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A Russian Hockey Coach and You

SI MiracleReading time – 39 seconds  .  .  .

I often use a piece of the story of the U.S. hockey team in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York in my keynotes and workshops because of the fundamental leadership principles it teaches. Actually, that piece gives validation to the Core of Great Leadership and it is enormously powerful.

Recently, a program attendee sent along a link to a Sports Illustrated article, 10 Interesting Facts You May Not Know About the Miracle on Ice, thinking, because of my interest in and knowledge of that most surprising sporting event outcome, that I would be interested in this article. He was right. I heartily recommend the article to you and invite you to review point #5 in particular.

Viktor Tikhonov, the Russian coach, pulled the best goalie in the world – Vladislav Tretiak – off the ice immediately before the end of the second period without giving explanation for the change. What effect do you suppose that had on the other 19 members of the Soviet team?

More to the point, what effect does it have on your people when you make a big surprise move, give no explanation and leave everyone with their “not knowing?” It probably has the same effect on them that Tikhonov’s silence had on the Soviet team members.

We humans are profoundly uncomfortable with not knowing. In fact, we are far more comfortable with receiving negative information than we are being left wondering what is going on.

The message for you as you advance on your journey to be the greatest leader you can be is to communicate clearly and often with your people. Don’t make them guess what’s going on. Otherwise, they will be metaphorically (or literally) gathered around the water cooler wringing hands and speculating on all the terrible things that they imagine are about to befall them. And their engagement will drop like a hockey puck in a face off.

Many thanks to MP for sharing the SI article with me.


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