"We know how rough the road will be, how heavy here the load will be, we know about the barricades that wait along the track, but we have set our soul ahead upon a certain goal ahead and nothing left from hell to sky shall ever turn us back." ~Vince Lombardi. I love the perspective of being the underdog, overcoming all odds, fighting a seemingly impossible battle, and winning. I often speak to leaders about teams who overcome those seemingly impossible odds and find ways to win. Exceptional leaders respond the same way, “It was a team effort.” So what does it take to create such a team effort?
Note the last phrase of the quote, “…set our soul ahead upon a certain goal ahead and nothing left from hell to sky shall ever turn us back.” Life’s filled with barriers. Maybe it’s addiction, maybe it’s a difficult boss, maybe it’s an unruly teenager, maybe it’s a challenging client, maybe it's a seemingly impossible deadline, or maybe it’s just the challenges that come with life. Whatever your venture, you CAN and WILL encounter barriers. The first step to overcoming any barrier is to have a purpose. "Where there is no vision, the people perish...” ~Proverbs 29:18. Lombardi calls it “a certain goal ahead” and then declares “nothing left from hell to sky shall ever turn us back.” Let me challenge you… what are your barriers, what’s your vision, do you have “a certain goal ahead,” and do you firmly believe that “nothing left from hell to sky shall ever turn YOU back.”?
We’ve all seen it. Sports teams, work teams, families, community organizations filled with talented people that just couldn’t get it done. Why not? Is it too many or too complex barriers? Is it a lack of vision? Until you have exceptional leadership, people aren’t a team, they’re just a group of individuals. So how does the exceptional leader turn individual performance into a team performance? As Eric Thomas says, "You don't beg average people to be phenomenal. You don't beg good people to be phenomenal. You just are phenomenal, and you will attract phenomenal.” If you want to create an exceptional team, start by creating an exceptional you.
1+1=2. But if you’re an exceptional leader, 1+1=3. Scotty Bowman is one of the greatest coaches in NHL history, boasting 1,244 career wins and 9 Stanley Cup championships. Bowman had an incredible knack of knowing his players, knowing their strengths, and putting together lines that would consistently outperform other teams, regardless of individual talent. As a leader, you need to know your team’s strengths, weaknesses, and create those lines (sub teams, workgroups, etc.) that will supplement each other’s strengths while complementing each other’s weaknesses. Bowman, like most great leaders, realized that life is a team sport, and that it's not just individual talent but rather synergy that makes great teams.
Lombardi’s response to adversity is in the image above, “Iron Willed.” I’ve seen this iconic chalk mark on several of my Ironman ventures, typically at a time when the body is saying "no," and the mind needs to overcome by screaming "GO!" Iron Willed implies mental toughness. It suggests a resolve that says you will face and overcome adversity, you will encounter and crush barriers, you will come across and exceed limitations of what seems possible. Iron Willed also implies a mindset, an attitude, that rejects mediocrity, rejects the status quo, rejects all self-imposed limitations, and sees the word impossible as merely a suggestion.
Make It Happen
- Vision - clearly identify what your “certain goal ahead” look like, and commit yourself 100% to this vision.
- Attitude - you must truly believe, in your heart of hearts, that “nothing left from hell to sky" shall ever turn you back.
- Exceptional Leadership - in the personal and professional domains you lead, be an exceptional leader; create an exceptional you.
- Synergies - know the strengths of those in your domain, and organize them to optimize those strengths such that 1+1 consistently equals 3. Understand that synergy and team chemistry transform a group of individuals into a great team.
- Iron WIlled - have the mental toughness to never, ever, ever abandon your vision, and when you hear the word "no," condition your mind to scream "go!" Embrace adversity, and consider the word "impossible" to be nothing more than a suggestion. And lastly, become so committed to excellence and success that winning is a foregone conclusion.
Welcome to the new you. Enjoy the journey...