When the staff, players and coaches of the St Kilda Football Club gathered at the end of 2019, four individuals were recognised for their enormous contribution to the Saints in 2019.
Unless you are connected to the inner workings of the club, you will have never heard of Gerard Jess, Madi Clark, James Collier or Tim Barber.
While Collier runs like the wind, and Jess was a handy footballer in his day, their work at the Saints has little do to with kicking and tackling, and yet everything to do with our search for success.
The sceptics out there will argue that the staff at St Kilda aren’t qualified to talk about success given we haven’t played finals for eight years and the 1966 Premiership Cup stands alone in our trophy cabinet.
Talk is cheap and it always will be.
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But what is crystal clear to the Board, Executive, staff, the players and coaches, is that we won’t return to the winning ways of the previous decade without complete buy-in from across the club.
Whether you head up our community football team, work in finance, run our events or perform the unbelievably underrated role of club doctor, you are critical to our hopes of success.
When staff returned to work following the Christmas break, there was a note written on a giant whiteboard within the admin areas.
It read: 2020 will create great opportunities for the St Kilda Football Club to take major steps forward and you will play a crucial part. Be ready!
The author? Senior coach Brett Ratten, who knows how important the broader staff, volunteers and supporters are to the Saints’ future.
To help drive improvement across every department, we created three specific values to work under.
Talk about values in organisations is nothing new, and since Leading Teams helped the likes of the Geelong Football Club achieve success, values and trademarks have also been used to drive on-field performance in the AFL.
The Saints’ values are in a way very simple: performance, creativity and belonging.
Being relentless in our pursuit of excellence (performance) and building genuine connections across the business (belonging) will be almost certainly be part of your own organisation’s values in some form – perhaps with different language.
Creativity, on the other hand, will be an intriguing addition for some.
However, at the Saints, we recognise that we will never be the biggest but we can be the smartest.
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We are unlikely to compete in size with the Collingwoods or Richmonds of the world but we can compete on and off-field through curiosity, the courage to innovate, the willingness to challenge the status quo and ultimately find new ways deliver better results.
In 2019, Head of Community Pathways Gerard Jess was awarded the ‘Creativity’ Award for driving growth and helping the Saints reach more of our community without additional costs to the club.
Strong community support is critical to the Saints’ push to be successful long term, just as a strong club is important for the community in Melbourne’s South.
Events Manager Madi Clark delivered in spades (awarded the ‘Performance Award’) as she stepped up into a new role to lead our events both at home and abroad.
The club’s decision to play in Shanghai resulted in several new partners who we hope to build long term relationships with and drive an increase in our commercial revenue.
Thanks to Clark, these partners attended events in China that were first class, despite the club’s somewhat inexperience in China. She was also the calm and composed organiser of the Trevor Barker Award which changed dramatically in the final days prior to the event to recognise the tragic passing of club legend Danny Frawley.
For ‘Belonging’ it was impossible to go past accountant James Collier who, despite sitting tucked away in the finance team, leads the way when it comes to building an inclusive culture.
Research shows that greater connection between staff will drive better performance, and Collier is the expert at making others feel included.
Whether it’s organising social events, brining a positive attitude to work every day, or going out of his way to make a new starter feel part of the club immediately, he understands that winning a premiership will take an incredibly connected team and it’s up to every employee to buy-in to that.
Through the nomination process – which included players, coaches and staff – it became obvious that one special Saint was worthy of being recognised for all three values.
So another award was created and presented at the Christmas gathering.
Club Doctor Tim Barber is experienced, dedicated, Intelligent, unflappable and kind to his core, qualities that allows him to provide a constant high level of care to the Saints’ 45 men’s players.
But in 2019, Barber went above and beyond, helping the likes of Paddy McCartin and Dylan Roberton through their health concerns, ensuring Jarryn Geary received the best possible care after two serious leg injuries and dealing with a litany of other medical issues.
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Travelling with Roberton to the US to see the world’s leading cardiologists and then taking an early flight home with Jarryn Geary from China were just two examples of his commitment to those under his care.
While Tim wasn’t awarded votes at the Best and Fairest or lauded by footy commentators – in fact, even this small amount of praise won’t sit well with him – the Saints are immeasurably better for his work.
As Ratten suggested, and just like the three other award winners, he has a crucial part to play. And, he is more than ready.