by Michael Holland

During a recent visit to Lake Placid, I was able to see the USA Hockey Team’s Miracle on Ice exhibit. What an exhilarating time, seeing the pictures and watching a replay of that magical game!  Without much knowledge, we’d think this team just happened to come together and play their hearts out at a critical moment to win the greatest game on ice for the USA.  But like all great teams, there was intense pain and agony in the building of the “team.”  This building takes investment, struggle, curiosity, intrigue, and in the end, some blood, sweat and tears.

Patrick Lencioni provides a great model to help us see the ingredients required to build a cohesive team.  In his famous book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, and his most recent book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business, Lencioni clearly articulates the recipe to follow.

  • Build Foundations of Trust – Be vulnerable to a level which is uncomfortable, and allow yourself the freedom to develop relationships that allow for and require honesty, compassion and forgiveness.  Yes, you will have to forgive some people… often, more than once.
  • Master Conflict – Leverage these trusted relationships to pursue truth and optimal decision-making.  Healthy conflict draws out real debate and constructive analysis, which provides for real time permission to fire.  The key is unemotional, unfiltered, issue-driven discussion.
  • Achieve Commitment – If people don’t weigh in on decisions, they don’t buy into decisions, no matter how hard they shake their heads.  Great teams thrive not on consensus but on full commitment to decisions, which comes after healthy, constructive debate.  Unfortunately, too many leaders have learned the art of passive agreement.
  • Embrace Accountability – Have the courage to confront and be confronted, because you and your peers have together committed deeply to decisions.  Imagine a relationship with a peer executive that is so solid you can call him out for missing a major deliverable that the team had committed to… and he thanks you for it.
  • Focus on Results – Team is #1.  The collective results are more important than any individual’s.  You are thrilled with the team’s results (even when they are not directly because of you) because you are part of the team.

Invest 136 minutes and $1.99 to rent the Miracle on Ice movie.  Watch for the tipping points when the team moves through the building blocks outlined above.  And watch the very last minutes of the film as the team captain, standing alone on the gold medal winner’s podium, can’t stay alone because he knows that Team is #1.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • What is the feel of the teams of which you are a part? Are your successes “miracles”, or do all the team members follow the recipe above?
  • Which of the ingredients in the recipe comes the hardest to you? What can you do to improve your abilities in that area?