Yes, they are all Welsh. Yes, they are all incredibly talented and demonstrated great success. More interestingly, they were all pupils at Whitchurch High School. So, was it something in the water at Whitchurch? No, it was something else. They were all influenced by PE teacher, Steve Williams.
Mr Williams not only taught yesterday’s tough and humble Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas; he also inspired footballer Gareth Bale and rugby international Sam Warburton, who has just retired at the top of his career through injury.
“How did he inspire greatness in others?”
We can probably all remember the teacher who inspired us to do well, and we have them to thank for our career and life choices. Unfortunately, we probably also remember the bully who undermined our confidence or worse. Interestingly, depending on your motivation the bullying teacher can also inspire. I am reminded of Weatherspoon’s founder, Tim Martin, who named his pub chain after the teacher who told him he would amount to nothing!
At work, we all have an example of the manager who we would go the extra mile for or who creates something bigger than the sum of the parts; a team that gels and performs beyond expectations. Gareth Southgate is perhaps a recent example who comes to mind.
So, why is it that an individual like Mr Williams can inspire others to greatness consistently over time?
The answer is surprisingly simple. Performance is primarily the result of the ‘climate’ (the mood or the specific environment) created by the leader. Great leaders create great places to be and give us the safety, the respect and the inspiration to excel.
Rather than wait for decades for the recognition Mr Williams is only now getting, how might you identify those inspirational leaders and winning climates in your organisation?
One simple answer is to use a tool or system that is able to identify the ‘climate’ of a team. By measuring climate, you are obtaining the lead indicator of performance and a surrogate measure of leadership. (Stringer, Litwin et al)
Mr Williams, I hope when you look in the mirror or look back on your 40 years of teaching you can smile wistfully and give yourself a pat on the back and say with pride “I made that happen”.
by Gordon Mackenzie.