Recently I had the privilege to listen to Jim Tressel, the former Ohio State University and Youngstown State University football coach, talk about success and I was struck by how his three keys apply to the world of collaboration for collective impact.
Unselfishness: Tressel said his teams that won national titles were unselfish; specifically the most talented players were more interested in achieving victory than individual glory. For a collaboration to achieve collective impact, stakeholders (particularly the biggest, most powerful stakeholders) need to make sure they stay focused on the common agenda. As Jill M. Michal at the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey so elegantly puts it, stakeholders need to check their egos and their logos at the door.
Grit: Tressel said his national title teams refused to accept failure. Players who were told they couldn't succeed worked harder to prove their doubters wrong. They never gave up. Stakeholders in collaborations need to stick with it through the "traps" that are inherent in the collaboration cycle described by Liz Weaver of the Tamarack Institute. These traps are natural within collaborations and stakeholders without grit will find them to be a convenient excuse to drop out. Stakeholders with grit fight through the traps and keep pushing forward.
Curiosity: The best teams are always curious about how they can get better, Tressel said. The best collaborations are the same way. They use data to better understand what works. They keep asking questions, keep learning together and keep pursuing emergent solutions.They know that to get through the collaboration cycle one must keep adapting. The systems we work in are always changing; to deal with that change we must be curious.
Whether one is talking about football, education (Tressel is now vice president of student success at the University of Akron) or collaboration for collective impact: unselfishness, grit and curiosity are 3 keys to success.