Like most Canadian boys, I grew up playing hockey and like most of them, dreamed of one day playing in the NHL. Needless to say, I was never quite good enough to play professionally, but over the past few years after determining that I needed to de-stress and have some male bonding time, I decided to get back to playing in a beer league with some old friends. Besides working up a good sweat, I find it therapeutic at the end of a hectic work week to kick back and relax with the guys and have a few pops after the game. What I think I get most out of it though are the same things I took from the game growing up, which is how important discipline, teamwork, passion and fun are in life and in business. The early morning practices, trying your hardest, working together as a group and the camaraderie that comes with it is truly fulfilling, especially seeing the pride in my father’s eyes after I had a good game, not to mention the dollar he gave me for each goal!
Well now that I’m older, I still enjoy the game, in some ways even more than I used to as a kid, no pressure, it’s truly just fun now. However I’m blessed to be on a team called the Screaming Eagles and we are quite the passionate bunch of thirty and forty something’s. Although we aren’t playing for money, the Stanley Cup, or a Gold Medal for our country, you would never know it by our passion and our strong will to win. Something happened in a recent game that really made me reflect on things. It was after the first period and as our goalie George Benak was changing sides and came over to the bench for some water, out of the blue he yelled at me to move my feet out there and skate insinuating that I was standing around. Well, you can probably guess my reaction, probably no different than any of my employees who I’ve called out before, I was pissed! However, that being said, deep down, or not that deep down, I knew he was right. In fact I was just thinking to myself that my lack of intensity on the back check probably caused a goal, but what upset me was that Benak noticed! So my inner voice started off with the usual “who the heck does he think he is?” and “well he should worry about himself and stop letting in soft goals!”.
As we started the second period I had a decision to make, I could mail it in and chalk it up to a bad game and let my ego win, or I could prove Benak and myself wrong and turn things around. So I really dug deep and skated my butt off and it made a difference. Afterwards in the dressing room, as Benak walked in he yelled out in front of everyone, “Hey Frank, hell of a game out there!”. I couldn’t believe the feeling that came over me, I was beaming and smiling from ear to ear just like I was eight years old again and my father was walking into the dressing room and complimented me on my play. At first I couldn’t believe that I was reacting this way, I mean Benak’s a great guy but I’m the all-powerful CEO of many businesses, I’m the one who usually inspires and motivates people to action, how had I fallen for such a simple compliment? Well, it reminded me that holding people accountable is the right thing to do for them and the team, and it reminded me that praise ALWAYS works.
A few days later in our company wide sales meeting, I told this story, and what we all took from the story that I hadn’t thought about was the power of peer to peer accountability. Unlike professional or even organized youth hockey, there are no coaches on our team, we have to self govern in a way while we are in the play, we don’t have much perspective besides when we are on the bench in-between shifts. Accountability is often lacking in most companies, it’s what separates good performing businesses from poor ones, and in most cases even when it’s present it comes from management. Don’t get me wrong it needs to be there from management, but in my experience, the exceptional companies always have peer to peer accountability in them. It’s when a colleague calls you out to do your best, or you want to excel in your job not only for yourself but because you don’t want to let the team down and you’re looking for their respect. This peer to peer accountability is what every team should be striving to achieve, and when as a leader you achieve this within your team, you’ve achieved what has been termed, the Holy Grail of Leadership.