Transformational Leadership: Collaboration – Grow Great Daily Brief #197 – April 25, 2019

Collaboration defined –

the action of working with someone to produce or create something

In short, it’s high-level teamwork.

In our context of leadership, it’s vital for you to have successfully built the foundations necessary to foster this. If you’ve not yet listened to the 3 earlier episodes on compassion, connection, and communication, then do that right now. Leading collaboration isn’t giving orders. It’s working together.

We’re about to begin round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Thankfully, the Dallas Stars advanced and tonight they’ll begin a new series with the St. Louis Blues. It’s only the second time in NHL history that a rookie NHL coach has taken a team past the first round of the playoffs. Stars’ coach Jim Montgomery is proof positive of a leader who understands the value of all these components, including collaboration.

Did it help that he spent time coaching at the college level? Likely. But when he arrived in Dallas he made it clear he had one BIG objective — to change the existing culture of mediocrity. He wanted the Dallas Stars to have a winning culture. Like all NHL teams, the Dallas Stars have endured their share of adversity and success in the 2018-2019 season. Thankfully, their summer hasn’t yet started…and it’s due in large part to Monty’s leadership to work with the players to change the culture. He’s done it by incorporating each of these components, including collaboration.

Coaches used to yell instructions to players. Players had to comply or risk being in the coach’s doghouse. Or worse. Some coaches still do it, but most winning coaches have learned, improved their understanding and grown.

Dallas Stars players report that Jim Montgomery has likely “gone off” on them less than half a dozen times this season. He picks his spots to make a point. The team responds.

Part of Monty’s first work was getting to know the players (connection). As he deepened the conversations (communication) he asked for their input (collaboration). Monty wanted to know what style of hockey the players enjoyed most. He wanted to know what players they felt most complimented their skills – and which players their skills most complimented.

Jim Montgomery cared what the players thought (compassion). He wasn’t threatened by a group of millionaire professional NHL players. That alone was a big feat for a guy leaving a college dressing room for one in the NHL. It would have been easy for him to have thought he needed to exert his leadership, thinking that might have been the path to getting the team’s respect. Instead, he opted to be open, candid and caring.

Professional athletes don’t enjoy losing. The Dallas Stars core group have never won a championship together. Only a few have ever won the Stanley Cup with prior teams. Monty threw gasoline on that desire and spent this entire first year behind the Stars’ bench fostering an intense will to win. His role – as the leader – meant helping the players figure out how they could best do that. It’s the very definition of collaboration…

working together to accomplish something none of you could do alone

Players play. Coaches coach. Trainers train. Medical staffs heal. Salespeople sell tickets, advertising, and sponsorships. There are a ton of people working at every NHL franchise. The top teams on the ice tend to also be the top teams off the ice. A whole bunch of people working together to win Lord Stanley’s Cup, something none of them could do alone.

Hundreds of people putting in the work to make the engine run. Even the worst teams in the league have those same people. The difference? Well, there are likely lots of differences between the top tier teams and those who habitually occupy the basement. Talent differs. So does willingness. And resilience.

Every business (or team) that I’ve been part of – the ones that really win – work together better than the competition. They collaborate more. They trust more. And as a result, they work harder (and sometimes longer). Winning means more to them. They want it more.

Every year during the Stanley Cup playoffs coaches really focus on the will to win, especially when a team is playing an elimination game. There are four rounds, each being a best of 7 series (which means the team that wins the Stanley Cup must win 16 playoff games). When a team’s back is up against the wall they tend to fight harder. And if they don’t, then you know there are likely other things happening in that dressing room that just won’t foster success. The guys who band together the most trust each other the most. They listen to each other. They work together. They collaborate. Those are the teams who hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup while the others realize they must endure a long summer before hope springs forth again come fall.

When you go together you go further. You also go there faster. Jim Montgomery is in year one of coaching the Dallas Stars. He arrived here on May 4, 2018. A team that failed to make the playoffs last season has just advanced to round two. Don’t tell him or the roster of the Dallas Stars that these principles don’t work. Don’t tell any of them that collaboration is overrated.

Go Stars!

Be well. Do good. Grow great!


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