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The Mighty Ducks: Building an Effective Team

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The Mighty Ducks: Building an Effective Team

This week’s assignments relate to how to build an effective team and how to form a productive team. At the start of one of the readings for the week, the authors describe the distinctive V that Canadian geese form when they fly together (providing an updraft for the geese that follow and to allow for different leaders to emerge throughout their time in flight) and the loud honking that’s attributable to flocks of geese as well, which I never knew, is to offer support and encouragement to the lead goose (Effective Teams, n.d., p 497). Of course, reading this made me think back to one of, perhaps, the greatest sports movies of all time, The Mighty Ducks and so, for the purpose of this assignment; I am going to use The Mighty Ducks to illustrate the principles and key factors of this week’s materials.

Gordon Bombay, a young lawyer, is arrested for drunk driving and as part of his community service, he’s tasked with coaching a youth hockey team (this plot point is questionable, but hey, it was the 90’s). Coach Bombay has experience, but his negative experience at the hands of a bad coach has left him with a sour taste and he’s not very eager to return to the ice. At first, he just wants an easy out – so he encourages this group of vagabond, under-privileged kids, known as “District 5”, with no equipment, uniforms or even practice facility to “fake it `til they make it” by lying and cheating on the ice. The players then challenge Coach Bombay’s authority; arguing that they don’t want to play if it means playing dirty and feeling cheap. Coach Bombay has a change of heart and recognizes that he has to build trust, encourage participation and unify the group before they will ever be a successful team. The best way to illustrate the process is with the four stages of team development: forming, norming, storming, and performing (Effective Teams, n.d., p 502).

The first stage – FORMING. This rag-tag group of kids doesn’t trust each other, they don’t trust Coach Bombay and they certainly lack the fundamental skills essential to succeed. Coach Bombay has to figure out what unique skills each of the kids bring to the team. Who is good at what? For instance, he identifies Fulton Reed, a loner kid with a bad attitude, as a powerhouse enforcer with a killer slapshot.  Coach Bombay takes each of the kids under his wing and helps them to orient themselves and establish trust within their one-on-one relationship with him as the leader. Throughout this process, Coach Bombay is establishing clarity of purpose, the norms of team play, hockey procedures (plays), and expectations, like showing up to practice and giving it their all.

The second stage – NORMING. Ducks fly together. The group must create cohesion and unity, figure out their individual roles, set expectations and foster commitment.  An “identified set of inhibitors to effective team performance, include rewards and recognizing individuals instead of the team, not maintain stability of membership over time, not providing team members with autonomy, not fostering interdependence among team members, and failing to orient all team members” (Effective Teams, n.d., p 499). What does Coach Bombay do? He unifies the group – first with symbolic new uniforms, but then by reinforcing the lessons that each person of the group is important, but when working together they become more powerful than the sum of their parts. Coach Bombay begins to encourage the team to value their common goals above their own individual goals.



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