Business lessons from the Vegas Golden Knights

While there are lots of great sports stories at this time of the year, the Vegas Golden Knights should rank at or near the top. Even if they don’t win another game this season, they have exceeded all expectations. They are currently among the two final teams battling for the Stanley Cup, an amazing accomplishment. While a number of other top professional hockey teams (the Penguins, Jets, Bruins, Predators, Leafs) have been eliminated, this first-year expansion team is still in the hunt.

How do you explain this unprecedented success story?

Start with a nucleus of good people

The Golden Knights invested in good management talent. They hired a quality GM, good coaches, and support staff.

Create and follow the plan

They had a vision of how to build a new organization. Rather than look for “big name” castoffs at the end of their careers, they elected to recruit good, young, energetic players. While they selected an experienced top-quality goalie, one of the most important positions on any good hockey team, they surrounded him with a lot of young players with good potential from the draft and through trades.

Carefully evaluate the talent within your organization

Most of the Golden Knights hockey players were not ranked among the top talent on their respective teams; they were deemed expendable in the draft. There are probably several red-faced general managers around the National Hockey League who are embarrassed that they made certain players available. Clearly these were players whose skills were underappreciated and undervalued.

Talent evaluation is an important management skill. Some people and some organizations have it while others are not as good. In business there are a range of techniques one can use to evaluate talent. Where does your organization rank in evaluating and recruiting top talent? Clearly the management of the Vegas Golden Knights had choices to make at and after the draft. They clearly made good talent assessments.

Do you give your employees opportunities to demonstrate and develop their skills sets?

Good managers create opportunities for their top talent to learn other facets of the business, to take on tasks that permit growth and development, and to work with other people so they can evaluate their inter-personal and leadership skills. This is what good organizations do. Does yours? Clearly some NHL teams did not do as good a job in this area as the Golden Knights.

Does your organization employ managers who can develop the skills and talents of their employees?

Clearly the coaches of the Golden Knights introduced a system and got their players to buy into the system. They are playing like a team that has been around for years. For them to defeat teams as good as the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets indicates that they have the discipline and structure to play as a unit at a high level. The coaches took an assortment of second or third tier hockey players and moulded them into a top-performing team. Does your management team possess the skills to teach and motivate your employees to perform at a very high level?

Winning breeds poise, confidence and stability

Winning is a great motivator. It tells you that the steps you are taking are producing success. It reinforces good work habits, processes, and practices. Winning fosters more winning. Winning promotes poise and confidence among employees.

Losing organizations tend to look for scapegoats; they foster turnover and instability. They create mistrust and a lack of confidence within the organization? Should I “jump ship” now before the company goes out of business or before I take the blame for a poorly run organization?

I am cheering for the Vegas Golden Knights. I hope they can keep on winning. More importantly, I hope executives across North America are learning some valuable business lessons from their success. This is a business case that should be presented as an example of great leadership, management skills and employee development. Congratulations to the Vegas Golden Knights for a job well done.

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Dan Goodwill, President, Dan Goodwill & Associates Inc. has over 30 years of experience in the logistics and transportation industries in both Canada and the United States. Dan has held executive level positions in the industry including President of Yellow Transportation’s Canada division, President of Clarke Logistics (Canada’s largest Intermodal Marketing Company), General Manager of the Railfast division of TNT and Vice President, Sales & Marketing, TNT Overland Express.

Goodwill is currently a consultant to manufacturers and distributors, helping them improve their transportation processes and save millions of dollars in freight spend. Mr. Goodwill also provides consulting services to transportation and logistics organizations to help them improve their profitability.

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