I watched in awe as my beloved St. Louis Blues hockey organization went from worst in the league to game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals, where they won and took home the Cup. How did this happen? In January of this year, the Blues were dead last in the entire National Hockey League. They put in a fourth-string goalie. Then came the turn-around. They became the winningest hockey team in the league over the next five months, moving them into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Sixteen wins later, they are the Champions!
What catapulted the team to success? Was it the talent on the ice? Was it the grit and determination of the players? Did they just get lucky?
Well, luck has nothing to do with it. There’s no doubt they are a talented group of professional athletes. They also have an undeniably high amount of grit and determination that drives their daily work-ethic. But that’s not all. They have a leader; a coach named Craig Berube.
Berube played 17 years in the NHL before moving into coaching. Late in 2018, he took over coaching duties for the struggling St. Louis Blues. For the second half of the regular season, I listened to his comments after the games, read articles, and watched videos to understand what he was doing to motivate the team.
As Coach Berube and team were headed into the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals, his comment to the press summed up his optimism, which was grounded in reality: “If you told me four months ago we’d be in the finals of Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals, I would take it.” In other words, he knew he could help turn the team around. He just didn’t know how well they would do. Yet, he’d take it. Most would. Who wouldn’t?
After listening to his post-game commentary, here are few thoughts on how Berube coached his team to a place in sports history:
- Team comes first: If there is a theme that occurs over and over in Berube’s interviews, it’s that he’s all about the team. There’s no other way. One interview mentioned that Berube only looks at the front of a jersey. In other words, he sees the team emblem, not the individual name and number on the back of the jersey. He’s said he won’t tolerate selfish play. The lesson: one person cannot win the game. Play like a team.
- Do the job you were hired to do to the best of your abilities: On more than one occasion Berube mentioned that work ethic is important. Anyone putting forth anything less than their best effort will be taken off the ice. They may sit out a few games. There’s no room for anything less than a player’s best effort. The lesson: Each player of a team will always be setting an example for the rest of the team. Good effort begets good effort from others. The opposite is also true.
- It’s okay to make mistakes: While professional athletes are expected to play at the most elite level of their sport, they’re not expected to be perfect. During a post-game press conference, Berube mentioned that he could overlook a player’s mistake if the right work ethic and intentions were there. The lesson: Everyone makes mistakes, even when they are performing to the best of their abilities. Accept them and know that you’re doing your best.
- Move on: In one of the Stanley Cup playoff games, the score was tied at the end of the game, which sent the game into overtime. In the playoffs, a tie game is broken with sudden-death overtime. Shortly into this, one of the opposing players illegally passed (using his hand) to another player. That pass resulted in the game-ending sudden-death goal. The Blues were stunned that the referees missed the call, and even after reviewing the missed call, the referees maintained that the other team had scored the goal. The chatter in the locker room was anything but positive and there were lots of excuses about the loss. Berube’s response at the press conference after the game was, “It’s difficult to lose in overtime playoffs, and… gotta move on.” In other words, it’s over. It’s time to move on. And, that’s exactly what the St. Louis Blues did, winning the next game and advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals—where they then won the championship. The lesson: If we can’t change it… move on.
Obviously, this is all stellar advice. After all, it turned the last-place team into league champions. But the reason I’m sharing these tips with you (other than being a big Blues fan) is that you don’t have to be a hockey player to benefit from this advice. Coach Berube’s words apply to everyone in any industry. No matter your field, you can achieve success by being a team player, accepting and learning from your mistakes, and more. So keep Coach Berube and the Blues players in mind as you go about your day—and you may find that you become a champion in business.
Shep Hyken is the Chief Amazement Officer at Shepard Presentations. As a customer service and experience expert, Shep Hyken helps organizations create amazing customer and employee experiences. Shep Hyken's books have appeared on best-seller lists including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and others. In 2008 the National Speakers Association inducted him into their Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the professional speaking industry.
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This article was originally published on Forbes.com.