Editorial: Relaxed enthusiasm the key to winning
Maybe intangibles matter more than we think.
By Patrick Flannery
Hockey fans watched transfixed as the Las Vegas Golden Knights threatened to do something no expansion team has ever done in any sport: win a championship in their first year of existence.
As it turned out, experience and star power finally prevailed to bring the Knights back to Earth, but still the team’s accomplishment in making the finals is remarkable. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that what the Knights have done this year will change the league. Coaches and GMs are going to start wondering what might happen if they balance their lines and give more middle-of-the-road players a chance to play more minutes. Clogging up the middle and looking for loser points in overtime will (hopefully) be discarded in favour of Vegas’ flying, wide-open style that pressurizes defences to the breaking point. And I think just about every team is going to be looking at the effort they don’t put in to the entertainment around the game at the rink and realize they are missing a huge opportunity to attract spectators outside of die-hard hockey fans, especially the young families their future will depend on.
It’s that last point that intrigues me and makes me wonder if there’s a business lesson there. The Vegas players obviously rode a wave of enthusiasm, fun and excitement all year. They were loose and fired up at the same time, led by the relaxed good humour of their veteran goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury. The mass shooting tragedy just as the season began last fall provided an instant bonding and motivating influence, though that’s hardly something anyone would want to replicate. What could be replicated maybe is the spirit and energy in and around the team where they draw positive vibes from the wild Vegas crowds and translate it into maximum effort and a great attitude.
It’s easy to get impatient with discussion of “intangibles.” They are, by definition, not measureable or even reliably detectable. They exist in the dark space between people’s ears, where cause and effect react in unpredictable ways. We can all point to specific instances of someone doing well in circumstances that should have made things tough for them, and conversely people underperforming when everything was set up for their success. The temptation is to hand-wave the whole topic and insist that everyone rise above their feelings to do their best in all circumstances. We hear frequently that “professionals” should be able to do this.
Certainly that needs to be the stated expectation. But the reality is that a good atmosphere raises the performance floor for professionals just as much as anyone else. I’ve seen firsthand what the impact of a good corporate environment can be. Here at Annex Business Media (this magazine’s publisher), we’ve managed to achieve some of the same feeling of relaxed enthusiasm that the Golden Knights exhibit. Management encourages us to try new things and, if they don’t work, heads don’t roll. Bosses are good-humoured, accessible and positive. The resulting energy has generated strong growth in the company to the point where we are now Canada’s largest private trade publisher, producing over 60 channels for various industries.
It’s summertime, so you are very busy. But maybe when things back off a bit later in the year you’ll want to think about how you can generate that spirit of relaxed enthusiasm in your shop and make your own improbable run for the Cup.