Heman Smith, Advisory Strategist


3 Keys IT Leaders Can Learn From Extreme Sports Teams

IT leadership starts with BEING. Being visionary, being committed, being the leader who grows teams into a power house of transformation. That can only come from passionate, focused people who are on a mission to accomplish the vision you’ve painted for – and with them.

I got a wealth of value from Robyn Benincasa’s book: How Winning Works. She shares an inspiring outline of eight winning practices. The following three practices from her book map immediately with my IT leadership experience, and are essential keys for success in today’s digitally accelerated, and massively disruptive IT and business world.



  1. Total Commitment


“Commitment doesn’t start at the beginning” when the vision or project or initiative launches, “Commitment starts when the fun stops.”


We’re all aware of and experience the “implementation dip”: high energy and action at the start, with quickly fading focus as the reality of realizing the goal sets in. So many valuable – even critical – IT initiatives fail at this point.

As Howard Schultz of Starbucks said: “Everyone starts strong. Success comes to those with unwavering commitment to be at the end.”


2. We Thinking


“On high performance teams, everyone accepts complete responsibility for the group’s successes and failures.”


Especially now, in today’s high-speed, interconnected IT world, what each of us does impacts the rest of the team. Building a culture of “we” creates the ability to execute toward the results needed as a fully committed team – with dramatic results.

The best IT teams in organizations across all industries, are focusing on “we”. They’re rapidly shifting to functioning in a collaborative, non-siloed, creative culture model. Integrated teams with diverse experience, and broad-spectrum knowledge are successfully crafting answers to the necessary creative answers to the challenges of today’s business world.

They intentionally design a tech-neutral framework that can deliver the result, or “system” that can deliver the outcome required, and THEN they make decisions about what technologies are best suited to deliver that result.

“It’s amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit.” – Unknown


3. Ownership of the Mission


 “People who are inspired by a project will own it. They will have an entrepreneurial drive associated with the goal that can’t be bought with money. And they will wring themselves out to make it happen. A leader’s dream team.”


Robyn’s quoted text aligns with my experience in assembling superior teams.

Share a clear, compelling vision of possibility that needs to be fleshed-out, developed, and fine-tuned by those you’re talking with. Then invite them to take ownership of what you’ve shared and go further with “What if…, and why not”?

Those who are inspired and dive in are more likely to engage and stay committed. These are the volunteer owners of the mission, and your “A-team” on that initiative.

These new mission owners are then invited to come up with a plan to accomplish the mission, and the core team is on its way.

Any team that is drafted by managers, and assigned to execute on a plan they didn’t help create is already starting from a point of concern and resistance. Avoid it.

“To promote cooperation and teamwork, remember: People tend to resist that which is forced upon them. People tend to support that which they help create.” – Vince Pfaff


Heman Smith is a strategist with VMware Accelerate Advisory Services. His mission with VMware’s Advisory Services is helping client executives clearly determine strategic focus, and then execute on their new Digital Transformation vision and goals.

He works with customers to bring clarity and definition to their ideal IT model, and their execution strategies. He specializes in the challenges and changes needed in IT organizations and operations in today’s high-speed, digital business world.

Heman has over 30 years of experience in business, IT and technology. He is based in Utah.