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LEADERSHIP IS A PROCESS OF SOCIAL INFLUENCE, WHICH MAXIMISES THE EFFORTS OF OTHERS TOWARDS THE ACHIEVEMENT OF A SHARED GOAL.
Tuesday, April 03, 2012
Members of the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team won gold and silver in the sport’s final Olympic event in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. It was the culmination of an amazing winter games for the team, which won medals in all three of the sports’ competitions. It was also one of the more amazing turnaround stories of the Olympics.
How Nordic Combined went from dead last in the world in 1988 to regular trips to the podium is a lesson in slow, deliberate growth managers at struggling companies might take a page from.
Tom Steitz took over as Head Coach for the team in those dark days of 1988, inheriting little money or athletic talent to work with. But he set a methodical approach to turning the team around, and set ambitious goals that put it on the path that would lead to Vancouver.
How do you get from dead last to dominating at the most important contest in the world? Steitz seems some lessons in the team’s transformation that can be applied to business.
Here are some of the lessons he learned from Nordic Combined that he thinks apply to businesses looking to win:
* Move the unproductive out quickly - Right away Steitz overhauled the coaching staff and started to hunt for promising athletes who had good team spirit, who wanted their teammates to do well.
* Set big goals, and plan to build to them - Just attending an Olympics couldn’t be anyone’s goal, Steitz says. They had to want a medal, and every athlete had to be improving whether they were already easily going to make the team or not. Steitz tied those goals to fundraising. He asked sponsors for modest contributions up front, but a promise that they’d give more if the team rose in the world cup rankings. That strategy took them from the worst funded team to the best competing in the 2002 Games.
* Spend time together — Steitz relocated the whole team and all their coaches, nutritionists and medical staff from all over the country to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He lost a third of his athletes and staff, but he knew those who stayed were committed.