No “I” in Team was the Golden Rule for Canada’s Men’s Hockey Squad by Roz Usheroff

Like all Canadians I was so proud of our country’s performance at the just concluded Winter Olympics.

While we fell one medal short of our total in 2010, it was nonetheless reflective of a stellar effort on the part of all of our athletes to compete at the highest possible level when it mattered the most.

Even though it is understandably difficult to select one standout from such a successful showing, I would have to say that personally, the Men’s Hockey Team left the greatest impression on me.

Yes I know that hockey is supposed to be Canada’s game, and that claiming back-to-back gold medals are in and of themselves noteworthy reasons.  However, something else stood out for me that as far as I am concerned goes well beyond this tournament and the world of sports.  What I am talking about is team play or playing as a team.

With this squad that was laden with superstars, it might have been easy for the athletes to play as individuals showcasing their own unique talents.  Yet, and as so prominently demonstrated by captain Sydney Crosby, this was not about standing out on your own, but instead working together to achieve a shared dream.

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Crosby like greats such as Gordie Howe, Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux before him, is one of hockey’s most dominant players.  A prolific scorer, the young star is accustomed to putting the puck in the net or setting-up one of his teammates to do the same.  Yet in the 2014 Olympics he managed only a single, albeit important goal.

Now one might think that when a goal scorer doesn’t score he isn’t doing a good job.  However, and as anyone who followed the round robin competition will attest, his presence both on and off the ice were nothing less than monumental.

The reason?  Crosby, like his fellow teammates, realized that to be successful the sum (or team) was greater than its individual parts (or players).  As a result, he did not lock himself into one particular role, but adapted to the moment and played in a manner that enabled him to have the greatest impact.

In the end, his as well as his teammates’ selfless play, delivered the ultimate prize . . . a gold medal.

This led me to wonder how many times do we in our daily lives, confine our focus to those areas that we feel represent our greatest strengths while overlooking opportunities to become part of a bigger team and ultimately having a greater impact.  I am not talking about doing something for which one does not have a natural affinity, nor am I suggesting the we ignore our unique abilities.

What I am saying is that had Crosby focused solely on scoring goals rather than playing as part of a collective team, would the Canadians have been as effective as they were in terms of shutting down the opposition.  Would they have been able to win the gold?

Or to put it another way, if Crosby had led the tournament in scoring but Canada failed to win it all, would he have been successful?

This was a hard lesson that was learned by Randy, whose story I wrote about in my book The Future of You! Creating Your Enduring Brand.

After you read the following story, I would like you to ask yourself the following question . . . “do I have the big picture view of where I fit in and, where I can do both my team and myself the most good?”

I recently wrote a post for my Remarkable Leader blog in which I made reference to a comment that Colin Powell made about leadership.

According to the former four-star general and the United States’ 65th Secretary of State, Powell stressed that the “true definition of leadership” is based on trust.  And that the only way to gain trust is through serving selflessly as opposed to being self-serving.

Upon further reflection of the difference between serving selflessly and being self-serving, the story of Randy, a rising executive with a promising future, came to mind.

In 2009, Randy was scheduled for a major promotion when he was asked to launch a new division for his company.  This project, which had to be completed within twelve months, represented a critical opportunity for Randy on many levels.  To start, he would be able to demonstrate why he had earned upper management’s confidence.  In addition, he would then be responsible for a huge number of diverse reports, opening the door for expanding both his creditability and respect with those who would ultimately report to him once he assumed his new position.  It seemed like the ideal scenario.

However   ̶   and this is where he came to the fork in the road that differentiates a selfless leader from a self-serving leader   ̶   Randy forgot an essential leadership quality.  Specifically, he just needed to be inclusive and recognize the contributions of others as absolute “must haves” in order to rally the team and reinforce management’s decision to promote him.

Even though the project was successfully completed in eight months as opposed to the estimated twelve months   ̶   with an overall savings of $350,000.00 ̶   Randy did not understand the realities.

Following a brief celebration of the launch, Randy was invited into the CEO’s office, accompanied by his boss.  Expecting to be promoted, Randy could feel the adrenaline rush for an exciting future.  Shockingly, Randy was told by the CEO, in an apologetic tone, that a search company was being hired to find the right candidate to run this new business.  When he asked why he was being passed over, Randy was told that based on the overwhelmingly negative feedback from those under him, there was no way he could effectively lead the division.  In other words, he lacked a following.  To quote the CEO, “Randy, no one wants to work with you again!”

In his self-focused agenda to successfully complete the project, Randy forgot about those committed individuals who gave selflessly to achieve success.

The moral of the story here is pretty clear.  Randy used his team as a means for him to accomplish “HIS” goals, instead of being sensitive to their needs.  He neither found opportunities to publicly acknowledge their contributions nor demonstrate his appreciation for their efforts.

“No man is an island.”  We are all connected to each other.  A prerequisite for success today, we must always remember to choose selfless leadership.

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