Once upon a time, there was a country with an ice hockey culture that just wasn’t built for winning. The World Championships were considered as paid holiday trips, kind of bonuses for the players that had best endured the season. Training sessions were carried out with minimum effort and preparations for the games, especially against tougher countries, were mostly about finding ways to avoid a complete thrashing. Winning was not an option to begin with.
The idea of development, both as individuals and as a team, was never addressed. Until everything changed.
The foundation for that development must have been cooking slowly deep underneath the surface, but it took one visionary coach to recognize that – to bring it out and unleash its mighty power. The entire ideology was compressed into two words; spoken in foreign language but simple enough for the players to understand.
When every little thing was, from now on, carried out a little better, everything changed. Individual skills improved. Attacking lines began working as units. Defenders started collaborating. One performance, shift, game and tournament at a time, the players were welded into an ironclad team. The first World Championship was won, and there was no looking back.
The culture was completely renewed. All because one simple idea of development was successfully introduced to the players.
During the last couple of months, Nordic Business Report has been interviewing world-class experts about the essence of development, and about how to spread that principle throughout the organization.
Patrick Lencioni provided us with a tool to discover individual working geniuses. Stefano Mastrogiacomo talked about the essence of team alignment, and Jim Collins gave excellent examples on how to make entire organizations great. We have touched base on various levels of development, assembling an ammunition supply for those looking for ways to improve their companies so that they would become better prepared for the challenges that loom ahead.
No matter how well an organization develops, challenges will be awaiting; successful business never is a walk in the park. There will be new markets to conquer, new opponents to beat, new products to launch and all sorts of opportunities waiting to be made the most of. Continuous development is required, but then again, discovering new capabilities on individual, team and organizational levels is one of the biggest enjoyments and reasons companies actually do what they do. It all comes down to investment – and the return of it.
To succeed and thrive, we must keep developing. We must keep doing everything a little better.
No one said it would be easy – but winning never is. As the ultimate prize for continuous development, the organization will receive a winning culture that will carry on for decades to come.
Everyone has to be engaged, and that is where great leaders come in. Organizations need people who will take responsibility and – most of all – make the people around them… a little better. Such as the case was with that country with an ice hockey team.
As a long-serving captain of that team retired last week, after a professional career that lasted almost 20 years, a look back revealed how much the organization actually had evolved. As another World Championship was won 10 years ago, the team was named, by the head coach, as “his team“. The players recalled that playing with him was demanding almost to the point of being distressing, simply because he required so much from everyone, including himself. He led from the front, and that is why he got everyone engaged in playing, winning, and developing as a team.
That attitude was unheard of in that organization, just a very short time ago. Today, it is the fundament for individual players and the entire team alike. The results speak for themselves.
Development takes organizations further – all the way to the top of the world. As long as they remember two words, even if they were foreign.