COP: Final(ly)

Between Sidney, BC and Ottawa On, I have been actively involved in coaching minor hockey and Little League baseball for over 13 years.  Yet, the Sidney experience was unique and one that I doubt I will ever be part of again.

Volunteerism is essential for the fabric of any small community and especially minor sports.  Even larger cities such as Toronto and Ottawa depend a great deal on the selfless acts of its citizens to build a sense of community and neighborhood pride within the monolithic confines of a metropolis.  Yet sometimes the best intentions fail. Why? Why were we successful when many other associations that I have been part of bicker and fight to their own self-destruction?  Is it poor leadership? Jealousy? Self-gratification? Power? Who knows. Perhaps they lose sight of the reasons they are part of a team in the first place.  Perhaps they have lost their peripheral vision and are blind to the enormous talent and knowledge pool that a group of individuals can bring to the table.  Perhaps they have lost sight of their goals.

I feel that this experience is analogous to the business model of the “coach and the high performance team”.  Here we had a group of individuals who were all professionals in their chosen fields.  Yet privately we were all inconspicuous, shy; unsure of ourselves; the only common thread was being involved in the personal well-being and development of our sons’ and daughter’s through athletics.   No one knew one another very well, none of us were part of the league’s inner sanctum.  Yet most of us were actively involved as volunteer coaches and managers and understood the value and merits of effective teamwork.  We also believed in our community and in having fun.

In this case there was no one individual who assumed a leadership role.  Our dream, our vision was an intangible. It was our coach.  The “Field of Dreams” was our collective goal, our only goal.  No one person had to articulate it for us.  It was omnipresent; the functional side of the triangle and cohesive glue that held us together and kept us on target.  In effect our coach encapsulated all that was good about this endeavor and about us as individuals.  We, as individual I’s became a collective “we” and as a result became a high performance team.  Our individual knowledge was pooled, and managed, and focused to make our dream a reality.

I never gave the concept of a knowledge base much thought during this endeavour. No one asked me if I was practicing knowledge transfer or understood complexity theory, or high performance teamwork, as I was digging out the septic field for our new clubhouse.  In some respects the fundamental baseline of knowledge sharing is an intangible in itself.  But by understanding its principals and enormous potential can one fully grasp the considerable talent out there waiting to be tapped and harvested.  The only thing missing may be a vision or a good coach or the external forces necessitating change.

Being less pragmatic and hierarchical in dealing with people has captured my imagination and holds great promise. I can see its merits and potential in coaching, in running a league executive, in business or in any endeavour involving a diverse group of individuals.  The huge bureaucracy that I was part of at National Defence was anathema to a knowledge sharing environment as that experienced in Sidney. Things run at a snail’s pace.  Nevertheless even in my own small directorate there was a bevy of talent waiting to be tapped.  A group of individuals with tacit knowledge as varied and as rich as the knowledge base in our “Field of Dreams project.  All one had to do was to be cognizant that it exists.   Then create a knowledge rich environment that feeds high performance teamwork.  Establish the vision, the coach.  Enthusiasm, motivation, self confidence and commitment will follow suit.  Morale will increase, an upsurge in innovation will occur and ……………………..Life will be good.