Culture develops mutual accountability


I read the sports page first thing every day, before the business pages or The Wall Street Journal. Mainly I follow pro football and the New England Patriots, but occasionally another story catches my eye.

The story in The Boston Globe Meet the Navy SEAL who helped mold Harvard into Frozen Four contender is a great example of what sports has to teach business people.

Adam La Reau knew nothing about hockey but ended up playing a key role in the success of Harvard’s hockey team.

After nearly a dozen years as a US Navy SEAL, it wasn’t power plays or forechecking schemes that brought La Reau to the Yard. He enrolled in the Kennedy School of Government for a one-year masters program in public administration. Within weeks after arriving, virtually through happenstance, he ended up as a consultant with the hockey team when mutual friends connected him with coach Ted Donato.

Building corporate culture is vitally important to any startup and there are lessons in this story about the Harvard hockey team and its culture.

Beginning with that introduction in 2013 and through this season, La Reau has helped the Crimson shape team culture and build accountability.

 It’s a group that has great leadership and great responsibility. It’s really great to see. And I think they hold each other accountable, which is what any coach would hope for.”

Not only was La Reau instrumental in teaching leadership to the players, said Donato, but the coach noted how La Reau taught him ‘’the basic steps in how to hold people accountable and how to give them the tools to lead.”

I’ve heard many former New England Patriots talk about how the key to the success of their team was that the veterans help teach the rookies and free agents how to hold each other accountable. That’s just as important for a startup team as a sports team. In fact more so, as startup teams generally lack a coach who might inculcate accountability.

But what are teammates on a sports team or in a startup accountable for? One word: their goals!

“We’ve had high expectations from the beginning. Some would say they’re almost too high,” said Moy, a Nashville Predators draft pick. “We kind of joke about it. We have a goal list in our locker room. You look at the list and if you said at the beginning of the year we’d hit all of them, you might think we’re a little crazy. But you see red check mark after red check mark.

So here are to ingredients for startup success: set goals for everyone in the organization and for the company as a whole and build a company culture in which everyone keeps each other accountable. By the way, Adam LaReau, former Navy Seal and Harvard hockey assistant is also an entrepreneur himself! Adam helped found Quincy’s O2X, which helps train first-responders, including the Boston Fire Department.




Author: Mentorphile

Mentor, coach, and advisor to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. General manager with significant experience in both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Focus on media and information. On founding team of four venture-backed companies. Currently Chairman of Popsleuth, Inc., maker of the Endorfyn app for keeping fans updated on new stuff from their favorite artists.

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