Going for the Gold…

Ritch K. Eich, author, Leadership Requires Extra Innings

Going for the Gold…

Whether you are assembling a group of leaders to occupy key posts in your C-suite or fielding a winning Olympic hockey team, many of the essential building blocks are the same.

In an increasingly turbo-charged, competitive, and global business environment, there is plenty of talent to be found around the world.   The biggest challenge is sifting through that talent and putting together a winning team.  What should the CEO of a company or the coach of a hockey team look for when building his or her team? From my experience, there are five core attributes that are essential to putting together a successful team whether that team is in the C-suite or on the ice:

  1. Passion. No C-suite or Olympic hockey team can achieve sustained success without passion and a relentless commitment to achieving their goals.  When you put together your team, be sure team members are hungry to win, and they exhibit a “take no prisoners” attitude.
  2. Speed and decisiveness. A hockey team depends on very adept, fast skaters that get to the puck first, block shots, win faceoffs and score.  The ability to examine existing data, discuss and analyze it, reach consensus and be first to market is just as crucial for your own business team.  Be sure the people you choose understand the importance of being a “fast skater.”
  3. Chemistry. As opposed to having a group of “super stars” that are narcissists and prima donnas, surround yourself with high integrity team players who are very competitive but also understand the importance of working together toward a common goal.  Just as the most successful hockey teams attract players that support each other, the people you hire need to understand the importance of placing the team above their individual egos and goals.
  4. Confidence. The best teams in business or sports play as they practiced, realizing that each team member has a key role to play. The best hockey teams master the fundamentals so well that they can practically execute the required plays in their sleep.  This enables them to focus on supporting each other so they can win the game. Successful teams understand the difference between confidence and arrogance, and will not tolerate the latter.  Be sure your team members are confident, but check their egos at the door.
  5. Leading and following. Often lost on many of us is understanding that the best leaders are also, at times, the best followers. In other words, some of your best leaders may reside outside of the C-Suite.    The best hockey teams have strong relationships between their coaches and players: everyone on the team knows that the difference between winning and losing relies on their ability to work with each other.  The coach knows when to lead and when to get out of the way so his players can do their thing. The same is true in business:  real leaders know when to step up and when to step out of the way. 

In four different industries, I’ve either reported to the chairman of the board or CEO and I’ve also served on more than 10 boards of directors or trustees, including chairing a hospital and medical center board. If given a choice of working alongside a number of “superstars” in a C-suite or a boardroom or being an integral part of a talented team of united, unselfish professionals who always “have your six,” I would take the latter any day of the week. Whether in the C-suite or on an Olympic hockey team, players need to be accountable to one another as well as their CEO or coach.

About the Author

Ritch K. Eich, Ph.D, is president of his own leadership and management consulting firm and is the author of the recently released second book, Leadership Requires Extra Innings. He is a Captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve (ret.) and can be reached at www.eichassociated.com