It All Starts At The Top

. . . by Jeff Haltrecht

Jeff Haltrecht is a principal Leadership Coach at the Polaris Learning Academy and the Facilitator of the Polaris Alumni; he is a regular contributor to Polaris Digest

What if Vancouver’s Stanley Cup malaise started at the top?

Marshall Goldsmith once said ‘What got you here won’t get you there’ when referring to a leader’s need to change in order to continue growing and achieve his/her goal.  In hockey’s chase for the Stanley Cup, I believe it’s the reverse:

‘What got you here (during the season) is the only thing that will get you there (the Stanley Cup)’

In their quest to win 4 out of 7 games, Vancouver did not act like the leader they demonstrated during the regular season, having been the NHL’s best performing team.  As the playoffs progressed, they slowly allowed their game to change.


From leader to victim.  From focused to distracted.  From blaming no-one to pointing the finger.

If you watched the series, it’s no surprise Boston won.  Many people are looking at Vancouver’s goalie Roberto Luongo or the absence of fire-power from the Sedin brothers and Ryan Kesler.

But what if the root of the problem did not lie with the employees?  What if the players, and maybe even the coach, were feeding off the attitude of the executives?

What if, having been the best team in the regular season, they expected to win the Stanley Cup vs. earning it?  If they had this mindset, and things were not going according to plan, the easy option was to blame, which they did.

A team takes on the attitude of its senior-most leaders.  If part way through a major project, you subtly shift your perspective, don’t be surprised when people follow.

For Vancouver, the final series was not the time for the organization to publicly be distracted with the small stuff.

In sports, we say ‘There is always next year’.  But in business, the reality is it’s about now.