Our firm just had an opportunity to help with a phenomenal team-building event for a leadership team in Grand Forks, North Dakota. It was freezing when we landed and felt like the middle of nowhere but the executive in charge wanted to do it at the spectacular Ralph Engelstad Arena, commonly called The Ralph. When we got to the venue, we understood why.

“As a player, you have one responsibility, to focus yourself and be ready for the game. As a coach, your responsibility is to get 20 guys ready and have them all on the same page. If you can’t get every guy ready every night, you’re going to struggle.” – Wayne Gretzky

Called the “Taj Mahal of hockey,” this $104 million-arena was built for the Fighting Hawks, the University of North Dakota (UND) men’s ice hockey team, by Mr. Engelstad who once played for the team, and had done very well in business.

The Ralph is spectacular, with the design and quality of a five-star hotel: granite floors, cherry wood seats with leather upholstery and full-colour LCDs throughout. It’s one of the finest of its kind in the world – even the Great One, Wayne Gretzky, called it one of the most beautiful buildings in North America. No wonder it’s one of Trip Advisor’s top-rated destinations in America.

This building is not just style: it produces substance and hosts one of the most successful college hockey programs in the US. In fact, over 250 UND alumni have gone on to play professional hockey.

So what better place to inspire a leadership team to greatness – to sound a battle cry – than a venue that epitomizes vision, hard work and success? We tried to create a day to do it justice.

Set the Stage for Success

The amazing speaker Rudy Ruettiger – the Notre Dame football player whose story of persistence was told in the 1993 movie Rudy – kicked off the event. The next morning, we heard from Rudy again, and met and spent time with the Fighting Hawks’ players and coaches, and then got to work planning strategies for the year. Needless to say, as we got to work planning strategies for the year, we were energized and inspired. The whole event was amazing, and the lessons were incredible – particularly key takeaways about what to do when you hit a rough patch. Rudy gave great advice to all of us, including the hockey team who had just lost a few games: Stay focused on the people who are going to support you to make things better.

“Don’t ever, ever quit. Recognize that stopping now, regrouping to try a new approach isn’t quitting. If you quit, you’ll regret it forever.” – Rudy Ruettiger

Now, it may seem like a such simple idea to meet the coach and players of a high-performing team but, combined with being physically immersed in such a spectacular high-performing environment, made it amazing. And some would think that, by starting off so strongly, the rest of the meeting may be quite blah in comparison. Instead, all that great energy brought the team together – more tightly, more aligned and more focused on the strategy. And I must say – having done hundreds of events like this – it was one of the most powerful I’ve been part of.

If the energy in the locker room is good the team is good. Same goes for the board room.

The Challenge

  • When was the last time you had your team learn from greatness outside our organization?
  • Where can you take your team that exemplifies everything you want them to be?
  • How can you align and inspire them to greatness as you do your planning?