Those of you that regularly follow my posts on TheFootballEductor.com understand my passion for leadership and strong cultural development within organizational structure. My experience in the military, college football, and the National Football League is littered with both good and bad examples, as well as the resulting ripple effects it has on overall production and mission accomplishment.
I’m often looking for examples outside of the sporting world or military service to validate the very topics I wrote about in my book Taking Your Team To The Top – How to build and manage great teams like the pros. This quest isn’t necessarily to validate my own feelings on teambuilding and success, I’m already a true believer. Rather it’s to determine whether or not those in the public and private sector understand the principles that I feel can make them winners in their respective fields as well.
My wife forwarded me a link to an article by Michael Lee Stallard, a CEO advisor and Fox Business contributor, regarding the parallels of teamwork with Iditarod dogsled teams and corporate teambuilding in any industry. The 2015 Iditarod started this past Saturday in Anchorage, Alaska. Stallard hit a “bullseye” regarding some key factors in constructing winning teams; dogsleds, corporate, or in the NFL.
Stallard on Culture
“Adversity faced by sled dog teams racing in the Iditarod makes the event a stress test for teamwork and the cohesiveness of a team’s culture. Reading about it, I could see parallels between sled dog teams and teams of people in organizations.
Nearly all teams pull together during the good times. Difficult times test team culture as teams face obstacle after obstacle and may struggle to perform. Teamwork and perseverance are keys to success. Teams with weak cultures fall apart amidst adversity. Feeling threatened, people get frustrated and begin to blame one another. In strong team cultures where a bond of connection exists among team members, however, they pull together and are more likely to persevere through obstacles.”
Here’s a link to a piece I wrote on Team Culture.
Stallard makes 4 points in his piece that ask some very pointed questions of any person in a leadership role; musher, CEO, or NFL General Manager.
Does your team have the right task strengths?
“Each team competing in the Iditarod starts the race with a human athlete (known as a “musher”) and 12-16 dogs, and must finish with a minimum of six dogs. A great sled dog team works together as one although it includes dogs with different task strengths. The lead dog at the very front has to be both intelligent and fast to lead the team’s pace and guide its direction. Swing dogs run directly behind the leader. Their job is to “swing” the team into the turns or curves. Team dogs pull the sled. Wheel dogs, or “wheelers,” are placed directly in front of the sled and their job is to pull the sled around corners and trees.”
I wrote about this very topic in my book and followed up on TFE with the following post.
Does your team have the right character strengths?
“Sociable and team-oriented, Alaskan Huskies are the preferred breed to be sled dogs. Alaskan Malamutes, a breed that was once popular, are rarely selected because they have developed a reputation as being aggressive.”
More than just a timely topic, TFE is expounding upon the importance of CHARACTER with every opportunity we get.
Has your team received the right training and preparation?
“Breeding and training develop sled dogs into remarkable athletes. Top sled dogs have VO2 capacity, a measure of oxygen consumption, that is more than double that of the cyclist Lance Armstrong. They can run sub-four-minute miles and maintain that astounding pace for 60 miles straight.”
I devote an entire chapter in my book to this very aspect, The Development: Maximizing Performance, but have asked for a change in the way the NFL and clubs go about their own Player Development program.
Are you encouraging and recognizing your team members?
Communication is vital in any industry, but tends to be lacking at times in the NFL. Here’s a post on what I think is key to being a good GM and the responsibility of proper direction and feedback to the team.
“Like the best sled dog teams competing in the Iditarod, your team must have the right task strengths, character strengths, training and preparation, and recognition and encouragement to perform at the top of its game.”
I love this analogy of teamwork for a number of reasons. I have four Siberian Huskies of my own and have long been enamored with sled dogs and their incredible ability to cover long distances as a team. I also greatly appreciate the recognition that Michael Stallard has given to these four points of effective teambuilding and how they run parallel with any pursuit of excellence; NFL or the Iditarod.
How are your dogs pulling?