Mature pharmacy teams know how to lose together
Can you learn leadership lessons from youth hockey?
We travelled to the outskirts of our hometown on a Sunday for an afternoon game to lose but the trip taught us a crucial life lesson worth more than the glory of any win could have.
In a tight game where both teams missed capitalizing on their scoring chances, I pulled out all the stops as their coach. I tried flipping line mates, moving a few transferable players from forward to defence and called a few set plays. Nothing worked for us and luckily neither did any tactics from the other team. Until the last minute of the game, that is.
With 57 seconds left, a non-threatening puck trickled past our goalie in a play that he saves 99 times out of 100. Our goalie sprawls out onto his chest on the ice in disappointment, our bench loses its breath, and two players on the ice bury their heads in their hands.
My heart jumps for them and I hold back closing my eyes in defeat in front of the team because as a leader this is your moment. What you say and do next changes the mood and influences the final outcome. In these moments, leaders either come forward or don’t.
Next, I do what coaches do when they are thinking clearly: call a time-out. In the time it takes me to make a capital T symbol with my hands to the referee and the players gathering around the bench, I don’t actually have the right words ready in my head but I start talking in hopes the message will be what it needs to be:
“They scored. Okay. Done. It sucks. Can’t go back. Don’t blame the ref, don’t blame ourselves. We have two choices: we can either mope for another 57 seconds and go home disappointed or we can set a play, press the gas and push. These are moments we find out how deep we are so here’s the plan: Matt, push the draw forward through their centreman's legs like your life depends on it. Both wingers rush for the puck and chip it over their blueline. We’ll pull the goalie, Alex jumps on. Then all six guys rush the net like defence doesn’t exist. Put anything on net and be hard on the rebound. We win as a team, we lose as a team. Either way, stick together heads held high and we’ll shake their hands when we’re done.”
The mood swung full circle from despair to hope and for the next 57 seconds we were more of a team than we had been when we won in the past. It would have been easy to blame a teammate or nag on the ref but in the end, we had the whole game to put the puck in their net.
We lost the game and drove home empty-handed. I left the bench to shake the opponent-coach's hand, then our players lined up for player handshakes and I overhead an opposing fan’s comments as we left the ice that proved we gained more than the 2 points handed out for a win.
She said, “What a good game, what a mature team.”
Like youth hockey coaches, the quality of a leader’s impact in any industry comes forward in how the operators behave during times of crisis.
Not every group of 14 ten-year-old boys can suck it up and congratulate their opponent without fistfights after a loss. Not every pharmacy staff member can stay composed when being yelled at by a patient. Not every employee can understand when you have to say no. Not every soldier can hold fire when the enemy is shooting.
The simplest way to obtain buy-up is togetherness. A team matures when they are united and have each other to follow. During turmoil, if they win as a team no one overstays their welcome by taking too much glory. If they lose as a team, no steps out of line because they understand it was a collective loss.
How can you create a mature team?
Are your day-to-day messages promoting maturity and togetherness?
Does your team use language they heard from you?