Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

The Hockey to Corporate America Dictionary: The new normal

One week after it took place, I’m still recovering from a corporate retreat at a local hotel, where you’re supposed to team build, bond and set goals for the coming year. What you also end up doing is sitting on your ass for eight hours in a row, eating really bad food, multi-tasking all the work you’re missing and drinking mediocre coffee.* “Team norms” are also typically determined in these meetings. All of which got me to thinking how much better the corporate world would be if it embraced hockey’s team norms.

Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. Here in the junior leagues, curfew is a team norm for young hockey players. With a busy, disciplined daily life that includes school, practice, workout, chores and homework, it’s a must for the Portland Winterhawks, about whom “London or bust” talk is already buzzing. Young hockey players survive from September through May because they adhere to a strict regimen that includes good nutrition, workouts, game day naps, learning how to sleep on buses and what they call #loafdays on Twitter. As Strength and Conditioning Coach Rich Campbell tells the Winterhawks all the time; “as we rest we are getting stronger.” It’s true and medical science proves it. But when was the last time the average American slept eight hours a night or took an actual vacation where they turned off the mobile devices and laptops altogether? Would it really impact the bottom line negatively if we dared take a moment away from work? Maybe not; studies show that catnaps, vacations and shorter work days actually make employees more motivated, productive and engaged in their work. Research also shows that things like stress, lack of sleep and burnout have costs: lost productivity, sick days and other side effects burn a hole in the bottom line. Whereas well rested, refreshed, respected employees -- like hockey players with good championship habits -- come to the game ready to give their employer their very best.

You’ve just got to do the little things. Like turn off the cell phones and laptop and actually pay attention in an important meeting. Or treat unappreciated employees with a lesser title with more respect so they can give the company and its customers their very best. Finally, take time to get to know colleagues beyond those BS personality surveys where you check off items on a list and get defined by a color. Employees are human beings, not a color wheel. If bosses want to know what makes employees tick and motivates us to give our very best, I say turn off the cell phones and the surveys and talk to us. The Portland Winterhawks engage in regular team building and community events that allow them to bond among themselves while also getting to know their fan base a little better. The result: A 17-5-1-1 record and a fan base that opponents and respected hockey journalists recognize for our devotion and more notably, our noise level at home games. If you look at the “Best Companies to Work for” lists in any major city, you’ll see many of these same characteristics cited as the reason employees enjoy working there: it’s friendly, the boss respects them, they are rewarded for their hard work and creativity is encouraged. This is how champions are made in hockey and it’s how they should be made in business.

Be here now. What if the NHL lifted its social media blackout rules and let players text, Tweet or post on Facebook during their breaks on the bench? What if they were typing away on a laptop while the team was in the middle of a shootout with the two points they need to get back into first place on the line? I’m pretty sure it would equal a losing scoreboard at the end of the day and probably a few games on the healthy scratch list. Corporate America does all of the above and more all the time. Being here now is most definitely not a team norm in the 9-to-5 world. That’s why I love hockey. On game day, we can leave our everyday lives behind to focus on one single thing and be part of something bigger than ourselves. A hockey game is a glorious and beautiful thing in which an arena full of 10,000-plus fans lay down their differences and unite behind one shared cause. Imagine what a corporation could achieve -- or better yet, the whole world -- if they did the same.

*Here in the Rose City, the sun has disappeared and it’s not coming back until July, which explains why several necessary elements of wintertime survival abound in Portland: Coffee, microbrews and doughnuts (Voodoo Doughnuts and Blue Star, to name a few). With so many great homegrown coffee establishments on almost every corner, churning out sub-par coffee is a capital offense in this town.

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com