah, the New South Wales boys came to town. So in those days at the gaba, you’d have a batting viewing room where the team batting two batters out and the rest of the team camps in the batting viewing room, which is bigger. And then next to it is the fielding team or the bowling team. So basically 11 players on field. So it’s a much smaller room. And we had our computer and we’re tapping away and we had battered first and I had some data on the war boys that we were using for the game. So I thought, well, they’re going to come back into this dressing room, so I’ll just surreptitiously leave a few little pieces of data about the two war boys. And just to get in their head a little bit, they both made hundreds that game. So I dunno that we really quite got in their heads potentially we did get in their heads except it went the wrong way. You made a big


Made them determined. So maybe let’s go from wins and balls. I mean that’s a great story. You’re using data and technology. It’s something we focus on a lot here is data for businesses and that kind of thing. So that’s very interesting, an early adopter in the standard practise now and helped you get to ho of Australia successfully. Do you want to unpack maybe that next piece of the journey?


Yeah, so taking it from when I finished Queensland and then into the Australian team, so that was in November 99. And I remember, and again what happens with the Australian team, which is probably important to know, is that they only come together in competition. So there’s no off season like a state team. State team has their off season and preparation and they move into their domestic season and they’re together all the time. But the Australian team only comes together in competition. So at the start of a season, which this was November 99, we had about three days when everybody gathers and gets ready for, and we were playing Pakistan. And in the room in that selection team, there was only one Queensland guy, the rest were all interstate, and the Queensland guy was Scott Mueller. And so while I’d coached against everybody and knew them from that sort of perspective, I didn’t really know them per se as individuals.


So I felt I had to make it pretty clear that while I did have a coaching pedigree, I was there to take them somewhere where they hadn’t been before I was there to challenge. So that’s where I sort of said, well, I’ll bring to the group integrity, honesty, hard work, all those sorts of values and attributes that you can find on any corporate wall and so on. And I expected the same from them, but in those days, cricket Australia, which was obviously the major body of which the cricket team fits in. So I kind of always talk about wheels within wheels. So we were a reasonably big wheel within Cricket Australia’s overall organisational structure. But if you can get all your wheels working well, then that helps the overall organisational structure. So Cricket Australia had a vision about making Cricket Australia’s favourite summer sport. So if I wanted to go into that room that night to meet 11 players, I’m thinking if I stand there and say, because part of my philosophy and about coaching is always to have a vision. I want to set something that’s aspirational, inspirational, that’s where we’re going guys, that’s the direction.


Same in business and in cricket now,


Same everywhere. So the concept was we’re going to go on a journey to Everest together. So that was the beginning of this idea of Everest and what Everest meant. As I explained to them, I said, look, I dunno how long this journey’s going to take us, and I dunno exactly what it’s going to look like except that Everest means we’re going to try and change the way the game’s being played and within the rules, of course within the boundaries. And also we are going to link the past to the present to help us deliver on the future. So there was a reflection back to one of the great Australian sides called the Invincibles in 1948, which was captain by Bradman. And the point about that was, again, irrespective of whether Korea or not, generally every business has got some history, even if it’s a startup, there’s some history there.


And so it’s important to hang on to some of those historical events and some of those traditions, you get rid of others as you evolve, but some things are important. And so I said by the time that we do finish, hopefully we’ll also be given a label like the Invincibles because we’ve done something special in the game, which was about changing the game. So that was kind of the start of the journey as a coach and a leader. And I see it these days very much so, particularly if you’re new in, some people want to make change very quickly and sometimes, and I fell foul of that myself. I was sacked in a couple of coaching jobs because one was in Middlesex, there was a mandate to come in and make change, but while I was still at Queensland, so I only got there sort of at the end of the Queensland season, got there for the beginning of the English season, so not a lot of lead in their senior players weren’t there, they’re away touring with the English side. So I didn’t really get to talk to them. And then I was instigating all this change and basically I just didn’t connect with the captain and then I was still pushing change and then therefore that just crowd tensions in the dressing room. We played poorly. There was a choice. Keep the captain, keep the coach. Pretty easy choice for them. Keep the captain, get rid of the coach. Right.


Well, looking back on that, what kind of lesson learned, if you could do it again, would in getting change of that structure, what would you have done differently?


Well, the key to in a crickets setup, captain coach relationships are absolutely vital. So in a business organisation, if you are the ceo,


Board CEO EO kind of thing, board the


CEO EO, that’s a critical relationship. And then obviously sitting in underneath that A CEO will have key reports and that CEO must have them on site and understanding where they’re going. And that generally can’t be rushed. It can’t be rushed. So that’s what I did with the Australian team. I decided even though I had some good input from players that had been in the Australian mix, either in the one days or a couple of test matches or Ian Healy or McDermott had come back and they’d given me an impression what things were like, and therefore I felt there was change needed, I decided I needed to spend time in there just to get a real feel for it. So I spent the home season, which was six test matches against Pakistan and India, and then about 15 one days, and then we went to New Zealand.


So I got to see the team away from home as well. So we played New Zealand three tests and five one days. And out of all that we lost one game. So it was an incredible run. So from that, I then produced a report to go back to the CEO, which we will coming, doing this kind of relationship thing again between key decision makers in the organisation. I hadn’t met the CEO too much at that point in time. They were based in Melbourne and we were travelling everywhere, so probably natural that you don’t. But anyway, I provided a report to him, confidential report, I went down to see him and the first thing he says to me, did you use spellcheck in the report? And I thought, we’re going to get along fine because I do like somebody that’s got a real dry sense of humour.


And I said, yeah, no, no, I didn’t. And he said, you used the word incumbent. I said, yeah, I did. He said, you know, can use that two ways. And I said, yeah, I did know that. He said, you know, used it the wrong way. I said, no, I didn’t know that. So I’m thinking, wow, this is maybe a bit too dry. And then he delivered the big punch and he said, you must be the most unhappy person in the world. After I read this report. I said, why? He said, all I can read through here, all the changes that you want to make to how the team operates and personnel and a whole range of things. I said, well, I understood that was the role that I was going to take the team into the new millennium. And if we’re actually going to be this team that’s going to really dominate global cricket or in my terms, we’re chasing Everest, there are a lot of things that need to occur.


And he said, never ever give me a report like that again. All I want to do is get some basic facts. So going back to that relationship, and this is about managing up as much as anything else, to manage up or to manage sideways or again to manage down, but you’ve got to understand who you’re dealing with. It’s a bit of Allen border all over again. I didn’t understand that dynamic. I certainly didn’t understand him at all because I thought to this day, everything I wrote was I think very, very accurate. It took me, I didn’t get some of the changes, probably took me four years to get a number of those changes made. I mean, one of the easy examples was the computer system. We developed state-of-the-art in Queensland system. That was far and away better than anything else. But the Australian team also had one only on the basis that we had one, and they said, well, we want one.


And so they got one developed out of Melbourne. The big difference with it was, apart from being really clunky was that it was the technology people telling the coaches what they needed as opposed to what we had said, this is the output we want. It’s over to you to actually get it to that point. So that was one factor. And then we had to give it to a guy in the group. He’s a lovely old guy, but had no idea. And so when you had your team meetings and so on, one, we had a clunky terrible system and then two, somebody who couldn’t operate it anyway, but that didn’t change for two or three years. You just had to deal with it and get on with it.


That’s a great lesson. Don’t make assumptions on managing up or down or sideways. That’s definitely good advice for people listening. It would make sense that if you’re coming in as a new coach, you sit through some games and come back with, this is what we need to change because you think we’re moving forward here. We’re going to obviously need change to do that. But his expectation was not that at all and happens all the time, which is not going to great advice. Maybe let’s transition a little bit to what you’re working on now as your own kind of consulting gig and maybe even why you transitioned from cricket coaching to business coaching. Why that change?


Well, I’ve always believed there’s a shelf life to leadership, or in this case to coaching. I was lucky enough with the Australian team, well, going back again, remember I said I was with Queensland for five years. Well, in my mind, I’d got to a point, and that’s why I took on the Middlesex job because I needed something more challenging and stimulating. But I also felt that Queensland needed somebody that could do more than what I’d done. So I needed to get out of that role so somebody new could come in and take it further than what I could. And fortunately, the Australian job came up in there, which gave me the opportunity to leave and gave Queensland the opportunity to put somebody else in. Then I stayed with the Australian team until 2007, eight years, which was a long period of time. And in fact, I was almost gone in 2005 because we did something that all sports people in Australia cannot do.


And that was we lost the ashes to the Poms. So once you lose to the poems, that’s virtually science delivered, you’ve got to go. So I came back from that tour and I had to go to meet the board about a couple of weeks after I got back to try to convince them why I or should be, or they were going to convince me why I shouldn’t be. So leadership questions that I’m sure most leaders have either already asked or if they haven’t asked, they’re going to have to ask at some point in time. And the first one was, as I said, I like to have a vision where we’re going to go. And so the first question to myself, I was the only person who could answer was, could I still make a difference with this team? Could I still excite them and challenge ’em and be aspirational, inspirational?


Could I really do that? And the second question then was, well, even if I could, did I still really want to because I’ve been there six years and we’d done a lot of stuff and you’re away 250 nights plus a year. And then the other time as a coach you’re thinking about the next 250 nights or games or tournaments or travel or whatever. So you’re constantly on the job. So did I still really have the passion and the drive to do it? And then the third question was to the players, to the leadership group. So in my mind, I looked at myself honestly and said, yes, I can still make a difference. Yes, I still have the drive, albeit that I know it’s limited. And I kind of mapped that out to the end of the World Cup 2007, which was about 20 months away, and I knew I could get to there, but if the players weren’t going to support me, the senior players, so the Ricky Pons and the Adam Gilchrist and a few of the other senior players, when I asked them if they still wanted me around, if they had said no, then that was it anyway, because there would be no point in me trying to do those things without the players being along with me for the journey.


So anyway, the answers were yes. So 2005 I then created, that was when is that? August, 2005. I then created the next 20 month plan for the team and the group, which presented to the board, they accepted that, but then I needed to actually bring it back to the team. So we had a pretty strong debrief for a couple of days about what had happened in England and things that we needed to change. And it was pretty open and pretty raw at different stages. And I remember the players tackling me on the basis of, you lay out a week’s plan, say for training and preparation and games and so on. And they then map their schedule around that, whether that’s a massage or game of golf or whatever, it doesn’t matter. But they were saying, you never stick to it. And we just find that really, really annoying and irritating because we’re planning the rest of our day and whatever other engagements we’ve got around that, and you just keep going over time.


So that was good feedback to me. And in the end, a lot of the things that we discovered that were a problem, apart from some partner issues that created various clicks and so on, in 2005, it was pretty basic, a lot of just basic. So it was a real return to basic stuff. And if we got a lot of the basics right, then most of the other things began to fell in play. So anyway, that was 20 months. The dream was our Everest was what I termed the big three. We had three tournaments in one in India and ICC trophy. Then England were coming back to visit Australia, so there was an opportunity to regain the ashes. And then there was the last event, which is the World Cup. And so an opportunity for me to win two in a row, but for the teen or the Australian cricket to have three in a row. And they were all pretty close to each other. So that became arvis. And the overarching strategy then was to be the best skilled team the world had ever seen ever. And so that really drove all our training, the type of people we wanted in their selections, budget, the whole range of things. So that’s what we drove to. And in the end, we achieved it. We got there. We probably weren’t the best skilled team in the world ever seen. We kind of got close to that.


And I still, at the end of the winning the World Cup in Barbados in 2007, there was Glen McGraw who’s finally retired. He’d retired from Tess Cricket with Warren through that Asher series and Justin Langer. But we’d moved on to this one day event, and I remember in the final interview there was Clement Graham himself and Ricky Ponty. And the question was posed to me because I’d said a number of times, one of the things I’d like to do before I retired would be to coach the perfect game. And for me, the perfect game, it’d be like anybody in business. The perfect game is, well, here’s the plan to get to the project conclusion and winning and everything falls into place. It just goes according to plan. Well, never, never happened. We got close said, look, we got close, but we never, I don’t believe Anyway, we played the perfect game. But I said what we had was the perfect team and the perfect team was that all individuals were always trying to find ways of means to improve themselves.


It’s so interesting how I feel like that basically you run it, you’re a CEO, right? You’re looking at the data, you’ve got your leadership team, and then you’ve got a vision, then you have everyone aligned to the vision you’ve ran that it was, it’s a business like the team. It’s really interesting to hear


And look, I think as I said, it certainly came out of the right way back, understanding my philosophy and principles and values. So that was a strong part of it, but it was also part of that education that I had that master’s education, because that taught me a heck of a lot about organisational theory and psychology and a range of other things about working with people, plus my own experiences. Obviously the Allen border stuff, and you’re learning all the time, you’re experimenting all the time. But I definitely saw that, or I really believed in that. It was around, there’s where we’re going, here’s where we are, here’s the strategy to move from where we are now, to get there right now, we’ve got to actually put that into play and execute that and know that we’re going in that direction. And the way to know that we’re going in that direction is not just by result, but it’s actually by measuring a whole range of other things that tell us individually or collectively we’re on track or we’re off track and how do we adjust.


So all those lessons you learned that you then decided to step out of the cricket world. Obviously you’re still doing some coaching at Boy College and you haven’t really stepped out of the cricket world as a whole and went, how do I use these lessons learned and what I did into the business coaching world? Why did you transition that?


Because there is a shelf life, and some people, I think are the exceptions that prove the rule. If you follow Rugby League, Wayne Bennett’s one of those exceptions that prove the rule that there are very few rugby league coaches that stay around for as long as he has done and probably an A FL, the Shees and others that have hung around for a while. But in my mind, I’d learned all these lessons both prior to cricket and then plus the 15 and a bit years of professional cricket coaching that I thought were really important in the corporate world. And so for me, I suppose there was a new challenge. I could have tried to stay in the cricket world through the IPL Indian Premier League, and I had some other offers to go and coach elsewhere. I’m


Sure you would’ve you mega successfully in what you were doing.


But in my own mind, I’d exhausted that. And I also found it very difficult, even when I was coaching Queensland and had office to go to other states, I found it difficult for me to put myself in the role of coaching another state against Queensland for whatever reason. Very strange. But I also found it very difficult to go to another country to coach against Australia. I was happy to go and advise, which I did for England in whenever that was, 2011, 12, and they came out and they won that Asher series. Not necessary of my advice, but that was a little bit of a factor in it,


Which could have been a weird feeling advising on how to meet your,


Yeah, it was. But again, good on them for seeing how they could provide some competitive advantage. Going to a foreign country, it’s always very hard touring away. So yeah, shelf life. So I wanted to take the lessons and I wanted to challenge myself. So I said, right, well, let’s take this and go corporate. And so that’s when I set up Buchanan Success Coaching, which is around 2006 seven. And over time I crafted out this, what’s your Everest programme? And the what’s your Everest programme is for either the individual or the leader or the team and al bet that they’re inextricably linked. There is a bit of a methodology. So for the individual, heroes is always about being your own best coach. So for all of us, we come to work today and an athlete, an athlete can perform a personal best. So why isn’t that the same for a corporate inas athlete?


What’s your personal best? And I think we can all walk away from a day, and I generally like to go for a day, but if people can’t think of a day, then go to something more specific. Go to a meeting or go to a project that you completed or even just go to a conversation. And when you’ve walked away from that and you said, gee, I’ve done that really, really well, and of course I got the result at the same stage, so what did I do? What was in my control that enabled that to occur? So that becomes sort of base camp for the individual. Then from the base camp, that inspires a bit of a game plan. So if I understand what I do, then how do I create that into a plan so I can basically take that with me wherever I go.


So that gives me opportunity to have what I term a winning model. So meaning that every day, then I give myself a chance to have a personal best. Now as we know athletes don’t do that every day. So many factors that impact upon your performance. But if I’ve got my game plan, then I know when I come into the office and I use the four sets of skills for an individual is your technical skills. So we’re sitting here in front of microphones and cameras, and I noticed your expertise, Jackson, in terms of your technical skills


On me,


On the technology. But there are certain technical skills. You’ve got good communication skills, so they’re really important to you in terms of what you do. And then there are physical skills. So how do we turn up every day just ready to go? And some people might say, well, I need 10 hours sleep. Others might say, I need 25 coffees before I even get to work. Or others might just say, I like to go and walk before I start, or I have a good meal. And then how do I keep myself going through the day? So there’s all that nutrition and then recovery so you can start the next day. So physically, mentally, mental skills is very much about now, hopefully we’re right in the moment. There’s no real distractions. We’re blocking those out because we’re actually tuning in through whatever our routines are to just deal with what’s in front of us right now. But then at some point we’re going to switch off, but when we need to switch back in, we can. So that’s like all athletes, they have that incredible ability to switch on, switch off, switch on, switch off.


So you built a framework for coaching individuals and obviously that’s been successful doing it now for how many years is that now? Like 16, 17 years. And you’ve been doing that. How many individuals and leadership teams and businesses have you provided consulting and coaching for


Thousands? Yeah, right. Yeah, yeah. It’s taken me all around the world in terms of probably teams. So yeah, most countries I suppose, or most major countries and a whole range of businesses from the Telstras and the BHPs down to just small legal firms or small accounting firms, or now I’m in government with cbu. And we’ve got a pretty exciting programme for them because they’ve got a group of leaders, 35 leaders, and they’ve got a bit of, it’s a target more than a vision about rebuilding Q build. So they’re actually coming back into building stuff for their clients. And their clients are obviously government agencies like education or health or police or corrective services or whomever. So they’re back in the business of not only building, but managing capital works and providing a whole range of different services, maintenance and so on. And Queensland government’s given them injection of funding to better resource that to enable them to do that. So now they’ve got a leadership group that are in the process of helping deliver that, but it’s about actually uplifting the leadership group. So


You engaged, essentially coach their leadership team on how to go and execute all?


Well, yeah. My role, and I think it’s a really important role, it’s called coach in residence. So I’m there as a resource for their leadership two days a week to, well, we’re taking ’em through the Everest programme, so individuals and then as leaders and then as a team. So that notion of wheels within wheels, so if we can get all the little wheels starting to work better than what they have done than the big wheel, which is qbi, which then sits inside a bigger wheel, which is energy and public works, which then sits inside a bigger wheel, which is obviously Queensland government, if we can get our contributions and all those little contributions uplifting, then it’s going to make a significant difference all the way through the chain. So the idea is to start with the leaders and take them on that journey. And then the coaching is very much on the spot, meaning that your best feedback, no matter who they are, is immediate and accurate. So the notion of coaching will be that I’ll be with the leader literally with the leaders and watching them, observing them and providing them feedback either to them or to their teams as we go through the final six months of the programme.


Yeah, it’s exciting. It is. What’s one of the most fun kind of leadership consulting or coaching jobs you’ve done over the years? Yeah,


Look, I don’t think I’m a fun person when I sit here and try to think of that. Okay, most


Interesting. It doesn’t have to be,


Well, look, honestly, I find them all interesting because in the end you’re just dealing with people and there’re different contexts and I think that’s the beauty of you guys will find the same thing. It’s the beauty of consulting is that every day in a sense is different simply because of that you’re dealing with different people and you’re dealing in different contexts. So even though a lot of the principles probably weave through and they look the same, they have to be adjusted and manipulated and reordered and reorganised so that it fits the situation has to fit what’s now. Because again, that’s very much a part of leadership for me is that, as I say, you’ve got to have a vision. So you’ve got to have a foot in the future, you’ve got to understand where you want to go, but you also got to have a foot in the present because if you ignore the present, you’ll never get to the future. You’ll never be part of the future. So you actually got to deal with what’s in front of you now. And so that’s what we’re trying to do with the coaching of these leaders is to provide them that sort of immediate feedback, which will be quite accurate. Sometimes it’ll just reinforce some of the things that they’re doing or thinking, but sometimes it’ll be challenging what they’re doing and how they’re going about it.


I’ve got a couple more questions around the leadership side, but Nija, do you want to,


Oh, probably. I’ve spent a lot of time with you JB, and really appreciate your friendship. But one question I do have is what are two things that someone that’s a business owner, a startup, wherever they are in their phase of their career, what are two things that you see? They commonly make mistakes and they can learn from the wisdom of the knowledge that thousands of consultants, all the sporting teams, everything you’ve been through. So what’s a common theme that you see people make mistakes on?


Well, firstly I think just not really been really crystal clear on that picture. So we go to Q build right at the moment, even though they’ve got this kind of target rebuild Q build and everybody sees a bit of a rosy picture into the future, I still don’t think there’s anything that they’ve struck that’s unifying to them and to everybody else that might be in the business or they want to attract into the business.


So defining that


Everest, I think so. And so I’ve talked to the CO and I said, look, irrespective of the words that you come up with, what we’re doing is we’re going to make you the greatest government agency of all time. That’s where we’re going. That’s sitting in behind what we’re doing now, how they want to translate that or if they want to, that’s kind of them because it’s really their prerogative to sit the bar wherever they want to. But I tend to think that that’s not defined properly, or if it is, it’s not set high enough. So that’s one thing then sitting, because to me that then drives everything. So who are the right people then that are going to come into your business to help you achieve that? So it’s not necessarily about the role, but it’s about the right people. So that’s to me, critical.


So within the cricket teams in the main, we had the right people there. As I said before, we had the perfect team because they were so proud to wear the baggy green and they wanted to do that, but they wanted to perform. And so therefore to do that, they wanted to always be better than what they were. So you need people, I think that obviously very technically skilled, but have this same kind of desire and motivation to chase a dream and be accountable for their part in that, but also be responsible then for the whole business to do that.


So create the dream and find the people that want to chase the dream.


Yeah, I think so. Fantastic.


Actually, I’m unpack one thing you said there about accountability. What’s a good way you’ve seen, have you seen many management or leadership teams that you go you canel for that have not good accountability? And what advice do you give to them on having a good accountability?


Look, there’s the individual accountability, which I think is where it resides. And then I’d say it’s responsibility for the sort of wheel or the bigger wheel, and it’s an old cliche, but the standards you walk past are standards you accept, right? So I mentioned there before about that review process. What was happening over a period of time was that our basics were being either cut short or rounded off or not delivered on yet nobody was accountable for their role in that, their specific role and weren’t also responsible for others and other standards that they thought were falling. So if you’ve got a really mature team, then if people want to say to you, Jackson, listen, I just noticed today when you walked in, our meeting was supposed to start at nine, you got here at about five past nine. Now I know it’s only five minutes, but remember in this place we try to do things precisely, accurately, and if we say we’re going to do something, we do it. We don’t give ourselves a tolerance to even only five minutes. So somebody should be able to say that to you, but importantly, you should be able to hear that without coming back and saying, oh, which we always do at home. And my wife and I had a conversation about this last night.


And you say, oh look, geez, the traffic was bad today or things weren’t great at home, so just, well, yeah, I understand Jackson. But we all go through that every day of our lives. We all have different things that will get in our road, but at the same stage, you could have actually called us at that point or sent a text message through to say, guys, sorry, I’m really caught here. I’m going to be five minutes late. So you take accountability for your actions, but we all take responsibility for how that impacts upon us as a group and then us as a business.


How does leadership teams change in the past maybe 16 years when you first started doing this, jumping able to cricket into seeing business leadership teams 16 years ago to now? I’d say lots changed, but in your words, what do you thinks the main differences?


I had a conversation like this the other day with CEO of a major mining company here in Queensland and sort of asked something similar. I said, what’s keeping you up at night? That sort of standard question, which I think is the wrong question as well. And I was just talking to this education forum about it last night because in sitting through their education forum, it seemed to me that even though they were embracing a learning mode of leadership, which was fantastic, but it seemed that you could only learn through facing problems. So in other words, yes, there are a lot of things that need to be fixed sometimes, but it seemed to me looking through the wrong glass, it was always coming through the half empty glass. Whereas for me, in terms of the Everest programme, I always want to come through the half full glass, which is when you’re at your best, what are you doing?


Because surely that’s what I want to keep repeating, or as a leader, I would like to keep doing that, or as a team we would like to keep doing that because that’s successful. Now it doesn’t mean it can’t be improved, but let’s start there. First of all, so anyway, asking the wrong question, as I said, what keeps you up or not, he was saying, look, there’s a couple of things that really are on his mind personally, technology, and so go back 16 years. I mentioned about the computer programmes, where they are now compared to where they were then. It’s chalk and cheese and there’s so much technology as we know out there. So what he wants in his organisation is people to embrace the technology, find out the right technology, bring it into the business, and then everybody uses it. So that was one concern, but kind of running in parallel that or intersecting that was knowledge and experience and if you like talent, so meaning he said as an example, he said he had a hydraulics problem up in his mine and he got all his staff whoever the staff were up there and spent a week trying to fix it, couldn’t fix it.


He went to a consultant, consultant, said, oh, look, I’ve this 70, 80-year-old guy who’s worked on the hydraulics all his life. He might be able to help. So he sent him up there. He said, within 10 minutes he’d fix the problem. And his point was there that, yes, while we’ve got all these young people or younger people, or digital natives as they might want to call ’em, or who have great aspirations of evolving and developing and accelerating their career plus the business, there are a lot of things that they either haven’t learned some of the basics or have forgotten. Whereas this older guy came in and here it was just a simple solution. So I think that’s a real challenge, and I can see that in Cuba at the moment and see in a lot of organisations is that there’s a lot of technology, therefore, that means that there’s a lot of data. But what again, is the right data? And going back to where we started all this, when I went into the dressing rooms, our dressing rooms, and we had all this knowledge and talent around there, you don’t want to lose that because that’s so vital. But you need to be able to combine it with new technologies and new ways of doing things so that you don’t alienate either, but you actually compliment each other.


So you need the data and systems, but also the experience and the talent to have the team in place that can leverage that. What you’re saying, I think across time, I know you’ve got to go see notice who might start wrapping up. But mate, John, really appreciate you coming in and sharing all your wisdom. You’ve had a crazy career, and even just in the business side, let learn the cricket side and back from lecturing. So really appreciate you coming and sharing your wisdom and knowledge and lessons learned along the way.


Yeah, thanks Jackson. And thanks Nige. It’s a pleasure to be here.



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Nigel Heyn
Nigel Heyn
Founder & Executive Director
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Nigel Heyn is a passionate, business and technology centric entrepreneur. With a natural instinct drawn towards technology, Nigel, under the guidance of his father, successfully built his first desktop computer at the age of 8. This started a journey of research, innovation and technology exploration that continues today. Nigel has successfully built several companies, all underpinned by the desire to leverage technology smarts in order to positively influence business models and realise stakeholder dreams. Leveraging a vast network of global contacts established over many years, Nigel thrives on learning what best practices exist in order to provide digital excellence for his clients'​ successes. In order to achieve true success, Nigel understands the importance of building a team of the best talent available and thus welcomes the opportunity for those sharing similar dreams to reach out and be a part of the vision. In the words of Walt Disney, “If you can dream it, you can do it”!
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