There are many moments when I am amazed at the transformation a team can experience by simply buying in. I have seen it in the boardroom. I have seen it in career transition seminars.
And now I have seen it in the Ottawa 67’s AAA Minor Bantam hockey team. Now, getting a room full of teenage boys to focus for any length of time can be challenging, to say the least, but this team was destined for great things!
Head Coach Jim Cooke gets it! He understands the value of building the team and he understands that bringing a new voice to the locker room was the key. I signed on for 5 sessions, scheduled through the season. They were a very good team that could become great with a little help.
I spoke to them about incremental growth, focus, the finite difference between winning and losing and the knowledge that it isn’t about their opponent but rather, it was all about them and what they do. They would reap what they sow…guaranteed!
Tonight, they face the best team in the league in a do or die playoff game that will reward the winners with a trip to the semi-finals. The losing team would be done for the year.
Like the Grey Cup Champion Ottawa REDBLACKS, the 67’s had an up and down regular season.
The REDBLACKS were underdogs going into the championship game against a Calgary Stampeder’s team that went 16-2 during regular season play. But they prevailed. Here is a link featuring the day before the championship game clips. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWMqKHSN7lo&t=65s
The focus was on the REDBLACKS being a team that had overcome challenges during the season and were battle tested, unlike the Stampeders. I asked them about the Stampeders not being punched in the face all season (literally and figuratively). They had not faced adversity like the REDBLACKS. Talk about a fun study of quiet confidence in an athlete and a team!
The 67’s had 6 games left in the regular season. I showed them this video and I challenged them to go 5-1 and become the most dangerous team heading into the playoffs. I wanted them to become the team that no one wanted to play. They re-focused, promised an incremental improvement in their individual game that would benefit the team and guess what. They went 5-1 over their final 6 games.
They eliminated the Ottawa Senators AAA in semi-final play and then overcame the Ottawa Valley Titans to win the title.
Congrats to the boys and the coaching staff on a job well done!
Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder. As a former professional athlete, he has learned from great coaches and learned even more from the bad ones!
Time to go back in time to my days at Laurier University circa 1986, for a little Philosophy 101 debate!
Professor Rocky Jacobsen stared out at a room full of first year freshman, similar to the way Donald Sutherland looked upon his class in the cult classic movie, Animal House. Like the class in Animal House, most of us were hungover. A Friday morning Philosophy 101 session was considered a bird class. The only real challenge was waking up and getting to class. After that, your mere presence pretty well guaranteed you a passing grade.
How would Rocky connect with the class? How would he engage us and capture our interest? He shared a story about Theseus.
Theseus is remembered in Greek mythology as the slayer of the Minotaur. For years, the Athenians had been sending sacrifices to be given to the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull beast who inhabited the labyrinth of Knossos. One year, Theseus braved the labyrinth, and killed the Minotaur. The ship in which he returned was long preserved. As parts of the ship needed repair, it was rebuilt plank by plank.
“If Theseus sails his ship from port A to port B and has every piece of the ship replaced en route is it the same ship?”
This was all part of his introducing the ship of Theseus, also known as Theseus’ Paradox. We would learn that it is a thought experiment that raises the question of whether an object, which has had all of its components replaced, remains fundamentally the same object.
Well, the classroom lit up and the healthy debate began. Is it the same ship? Yes? No? Maybe so? Why? Professor Jacobsen played the role of traffic cop in the middle of a jammed roundabout as the back and forth picked up energy!
Some built an argument around the physics and how no two items are exactly the same. Some went with it has to be based on the fact that the ship was named and therefore retains its identity. Back and forth the argument would go like a tennis match being played at warp speed.
I watched the energy rise from the periphery because I was both hungover and struck by the story but from a completely different angle. A team building angle. I imagined the ship’s captain calling his crew together to explain their mission.
“Lads, listen up. Can I have your attention? So, we are going to set sail and before we hit land, I want us to replace every piece of the ship. The journey is perilous but I think we can do it! Are you with me? Yes or no?”
Wow, what type of pregame speech did he have in his treasure chest to convince his crew to sign on for this adventure? How prepared would he have to be when asked the inevitable what, when, where, who, why and how questions?
How did Theseus get his team to buy in? There had to have been a history of trust, transparency, communication and collaboration for everyone to buy in. There had to have been a record of success forged from previous challenging situations within the group.
When the captain declares that the entire ship needs to be replaced en route, is the response, “We can’t do that…I would rather drown in a tavern than at sea!” or is it “Okay, I am kind of digging your idea but I need more info?”. It may be, “Sure..whatever you say Captain!”, which is quite dangerous.
Roles and expectations will change and trusting that everyone will strive to achieve a high degree of competency, no matter the role will be key. Becoming adaptable in the face of crisis will be a requirement.
I didn’t care if it was the same boat or not. I cared about what it would take to keep the boat afloat and I would have to trust everyone on the ship before I signed on.
Which leads me to what I would do if I was the captain. My leadership approach would rest upon 4 elements.
Connect is the first step in the process because it allows you to set the tone in terms of how the relationship will begin and what direction it will take. First impressions are everything. Getting off on the right foot is key. Be authentic.
Communicate is step number two. Let’s lay our cards on the table and begin a dialogue. We may not like everything we hear but we need to hear it so you can build a convincing strategy that will answer everyone’s questions. By communicating, everyone can get a real sense of investment.
Collaborate is an opportunity for the team to address and hopefully answer some questions that the captain does not have an answer for. This is the problem solving stage. It the “I am okay with sailing with you but I think I can bring something to the plan that will help the entire group succeed. Collaboration leads to consensus which is a pillar in team building.
Collaboration leads to the Compete phase. A plan is in place. The plan is not etched in stone because there are unpredictable variables that are in play. What if it rains? What if we get attacked by a pirate ship? What if the crew suffers from scurvy? The mission stays in place but the mapping is open to change. If you anticipate a journey that takes you on a straight line from point A to point B…you are kidding yourself.
The process of communicating and collaborating will continue until the goal is reached. Like the sea…there will be an ebb and flow to the journey. It may mean going back to the drawing board and re-working the problems. It may mean creating a plan B, C or D. Being married to a plan has been the Achilles heel for so many teams. Don’t let ego get in the way of evolution! Being married to the goal and willing to work the plan is the key to any teams success.
Share the what, when, where, who and why and I may sail with you! The Paradox isn’t would you sail with me. It is, what can I say to convince you to sail with me!
Ken Evraire is a quintessential team player who loves coaching, team building and talking leadership! He is grateful for the opportunity to work with a roster of fantastic clients ranging from the government sector, not for profit agencies, start ups, Fortune 500 companies and elite sports teams.
He is father to 3 precocious children, a former professional football player that has since donated his brain. He has run 3x marathons (Honolulu 2x + Barcelona), done stand up comedy and believes the old school coach was wrong…there is indeed an “i” in Team!
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I had a neighbor who may have the most interesting and in the same breath, the most unwanted career ever. No, he is not a judge on The Voice!
Of the top 5 gigs that you run to Babylon and back rather than pursue…his not only ranks in the top 5 it may also make up the top 5!
He is a bomb disposal specialist. That’s right. So essentially, when sane people run from the mere hint of an explosive device he walks toward it!
For security reasons, I cannot name him but he ranks a 27 on the alpha male scale and that says something knowing the scale actually only goes up to 10 (trust me it was tough to rank him so high considering I am about a 7.5!).
Now, one Halloween after the kids finished trick or treating, the guys on the street decided to gather for a few beverages!
His wife asked me not to talk about his job and I agreed. Yet, after a few beers and his wanting to talk football until my ears hurt, I felt it was my inalienable right to ask him a couple of work related questions!
In fact, it took me about 1.1 seconds to ask him the obvious $64,000 question.
“Do you ever get scared?”. Amazingly, it took him 1.1 seconds to reply. It was an unequivocal “No”. Being the former investigative reporter that I am I felt compelled to ask the next, hard hitting and seemingly logical question, “Why not?”
Amazingly, it took him 1.1 seconds to reply. It was an unequivocal “No”. Being the former investigative reporter that I am I felt compelled to ask the next, hard hitting and seemingly logical question, “Why not?”
Rather than answer my question he offered up a question of his own. “You played football, right?”. Were you ever scared?” I replied, “yes and no”. He then asked me to explain.
No, I was never scared of the obvious. The obvious being the potential consequences that accompanied trying to catch a pass on a field filled with defenders aka heat-seeking missiles. The decision to compete at a high level came with risks, I understood this reality because it was part of the job description.
Yes, there were times when I was scared and it had to do with my not feeling prepared or feeling like my teammates were not prepared. A prepared individual can compete on an elevated, instinctual level. A team of prepared individuals can work in unison and enjoy a higher degree of success. In turn, the possibility of falling victim in what essentially is a human demolition derby was minimized. Preparedness and awareness allowed me to focus on success and not survival.
“Bingo!” was his reply. “In football, what do you call the process of preparation?” he asked. I could only come up with “game planning“. “Bingo!” he said. It was then that I told him to stop saying bingo…it was kind of annoying. Yes, I am calling out a decorated explosives specialist in a garage on Halloween night. Clearly, the beverages were taking over!
Yet, he agreed that game planning and preparation was the ultimate key in trying to avoid heat-seeking missiles on the football field or explosive situations in the theatre of combat. Game planning and preparation was the key to his individual success as well as his teams success.
That’s when he introduced the 360 Degree Circle of Influence and to be frank…it immediately spoke to me and my work as a leadership coach and team builder.
With every step a team takes regardless of the theater, the story always has the potential to change in any number of ways. As a result, each and every member of the team plays a critical, organic role in the success of the mission regardless of rank.
Successful teams feature an elevated expectation of competency that allows a team to be versatile and open to change. Getting better is a process that is organic in nature and is key in managing fear and doubt. Managing the fear quotient requires a clear strategy based on the following..
willingness to adapt and overcome
A great example of this can be found in auto racing. Drivers utilize
Drivers utilize saccadic vision in the bid to find a balance between their peripheral vision, forward vision, processing information and making decisions at a high rate of speed. Put a G licensed driver with a clean record into an open-wheeled, Indy racing car and as them to drive. Fear and the anticipation of failure would take over. A focus that is too narrow or too broad is the recipe for failure. The ability to sense and to adapt to circumstances is key.
Michael Schumacher, Mario Andretti, Dale Earnhardt or any other elite race car driver races to win…not survive.
The ability to sense and to adapt to circumstances is key. It requires practice….it requires an investment that is called preparedness.
Hockey players call it “keeping your head on a swivel!”. Preparation and training slows high stress moments down.
Today, successful corporate leaders have realized that the 360 principal is applicable to themselves and their teams. They understand that the key to fulfilling an objective is to find an alternate route when you come to an obstacle… to problem solve on the go. NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz surrounded himself with a team of brilliant minds that can launch a rocket into space…but more importantly, bring that rocket back safely after an oxygen tank blows up en route to the moon. “Failure is not an option!”
The combination of preparedness, communication, versatility and trust is the foundation for success regardless of the theater you work in.
Ken Evraire is an award winning keynote speaker, team builder, coach, former pro athlete and part time comic.