Collaboration – Do you believe in your Miracle Team?


Ironically, during the first week of the largest competitive global sports event I spent much of my time at the leadership conference of an inspiring nonprofit organization which has affiliates in 37 countries. The theme of the conference was “collaboration”.  There could be no better organization to talk about collaboration.  There were representatives from 37 countries but united by the vision they shared together and the belief that they could make a difference in the lives of people – providing them with hope and meaning.

The timing of this conference made it inevitable to talk about Herb Brooks, the legendary coach of the young U.S. Hockey Team that beat the experienced and all time champion Soviet Hockey team during the Lake Placid Winter Olympics in 1980.  We discussed history as told through the movie “Miracle” about this “miracle” team and Herb Brooks.  The inspiring head coach Herb Brooks had the conviction that a group of players who thinks, plays and feels like a team would be able to succeed.  He picked the players according to their ability to play in the team and also put them through rigorous training that emphasized the importance of this goal.  When he asked the players “Who do you play for?” at the beginning of their journey to the championship each player answered with the college or university he played for prior to getting picked for the Olympic Team.  It took Mike Eruzione, the captain of the team to call out “I’m Mike Eruzione.  I play for the United States of America.”  for Herb to end a never-ending conditioning exercise. It was Herb Brooks again who rewarded the team with the following words in the changing room right before the final game against the Soviet team: “Tonight, WE are the greatest hockey team in the world. You were born to be hockey players. Every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Now go out there and take it.”

There are many factors that contribute to the success of collaboration such as connecting via a shared vision, agreeing on how decision making and problem solving will take place in the organization, how communication will change, how the organization will work across cultures to engage different perspectives and what kind of values need to be in place to make this happen.  However, a lot of responsibility lies with the leader.  Research shows that multicultural teams underperform single-culture teams when the leader is not able to lead across cultures but they surpass in performance and creativity if the leader is effective. Leaders need to be able to help set strategic goals towards the vision. Global leaders need to engage people and stakeholders from different backgrounds to help create a good foundation for the success factors. The success factors for collaboration need to be endorsed by the leaders of the organization.

One attendee at the conference said that the entire organization was inspired when one of their board members said “I believe in fairies.”  After meeting the attendees of this conference I believed in fairies, too.  Not only was the vision they shared noble but there was something about the attendees’ ability to intently listen and be present in the moment despite their unique backgrounds and circumstances they work in.  It takes a leader with an ability to connect differences, a leader with conviction and self-assurance and a leader with a dream even if it sounds adventurous if not a little out there to inspire people.  But this is how miracle teams are made and this is how collaboration becomes real and succeeds.

And I should stop writing as I have now articulated my perspective on the success of collaboration.  I will do so after offering a resource for developing this often times naturally occurring leadership capability.

If we wanted to examine what capabilities would be needed to put our heart out there as a global leader and to have the ability to say “I believe in fairies” the practical global leadership concept called the Global Mindset® concept offers a learning platform especially via its “psychological capital” component. This is the hardest component to develop within the leadership concept.  But the concept breaks down the component into attributes that are so specific that they offer attainable learning goals. Research at Thunderbird School of Global Management and my own experience show that we can learn to inspire not only by building trust across cultures but also by our ability to connect diverse perspectives, diving into a new adventure and doing so in a confident manner.

Click here to learn more about the Global Mindset® concept.

And enjoy the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics which despite their competitive nature are the result of immense global collaboration and offer us new leaders who will continue to inspire us for many years to come.  Thank you Russia for a fantastic Opening Ceremony!



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