Key Point: Whether you’re a hockey fan or not, all of us can learn from the Detroit Red Wings. They have developed a franchise where they are always in the top tier of the win/loss column and are a constant prospect to win the Stanley Cup (the holy grail of hockey and arguably one of the most difficult trophies to win in sports). This year, when they were expected to be average at best, they are challenging to win it all again. The Wings do not spend the most money, and because of their success, they do not get the most talented draft choices (the best young talent goes to the lowest ranked teams). They are not like the New York Yankees, spending huge amounts of money on free agents. So eventually you would think the Wings would hit a wall of failure before they might recycle back to the top. But they keep winning? Why?
A. The top leadership really cares. The franchise ownership treats team members as family and demands excellence in every position: From players and equipment managers to the ticket office. They think of their employees as people who complete a system of excellence, not sparkly chattel for just drawing fans or an entertainment commodity to be discarded indiscriminately.
B. They patiently develop their talent: The farm team gets the best coaches and mentoring is a key part of the process, beginning with the NHL veterans and extending to the front office (which is stocked with former players such as Chris Chelios, Jiri Fischer and Kris Draper). They pass on their experience to the kids in Grand Rapids (their AHL farm team).
C. They develop a unique and clearly defined structure: The Wings teach players how to contribute in THEIR system. Great leaders develop exceptional individual competency but expect that skill to be applied in a prescribed way of doing it…The Red Wings way. It takes years to learn how to seamlessly act in all situations. Everyone knows their individual job AND role in the organization. To the naïve observer, hockey looks chaotic and totally dynamic, but a great team has key principles and plays that require real time player decisions to put the team and winning first.
D. They demand Respect, Accountability and Abundance. The older players know that the younger guys will take their jobs. But they teach and mentor them to do so. They know they will always be part of The Red Wing alumni, and are treated fairly. You actually help people take over. You respect the mission and team first. You hold yourself accountable to play your unique role and participate in the spoils of winning accordingly.
- Are you developing personally AND within a system? If not, learn ways you can be better individually and as a contributor to the system. Do you even know what the winning system is in your organization?
- Who is mentoring you? What are they preparing you for? If you do not have coaches AND teammates who are committed to developing YOU, you’re missing out. Determine what you might do to find a coaching environment.
- Highly demanding systems, where excellence is expected, require patience and real learning to advance. Look to participate in that environment and you will likely have a sustainable winning organization to ride.
A Red Wing in The Triangle,
P.S. I trust this blog will not jinx Detroit’s series against the Chicago Blackhawks.