A couple years ago at Auto Glass Week™ 2011 we were privileged that gold medal winning Olympian, Mike Eruzione, inspired us with the keynote speech. His hockey team’s 1980 Olympic game against the Soviet Union has gone down as one of the greatest single sporting victories in the 20th century. I took several notes from Eruzione’s talk. Here are just a few of his comments than inspired me:
- The goals and objectives that athletes have are similar to the goals all of us have—to be the best and to be successful.
- Herb Brooks, head coach of the hockey team, emphasized teamwork, pride, respect and commitment.
- Surround yourself with people whose goals and objectives are the same as your own.
- There are three intangibles you can’t measure—heart, pride and commitment. These intangibles make good teams great teams. They also separate good businesses from great businesses.
Last week I was attending the International Franchise Association’s (IFA) Summer Leadership Board Meeting and was fortunate enough to hear and meet Eruzione’s teammate, Jim Craig. Jon Luther, former CEO of Dunkin’ Donuts, brought Craig in to speak. Craig had spoken to Dunkin Donuts’ franchisees in the past. Craig spoke of Luther and one of the leadership lessons Luther taught him. As a leader you must:
Craig, like Eruzione, was handpicked by Brooks for the 1976 Team. Every time I hear the chant, “USA, USA, USA,” I remember where I was watching the game and having tears well up when we finally beat the highly-favored Soviet Union in hockey.
After hockey, Craig was hired by a marketing company that was doing $300,000. Craig and his sales team took it to $50 million. I look forward to reading his book, “Gold Medal Strategies: Business Lessons From America’s Miracle Team.” In fact I ordered it for eight of my franchisees who are working on our “Vision 2020” plan. Our goal is to look carefully at the types of businesses we need to have in the year 2020.
Craig was from a family of eight kids. The only chance he had of going to college was on a hockey scholarship. As a very young player he had three dreams—playing hockey in college, playing hockey in the Olympics then playing in the NHL. This was so real to him that he started signing his name for autographs when he was just in the third grade.
Craig didn’t get a scholarship out of high school even though his record as a goalie was 54 wins, two losses and one tie. He was only 5’3” at graduation. He went to a Massasoit Jr. College and during that time grew eight inches and earned a scholarship to Boston University.
USA’s coach was Brooks—a Bill Belichick type of coach for you football fans. Brooks was a master motivator and a real taskmaster. The leadership he displayed will be discussed throughout this article as I came to appreciate the lessons Craig shared with all of us.
When Brooks selected the 26 players who would be whittled down to 20 for the final team, he gathered players who could have been labeled prima donnas by many. They were good and they knew it. Many weren’t even 21 yet and were looking at soon being selected in the NHL draft. They were anything but a cohesive team as many were rivals at the collegiate level.
Brooks knew they didn’t have a chance if they didn’t start caring about each other and developing a common vision. He made them travel to Europe and, frankly, get killed playing better competition. He knew that was his only chance with these young men. He had to lead them to achieve more than they ever imagined.
Leadership question No. 1: Do we as leaders push our teams to achieve more?
The Soviet Union seemed to always win the Olympic hockey event. They were so good that they beat the NHL all-stars that year. No one expected the young USA team to come close to them in the Olympics.
During their first practice Brooks told his team, “No one has ever worked hard enough to beat the Soviets. You will!” He made the team skate for a couple hours after a game with Norway that ended in a 3 – 3 tie because he didn’t think the USA team gave it their best effort. He promised they would do this every night if they didn’t start giving it their all. The next night the USA team won 11 – 0.
Brooks knew that he didn’t have a dream team. He just had a team of dreamers. To achieve epic results he knew that he had to bring the team to the brink of failure—then make sure they had a shared dream that would produce epic results. Brooks knew about failure. He was the last person cut from the 1960 Olympic Hockey Team. That team without him won the Olympic gold medal in hockey for the first time for the USA. He knew that underdogs could find a way to win.
Brooks also made sure his team knew that he believed in them! (Sounds like the famous line from Al Michaels that night who said, “Do you believe in miracles?) With his coach’s belief and support, Craig stopped 36 of 39 shots on goal as USA beat the Soviets 4 – 3.
Leadership question No. 2: Does your team know that you believe in them?
Most of us don’t remember that the “miracle game” wasn’t for the gold and the team had to come back and play against Finland for the gold. USA won that game 4 – 2.
Craig peppered his speech with several motivational quotes that have helped him through the years. Some are:
- Avoid confusing being busy … with being productive!
Leadership question No. 3: Does this describe you or anyone in your organization—confusing being busy versus being productive?
- The people you develop (who are in “your locker room”)—give them permission to fail!
Leadership question #4: Would your people say you give people permission to fail?
- Don’t limit yourself to small goals and don’t underestimate your own personal ability to become more successful.
- If you make a commitment to the unknown, you are going to find a way to get there.
- You compete all of your life. Don’t be a passenger.
- Great teams define what winning is.
- Great teams and great companies win. Make your weaknesses your strengths and your strengths even stronger!
- Believe you have the right leadership in place. Then make sure you have the right strategy.
Leadership question No. 5: Which one of these sayings will help you the most in leadership?
- If you think you are too small to have an impact, go to bed with a mosquito.
Then, one by my favorite people in history—Abraham Lincoln
- “I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me—and I didn’t want to let him down.”
Craig believes that we have three choices in life.
- Be the victor;
- Be the victim; or
- Find a way to navigate differently.
As I walked out in the hall after his talk to shake hands and meet him, the best stories about leadership were those he told about Brooks. Those of who have seen the movie “Miracle” or read about Brooks, know that he was a real taskmaster. He had to change the way those20 young men did things before he could change their results.
When he died, all 20 Olympians came to his funeral. Craig also said each one of those men believe today that he was Brooks’ favorite player. That is real leadership!
Leadership questions No. 6: How many of your employees would say that about you?
Have a gold medal week!