I’ve taken a hiatus from blogging. It wasn’t really a conscious choice. I’ve been squeezed by forces – fabulous forces – that have required my energy and focus. One of those forces was working with the Cranbrook Varsity Hockey Team, leveraging my strengths-based success program on their quest to win the Michigan State Championship. The experience of working with them, pardon the pun, was a game changer for me.
I’m not good at pausing to celebrate my own success, and this was pointed out to me some years ago by my sage friend, Vicki Flaherty. She forced me to celebrate one day when something wonderful happened at work. She said, “I want to pause and celebrate this with you.” I had never heard of such an idea (my high Achiever strength (#3) means I’ve already moved on.) I learned it was fun to celebrate!
With that prologue in mind, I invite you to pause and celebrate, albeit belatedly, the amazing success journey experienced by the Cranbrook Varsity Hockey team. In a nutshell, here’s what happened.
January 29, 2015
They were talented and struggling. They found themselves in a series of tied games. Behaviors on and off the ice indicated that the team had not coalesced. A friend of a friend (this is how things happen, don’t they) mentioned my name. I had a great conversation with Coach Andrew Weidenbach. I learned more about his point of view, and then shared my approach to building winning teams. He was all in. We crafted a plan, generously funded by an anonymous donor, to identify the strengths of the team, and then align all that talent behind a common purpose.
January 31, 2015
I worked with the young men, pulling information out of them about what they wanted achieve, how they wanted it to achieve it, and together we assembled the team’s vision of success. (This is something I love to do because it uses my Ideation, Strategic, Learner, Individualization & Maximizer strengths!) Upon completion of this important exercise, the energy in the room was palpable. I knew that was a good sign.
February 2, 2015
By midnight on February 1, every single member of the team, and most of the coaching staff, had taken the Clifton Strengthsfinder. I had a treasure trove of awesomeness to work with! They were amazing – and completely unlike from any team I’d worked with over the past ten years. Crazy amounts of horsepower with really unusual distributions and strengths combinations. They were very different from the statistical norms established by Gallup’s database of 11 million people. As such, they had different needs and motivations. I set about doing what I do – help the team understand itself and leverage that understanding to achieve success.
February 8, 2015
We met again one week later to debrief on their individual and team strengths. In three hours, the team migrated from talented and struggling to talented and ready to rock and roll on the ice. They made the journey of self-awareness, then team awareness, then linking strengths to roles. It didn’t end there. Coach is extremely gifted himself, with Individualization, Command, Responsibility (that’s an unlikely pairing by the way), Activator, and Relator. On his own, Coach leveraged the Strengthsfinder information to deeply appreciate and motivate his guys to bring out the best in them. That’s what success looks like.
They lost the first game after we held the workshop, against the #1 team in Wisconsin. Coach said it was the best they’d ever played AS A TEAM. That’s what success looks like.
They never lost again.
On March 14, six weeks after we first met, the Cranbrook Hockey Team completed the final leg of their difficult voyage. They went from being talented and struggling, to talented and State Champions. I watched them compete in their last six games, and I saw a team that was determined, focused, and filled with energy. They crushed the competition with an unwavering commitment to their definition of success, and to one another. They had become a high-performing unit, with every single young man playing an important role in their success – on and off the ice. That’s what success looks like.
I’ve been documenting the experience from multiple angles – my experience, Coach Weidenbach’s approach, and I’ve even interviewed seven of the players, including both co-captains. Wait until you read the personal accounts of these remarkable young men. Every story is compelling in its own way, but they share a common thread: the journey to become a great team was the destination. The trophy was a byproduct. That is what success looks like.
Later, I realized that I’d hit the jackpot with my opportunity to work with Coach Weidenbach. He has coached at the professional level, and is one of the most successful high school hockey coaches in the country. We continue to advance his strengths-based success awareness, and we are in early stages of planning next year’s program. I’m so grateful for our partnership.
I’m writing a book about my work with the Cranbrook Hockey Team (it started as a paper, but now that I’m over 100 pages, I think we’re long past the paper phase). It’s a powerful guide on how to leverage the strengths of the individuals to build and lead a winning sports team, yet the parallels to constructing successful business teams are evident on every page. I have a commitment to get a solid draft in my editor’s hands on Sept 16th. (I read that making a goal public increases one’s odds of achieving it! Hold me accountable, people!)
I know what success looks like, because I’ve seen it from the inside out. I’ve worked with a Maestro as he conducted the strengths of his talented team to make music, not noise. It was a blast.
I invite you to pause with me to celebrate the success of the Cranbrook Hockey Team. We have twenty three young men (strengths-based leaders!) entering college, starting a business, or returning to the team later this year. That’s what success looks like, too. Won’t it be fun to watch where they go from here? It will, indeed.
Maureen Ideation ~ Strategic ~ Learner ~ Achiever ~ Individualization ~ Maximizer