Oilers lost to NY last night 5-0. I actually stopped watching when the new series “Lindsay” on the Oprah Network started. One train wreck to another. The only solace is that ‘Lindsay’ was cancelled after 4 episodes. The Oil have seven more games.
I enlisted the keen insight of a former colleague from my nursing/addiction studies days. He specializes in why sports teams (primarily those with talent that should be successful) fail.
Why does an organization like the Oilers, or many other NHL , NBA, CFL, NFL, or even rec leagues in the country struggle?
1. The organization has not built a culture of trust and respect. All-star teams are usually built from stellar performers, with enormous egos, which may translate into a lack of trust. Without trust and respect, the team lacks a solid foundation. So, as an NHL coach/ team leader, how is this countered?
Building trust is easy – not necessarily simple, but relatively easy. Some people are more trusting than others, and some hold back because of previous experiences. Regardless, the most effective ways to build trust are:
- Say what you mean and mean what you say
- Always speak and act with integrity
- Be consistent between word and deed
- Stay out of the gossip and rumor mills
2. Failing to create the chemistry necessary to succeed
In the movie “Miracle”, U.S. Olympic team coach Herb Brooks (played by actor Kurt Russell) says, “I am not looking for the best players. I am looking for the right players.” This is critical to understand when it comes to a team’s success. Whether in sports or business, a team must have the right players in the right positions. If not, a team may pursue a common goal, but when the players are not complementing each other’s skills and mind-sets, disaster will strike the core of the team.
Team chemistry allows for trust and respect while all members continue to focus on accomplishing their individual and team productivity goals.
3. Lack of mutual accountability
It is one thing for the management to hold everyone accountable – they should – and it is even better when members hold each other accountable. Some of the best teams are those whose leaders are only a resource in the event of a problem. Team members take care of the basic problems as they arise by holding each other 110 percent accountable.
4. Poor team language
Communication is the root of most problems, and ineffective teamwork is no different. While traditional communication between two people is vital, ineffective internal communication in a team setting will result in disaster.
The first sign of an internal breakdown is “me”-centered language, which is not healthy to accomplish the ultimate goal. Often this occurs in the subconscious mind and is never noticed.
In the workplace the language typically sounds like, “I think it should have been done this way”, or maybe, “I just don’t get it.” One of the biggest offenders is the phrase “It’s not my job.” These are all “me” statements because they revolve around one person rather than the team.
Every team goes through a development process. In the beginning, each member is about his or her individual performance, and as the team matriculates, it becomes more about the whole of the team.
As a team begins to trust and respect each other, the process moves more smoothly. A successful leader focuses on the communication of “we” and not individual success or failure. Once the mind begins to process the difference in internal language, the external language follows suit. In a team environment, it’s what went right or wrong, not who succeeded or who caused the mishap.
When a team performs at peak levels, everyone feels as though they were an integral part of something successful. Success allows the team to experience more focus, cooperation, productivity and impact throughout the entire organization.
Teamwork is not about getting along with everyone because, let’s face it, that will never happen. If we understand another person’s behaviors, and adapt ours to a more team-centered approach, we can become better producers. That is the little secret of playing nice in the sandbox.
What is going wrong with the Oilers?
A collection of all of the above, including a disastrous communication factor within the coaching team and management as a whole. Early on Dallas Eakins stepped on some pretty important toes, and lost the support of the greatest hockey minds of the organization.
The players never really bought in. The ‘me’ language, (perpetuated by the ‘play my way or not at all) took over, and the ‘team building’ never had a chance. When Dallas spoke ‘me’, there was no chance for the team to speak ‘we’.
This is a tough one. There are so many things that need to change, who knows what should be first? In my never-so-humble-opinion, this team needs a more experienced leader that understands the above approach in hockey, in business, and in life.
Perhaps new players/moving players will establish a better culture of ‘team’ and cohesiveness in the dressing room. This ‘new thinking’ needs to start during the summer, and continue on throughout the season. More team building, (fun, challenging, new, different environment away from the ice) that continues THROUGHOUT the season. This is necessary in business as well as family life.
These are basic ingredients to success in life as a whole; whether your a parent, coach, teacher, or business manager. Success depends on everybody feeling heard, being a part of, and buying into the success as a team.
Credit: With editorial from Dr. B Black