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U.S. SailGP Team begins rebuilding for Season 2 success with McChrystal Group

by Laura Muma 7 Nov 2019 06:29 PST
U.S. SailGP Team onsite at McChrystal Group © Matt Knighton for SailGP

The United States SailGP Team jump-started its preparations for Season 2 success last month, embarking on a multi-day intensive leadership development course with McChrystal Group, led by General (Ret.) Stanley McChrystal.

McChrystal, former commander of the elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) as well as International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, is best known for revolutionizing the interagency operating structure to create a cohesive counter-terrorism organization that operated as a 'Team of Teams.' He founded McChrystal Group in 2010 to bring these lessons to business, government, and sports leaders looking for a transformational edge.

U.S. SailGP Team Helmsman Rome Kirby was keen to get the group together to analyze and learn from the young team's inaugural season and create a solid foundation for success looking towards SailGP Season 2.

"Marseille SailGP was really tough for our team," said Kirby. "We began the final event on the podium, but after so many issues our season ended with a bad taste in our mouth. Coming here was a great way for us to reflect on the season and get the group looking forward to winning in 2020."

At the heart of the Leadership Development Workshop is developing the U.S. SailGP Team into what McChrystal Group identifies as a 'Team of Teams.'

"Time and time again what we find is that a successful team is one with synergy between the people," said McChrystal. "It's not necessarily the best athletes; it's the best chemistry which together makes them the best team. It's something a team has to carefully craft over time, building toward a common purpose and trust and a shared consciousness, so then teams that are truly special start to emerge."

Key to the leadership workshop was immersing the U.S. SailGP Team into an intensive JSOC simulation with the athletes assuming multi-agency roles between Navy SEALs, Army Delta Force, and the CIA - designed to showcase the complex task of working within silos and how to adapt cohesively and creatively to emerging problems, a critical lesson learned from the McChrystal Group team's time overseas with JSOC.

"Excellence does matter," said McChrystal. "You need to start with talent and hold individuals to a very high level of performance."

"But the real secret is breaking down the silos that exist within elite forces. We found when we brought the best of the best together in combat, it created a greater outcome more than the sum of the parts."

For Kirby, the sessions quickly highlighted how, "You need every person within that team to be able to do their job effectively, and to trust each other to do their job. It was a pretty awesome, eye-opening experience," he said.

"Coming here to the McChrystal Group was a great way for us to rebound and get our group back on track. We now have a ton of different strategies and techniques, a team mission statement and a great sense of our culture. There's a lot of momentum as we look toward 2020 together."

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