Sell, Lead, Succeed!

I had a crazy 38 hours of air travel the past two days due to a snow blizzard in my community.

I thought this would be a good time to pull out an “oldie but a goodie” from the Have A Laugh Friday archives!

Enjoy, keep smiling and have a great weekend!

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That’s it for today.  Nothing too long, just a reminder to breathe deeply.  Take 30 seconds at least and breathe deeply.  See what a difference it makes?


7 Lessons that any business can learn from the Vancouver Canucks – Part 7 & Summary

It’s been a week now since we started to poke at the Canucks and take a look at seven actions that they have taken that have directly resulted in a league leading performance on the ice.  These are not the only seven things that they do well but they are areas that any business would do well to emulate.  

We have covered:

1. Clarity of vision for the outcome (Win the Stanley Cup), 

2. Willingness to engage stakeholders outside of the business in this aim, 

3. Finding little edges that they can give their team (e.g. Sleep doctor),  

4. Getting players to commit more than energy to the cause, 

5. Willingness to delegate effectively to a trusted team outside of Exec management,

6. Succession planning that allows smoother transitions as the team changes.


And now we’ll look at something that was key last year when they lost in Game 7 of the Cup Final and this year when they were all but swept in the first round of the playoffs.

Number 7.  Let cooler heads prevail.  Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater when things don’t go your way. In life, sports and business all you can do is put the odds on your side and do everything that you can to win. Sometimes though life gets in the way and you won’t win.

Does that mean that the plan, the team, the management are all wrong?  Far from it.  It means that they just got stronger and wiser and can come back again next year (or tomorrow in business terms) more determined to win.  Of course there will need to be some adjustments made to accommodate a shift in parameters (playoff officiating for one) and that may mean that some people’s roles on the team change or are eliminated but what you haven’t seen and won’t see until their box of tricks is empty is a sacking of the GM or Coach.  The plan was good, the execution could have been better.  As the owner of the Canucks are you really going to be able to find a GM or coach markedly better able to chart the course to the Cup?  No way.  So they stick with the team that they have and have faith.

The same goes for your business.  Remember that point one stated that you set your own goals, well whether you achieved them in your first season or not, it’s up to you to keep in keeping on and improving daily to get there.  As all the good books will tell you it’s not about the destination.   Enjoying the journey and growing along the way is the bigger goal.  Hitting milestones is vital but success comes disguised in many forms.

So if you did achieve your goals in your “first season” then I have two points to make; Firstly, congratulations that was awesome and you must be very happy, go celebrate; Secondly, set bigger goals next time!

Thanks for reading this mini-series.  I truly hope that you have found my points useful in growing your business.  I have deliberately kept each blog as short as possible so please contact me at 604 339 5369 if you would like any more information on any of these points.

7 Lessons that any business can learn from the Vancouver Canucks – Part 6

If you have been diligently following the last 5 days’ of articles you’ll have a really well functioning team (wow you moved fast to implement it that quickly).  Congratulations.

Now real life strikes.  Someone goes off sick at a critical time, someone is headhunted away, someone else falls pregnant.  That throws your perfectly balanced team into disarray.  Or does it?

For most companies (and hockey teams) the answer is yes. To use hockey talk you are well and truly pucked!  The chemistry is lost and, more importantly, roles shift dramatically to fill in the gap.  No-one is happy anymore. Ever!

But not so for every business or team.  What was noticeable about the Canucks over the last 2-3 years was how relatively seamlessly they have been able to promote players from their farm team.  That team, despite play half a continent away are structured and coached to play the same way as the Big Boys.  Therefore when the Canucks need a specific role filling they can pick a player that knows the system and for whom the leap to the NHL is as small a step as it was possible to make it.  It’s not a perfect science but they have done, and continue to do, what can be done to make that leap small.  

They also welcome the new guys with open arms and work to make them feel welcome.  Having an outsider on the inside helps no-one so old hazing and rookie treatment practices are gone.

So as a business owner what is your farm-team policy?  Who are you grooming for a step up well before that is required?  How well are you systematizing the work so that it is easy for someone to backfill or step in?  

Succession plans not only provide security for business operations, they provide hope and prospects to your staff, they provide clarity and accountability and they provide learning opportunities for everyone.  

Once again I highly recommend that all business owners invest in the services of a quality HR professional to help them create and maintain a meaningful succession plan for every role in the business.  Start with the key roles and work from there.

Good luck getting that plan in place.  As ever if you would like to discuss how to implement any of these lessons in your business contact me on 604 339 5369 or leave a comment in this blog.

Tomorrow is the last in the series and we’ll cover “keeping a calm head.”

7 Lessons that any business can learn from the Vancouver Canucks – Part 5

Now that we have covered getting our team on board through a clear vision, stakeholder engagement, providing tools that give them the edge over the competition and finding ways to get them to commit fully to the end-game we can talk about maximizing your time and resources as the business leader.  Also known as delegation.

Rather than focus on how to delegate I find it more useful to ask the question, why wouldn’t you delegate?  

Very often the reply is that, at a fundamental level, the owner doesn’t trust their people.  So the solution is simple.  Either hire people that you trust or invest in training so that you learn to trust them.  If you still don’t trust that they can or will do the job then go back a step and make sure that they are as committed to the output as you are.  With respect to the Canucks, Mike Gillis does a great job of hiring and retaining people whom he trusts implicitly to coach, advice on salary cap issues, make decisions on travel, nutrition etc.  He is a master delegator to maximize his time and effectiveness on behalf of the team.

I don’t think that I need to write a lengthy blog about this issue.  Do you trust your team or don’t you?  If you do then delegate (remember that you can only delegate the authority not the responsibility, that remains with you) and if you don’t then do something about it.   Your team will appreciate it – if they are the right team.

If you doubt me on this one, can you name me a single well-known, respected and successful micro-manager that is still doing what he or she was doing three years ago?  If you can I’ll donate $100 to a charity of your choice in your name.

And even if I have overlooked the exception to this rule then the point remains that most leaders get more from their teams by hiring and then USING their team to best effect than they do by hogging tasks.  You might even take a leaf out of Bill Gates’ book and leave yourself in the technical area and hire people to run the business around you.  You don’t have to give up doing what you love to do or take on tasks for which you are badly suited but you do have to have a team that covers all angles.  What you delegate depends on you and your business but you can’t do everything.

An action for you to take today is to identify all the tasks that you do today that you were doing this time last year.  Are they the right tasks for someone in your position and why haven’t you delegated that task to someone else?  How is this hurting your business?  Very often you’ll find that it is habit and habits are there to be broken when they no longer serve their purpose.  Train, trust and track your team to leave you freer to grow your business and grow as a person.

Good luck.

Tomorrow we cover the penultimate lesson and that is in a similar vein, succession planning.

7 Lessons that any business can learn from the Vancouver Canucks – Part 4

If you have followed the previous blogs in this series you will have learned the importance of a clearly defined goal, of involving stakeholders inside and outside of your business in realizing that goal and of going above and beyond the competition in providing small edges to your team to help them succeed.  Now we move to gaining real commitment from your team in the achievement of your business’ goals.

Question: In a bacon-and-egg breakfast, what’s the difference between the Chicken and the Pig?

Answer: The Chicken is involved, but the Pig is committed!

The Canucks have painted a sufficiently vivid vision of long-term, systematic success that key players have committed to and are now playing here, on long contracts, for less than their free-market value.  They know that by doing so they can gain more than just money.  They can gain the achievement of their full playing potential and in so doing will secure their long-term security in ways that their next contract elsewhere could not possibly achieve.  Hockey players play for money but at the top level it is also about winning and that is their goal. They’ll give up money if they know that by doing so they give themselves the best chance of winning.  In the salary cap era that is a reality for top players, they need to leave something on the table to attract top talent to play with.  Not every team has done that very well and there are some that are labouring under crushing contracts to individuals that restrict the GM’s abilities to go and get key players to help that team win.

In your business who is committed to your success and who is merely involved?  I well remember ‘leaders’ in corporations that I worked at talking about the ‘team being committed’ to goals.  I for one rarely felt anything of the sort and it became management jargon and mumbo-jumbo. We didn’t even believe that the executives were committed let alone the person sitting next to us.  No-one went above and beyond and no-one was freely giving up a larger pay packet elsewhere for a noble cause.  We just did what we needed to earn our pay checks.  It was every man for themselves.  It worked, the business made money and so did we but it was far from positive or optimal.

As a business owner if you are not careful you will have lots of people who are involved in you attaining your goals but if they aren’t attaining theirs in the process then you can’t rely on their commitment. 

How do you gain their commitment?  Other than to ensure that your goals and theirs are aligned (and that takes talking) you can help them put skin in the game.  Shares, transparent (generous) bonuses, recognition, promotion prospects…the list can go on and what works for one won’t work for everyone so use a range of tools and allow the team member to help you agree on what is right.  This is where a good HR consultant can help you to structure a rewards program that actually generates the kinds of behaviours that you want.  I highly recommend investing in that kind of support for your business from an early stage.

When you have a committed team you can run the business in an entirely different way than when you don’t know if your team are committed.  You can trust them, you can turn your attention to business owner type activities rather than caretaker activities.  Getting there is not easy but it is surely important that you do get there.

Next up is a quick discussion on Delegation.

If you have any questions about the content that we cover here or in any of my other blog entries then please feel free to comment or ask questions either here or to me personally at

7 Lessons that any business can learn from the Vancouver Canucks – Part 3

So far we have covered the clear aim that the organization have for what it means to be successful and how that is compellingly communicated to the stakeholders inside and outside the core team.  Nw we turn our attention to doing what it takes to be successful.

In hockey every team knows that good on-ice drills and systems help to improve offence and reduce goals conceded but if everyone is focussed there why not add some focus elsewhere?

The Canacks have looked outside of hockey to seek advantages and found them in such (soon to be widely adopted practices) as personal chefs for players, a round changing room, a players-only area in the arena and a sleep doctor.  The sleep doctor has had perhaps the most profound effect by dictating the flying schedule of the team on road trips so that the team is more rested than they were in years gone by.  In the past the team struggled on their long eastern trips and dropped points.  In the last 3-4 years since the sleep doctor’s input has been use they have gathered more than half of the available points on those trips and won the President’s Trophy for the last two years, this year by a single point.  So you could argue that the small things like a sleep doctor bought them home-ice advantage in the playoffs.  Of course this year that didn’t turn into a long cup run but tat’s not the point.  By doing the things that others don’t do you can give yourself an advantage and that is all that you can ask for.

So what is your business’ sleep doctor (I’d actually suggest that you look hard at the issue of sleep within your business anyway but what is your equivalent other than that?).  What can you do that others in your industry don’t do?  What small advantages can you glean from a seemingly insignificant change that will give you the best chance to win your version of the Stanley Cup?  It could be hiring a business coach, it could be changing your eating or exercise habits.  It could be turning all the money that you spend on trade shows into individual lunches with clients.

Remember, to flip the common adage on its head; “If everyone else is doing it why should you?”

Next time we will cover the issue of gaining commitment vs just gaining involvement.

7 Lessons that any business can learn from the Vancouver Canucks – Part 2

The first post in this series was about absolute clarity on what “success” means to a business.  For the Canucks it is a Stanley Cup and the fact that the franchise is now worth $50M more than the owners paid for it is an incidental side effect.  No Cup equals no success.

And when YOU are clear on your aim it really helps to let others know. Particularly others who can help you and support you to achieve your goal.  This involves stakeholder communication.  What the owners of the Canucks did was to go to the degree of taking the local media (who, if you don’t know are habitually hard on the organization) to lunch and, even before they had recruited a GM to deliver the goal, they laid out their vision.  This level of attention to detail in communicating to important people helps the stakeholders know and understand their part in the realization of the vision.  Everyone who can help the Canucks win a Cup knows how they can help.

When you are that clear on your vision then recruiting/persuading people to support your vision is easier.  Canucks fans are renowned for jumping on and off the bandwagon but the knowledge that the organization is owned by people who share the same passion for a Cup win as they do has significantly increased local buy-in and the sustainability of support even outside of an oversubscribed season ticket base.  It’s an easy team to get behind because win or not there is no question about whether the organization cared enough to try everything in its powers to win. As a lifelong supporter of Manchester City FC in England I can assure you that this is not always a given for a supporter.

In your business whose support do you need on an ongoing basis either for financial, production or morale reasons?  Involve them, let them share your vision and ask them for specific support.  

An action that you could take today is to rate your business on a scale of 1-10 for how well you communicate your vision and progress to your stakeholders (your accountant, lawyer, spouse, employees, banker, business partner, investors, clients/customers, local media etc).  Then decide on one action you can take to improve that score.  Do the same thing tomorrow and next week and next month….. it is an ongoing process and it’s not easy but the effects can be dramatically positive.

Good luck.

Next time we’ll cover how the Canucks take advantage of small edges to gain great advantages.