Improved Leadership. Competitive Advantage.

Please, don’t think we’re going overboard. But we just have to continue with the sports theme of this eNewsletter. We’ll keep it short. Amidst the passing of Muhammad Ali and the surging performance of the Cleveland Cavaliers, slightly out of the spotlight could be the Stanly Cup Champions—the Pittsburgh Penguins. Forget that almost every, if not every, prognosticator counted the Penguins out in every round of the playoffs.

Three leadership themes emerge. One is more conceptual, and the other two are more actionable. To begin, we have empirical evidence in the power of alignment to a vision and, just maybe, the power of belief. No matter that almost everyone counted the Penguins down and out back in December up through June of this year. They’ve shown that it doesn’t matter what others think, it matters what the team believes. Thirty hockey players believed what the world didn’t. The lesson here is that buying into a collective vision is important, and regardless of what external stakeholders and so-called “experts” say, the belief of the team is central, is critical.

On to the other two lessons here. In this very eNewsletter several months ago, we put forth the leadership mantra of man, equip, train. And, we mean ‘man’ in a gender neutral way. To be successful, you need to staff the team, equip them with the resources to be successful, and train them on what good looks like. Do you have a staffing change that you need to make? That you must make? Let’s look to Pittsburgh Penguins. In mid-December, team leadership fired coach Mike Johnston for poor performance with four months before playoff hockey was to start. In came Mike Sullivan, and the rest is history. Again, the lesson here is simple and straightforward and worthy of application—it is impossible to be successful without the right people on the right bus sitting in the right seats.

Our final LEADERSHIP IN ACTION lesson here is to give young talent a chance. They may surprise. Mike Sullivan, himself youthful, was given a chance. He was hungry, and he thought differently. And most experts agree that Sullivan did what was done to him—he gave young hockey players a chance to shine. Specifically, he pulled a celebrated, and much experienced goalie, in favor of Matt Murray—a guy barely of drinking age! He responded. Sullivan gave youth another chance by bringing up Bryan Rust from the farm system. At 23, Rust delivered an exceptional performance throughout the playoffs. Of course, there’s an element of courage and risk here. Mike Sullivan put inexperienced, but hungry and aggressive, players into the game during the biggest of stages—the Stanly Cup playoffs. So ask yourself—are you giving young talent a chance to stretch, to spread their wings, and to grow? What’s holding you back? If you can tolerate some stumbles along the way that go hand-in-hand with learning, giving some young supervisors or engineers a chance to shine may deliver some surprising and promising results.

To recap—get your team to hit the ‘believe’ button as that’s the only opinion that truly matters. Second, don’t be afraid to make coaching changes. Third, demonstrate even more courage by giving new, young talent a chance to impress!

We invite you to email ELP Principal and Co-Founder Robin Bichy for a professional consultation at