If you want Success, Be Like a Hockey Player

Recently I was working with a multi-billion-dollar client. They were telling me about a lot of their issues, how people see them as big, slow and unable to change. They kept saying they need to change how they behave but didn’t know what to do. Many potential customers saw them as outdated. That’s when I told them they need to be like a hockey player and frankly, most companies today need to as well.

I grew up playing hockey. Back in the 80’s when I put on my first pair of skates, the average hockey player was either big and slow or small and fast. I grew really fast as a kid so I was tall but I was fast. I learned to use my size to my advantage, out skating guys who were smaller and in theory, quicker. However, they couldn’t catch me, nor could they take me down due to the fact I was bigger. I shattered the belief that small means fast.

Fast forward to today. The modern hockey player has more in common with me than the old beliefs of the 80’s. The average hockey player in the NHL is close to 6’2”, the average man is closer to 5’9”. The average NHL hockey player also weights more, just over 200lbs vs 190lbs for the average man. The average NHL player is a bigger man than the average man, yet the average hockey player is faster, more agile and flexible than the average man.

Many larger companies today need to take a lesson from hockey players who are bigger than average and yet can turn on a dime and balance their larger frames on two quarter inch blades of steel while turning quickly and adapting to changing situations on the fly. Large companies really need to act like hockey players in this way. Instead of blaming their large size for not being able to compete with smaller companies, they can use that size to their advantage. Because larger hockey players figured it out, the small scrappy hockey player of the 80’s is almost non-existent today, they were out skated and out muscled by their larger counterparts.

It’s not just about Speed

A good hockey player has great foresight about where the puck is going to be. It isn’t enough to be fast, you need to know where to be so you can be a play maker and get goals or set your team up to score. Foresight and wisdom are really important. This again is where a lot of leadership fails, they react instead of use the wisdom they are paid to use and the foresight they are expected to have. Good hockey players need both, otherwise they might end of laid out on the ice. The same goes with leadership of big companies. Wisdom, which comes from experience, is very important. A twenty something NHL player has 20 years of hockey experience, they may be young but that doesn’t mean they are inexperienced. They had 20 years of experience to learn, taking data and turning it into wisdom to give them the ability to play really well. Want to see the difference, go watch a high school hockey game and an NHL game, the NHL hockey players are so good, they make it look easy. And that’s the point, more companies need to be like they NHL players if they want to win.

When you combine these aspects of what makes hockey players great, those same principles apply to companies. Stay nibble and graceful and use the collective wisdom of the team to outperform the smaller competitors.

Edward Chenard

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