May 01

Cirovski defines leadership formula

During their run to a second straight CIS women's basketball championship last season, Windsor Lancers head coach Chantal Vallee agonized over some personnel decisions and the domino effect it would have on her team.

Vallee went with her gut instincts and she was proven right not just by the results on the floor, but also by the cold calculations of a computerized analysis of the Lancers' team leadership and chemistry after the season. "I thought I was making the right decision and this verified it," said Vallee of having her team work with PEAK Consulting of Tecumseh on a social network analysis. "This would have been nice to know during the season. I would really like to do this again for next year's team once we have that group together.

"I think this is a fantastic model not only for sports teams, but any organization. Teams and businesses they're the same because they're made up of people who have to work together for a common goal." Vallee was introduced to the statistical model when PEAK Consulting owner Vancho Cirovski approached her right after winning the CIS championships last March. Cirovski hoped to use the two-time champions as a base to compare a championship organization to less successful ones.

While many coaches might have shied away from the unconventional, Vallee was intrigued and interested in finding every edge she could. "For me, this was super interesting," Vallee said. "I have a masters in sports psychology and I'm always reading and researching leadership, cohesiveness, communication and defining roles in a team. "To see the results of the unbiased computerized data on the team, it was extraordinary. It really gives you an insight into your organization."

Cirovski can achieve such indepth analysis with seven pretty straightforward questions. These questions probe the connections between players on and off the field, who holds influence in what areas, who are the enforcers of the team's culture and which players are more isolated. The players' answers are graded on a scale of one to five to create a model of nodes and arrows revealing the connectedness and integration of individuals on the team.

In analyzing the pattern, Cirovski can identify a team's leaders, but more importantly, potential emerging leaders and players of hidden influence. "I started dabbling in this stuff back when I was manager of Organizational Capabilities at Hiram Walkers in the '90s," said Cirovski, who attended Michigan State on a soccer scholarship where he earned a masters' degree in Labour and Industrial Relations.

"My real passion has always been sports, so I did some stuff for my brother (University of Maryland men's soccer coach Sasho Cirovski). "It wasn't responsible for them winning their two NCAA championships since I started working with him, but it resulted in him making some changes that really improved his team's chemistry."

Cirovski, who attended Lowe in the late 1970s, founded PEAK Consulting in 1998, but has devoted his efforts to the company fulltime for the past year. The genesis for the firm came after he took in a lecture given by fellow MSU labour and industrial relations graduate Valdis Krebs at a 1995 alumni gathering. Krebs is the founder and chief scientist at Orgnet and the developer of InFlow software for social and organizational network analysis. "He's a real smart guy and my mentor on this," Cirvoski said. "He designed the algorithm for the model. "I recognized right away I could use this at Hiram Walkers and then gradually introduced it into sports."

After Bloomberg's Business Week did an article on how his brother used his work to help Maryland win its first men's Division I national soccer title, Cirovski said he was inundated with 100 requests to do the same for various businesses. He did some, but was still engaged fulltime with his then employer Cardinal Health. "I couldn't handle it working fulltime, but that's when I realized you know there's a business here if I want to build it," said Cirovski, who uses a seven question chemistry quiz and 60-question cultural examination. "I was just working with paper and a pencil then. "Until I got the back end built - the survey methodology - it was difficult to do. "The timing to try it just seemed right. I was looking for a new challenge."

Cirovski solved that problem with the help of Windsor software designers NYN Website Design + Marketing.

On the sporting side of his business, Cirovski has done or has been contacted to do analysis for various teams at Army, Maryland, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Tennessee along with the Lancers' women's basketball and men's soccer teams and will put the local semi-pro soccer team, the Windsor Stars, through his analytical ringer this season.

The 52-year-old Cirovski will also be a presenter on this topic at the NCAA's National Soccer Coaches Meeting in January. Army's men's soccer head coach Russell Payne just had Cirovski complete his second study on the team he took over at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. in 2010. Payne said such analysis is going to become more important to coaches in a world that's already more integrated through social media than ever before.

"The science of coaching has to keep up," said Payne, who saw his squad more than double its wins from his first season with a 7-10-1 record in the Patriot League in 2011. Payne admitted his staff was surprised at some of the results they recently received. "It pinpointed who had major influence in the team," said Payne, a goalkeeper who played professionally in both the MLS and Europe after graduating from Maryland. "One surprise we learned was one of the guys was quite a central piece that other players were drawn too. We never noticed that before.

"We'll put players like that in more of a leadership position." The 36-year-old Payne said he will use the information from the survey in three ways. Coaches will subtly allow their leaders more of a voice in team situations without anyone knowing. They'll share the results with certain individuals one-on-one and they'll discuss the survey findings with the identified team leaders in very small groups.

On the business side, which generally focuses on both the culture as well as the chemistry and leadership aspects of organizations, Cirovski has done things for companies ranging from real estate data software firms to major American universities and local companies. He and his brother were also invited to lecture at a Young Presidents' Organization gathering held at Pebble Beach, California. The YPO is an international 19,000-member group of corporate CEOs and presidents under the age of 45.

Whether it's business or sport, the formula is the same.

Cirovski said the two main components of organizational excellence are mastery (culture) and chemistry (communication, connectedness). In a sporting sense, mastery is the domain of coaches while chemistry is the connectedness and integration of the players on and off the field.

"Most organizations have some issues," Cirovski said. "It flows from trust and mutates into fear. It all hinges on leaders, their values and belief systems. "The success of an organization can be found in social capital (interaction) rather than in the structure of hierarchy. It's the mesh of relationships. "Once they can see that on a visual map, they know they have to do something." In simplistic terms, leaders are way more effective if they're trusted.

"I'll do a lot more for someone I trust rather than someone I fear," Cirovski said. Vallee said Cirovski's work has confirmed her beliefs about championship team building. "Winning championships has nothing to do with Xs and Os," Vallee said. "Sure you need tactics, but relationships and team building are what you need to win."



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tags: peak, consulting, leadership, cirovski, organization, culture, sports, business, leadership
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