Leadership and the Stanley Cup by GUAA Career Coaching Partner Larry Center (L’74)

Caps
The Washington Capitals celebrate winning the Stanley Cup in the final game against the Golden Knights in the 2017 season.

Like many in the DC area, I reveled in Washington, DC’s first major sports
title in 26 years. My entire family, including my sons Jared and Ben both
former Hoyas now living in New York City, are both huge fans, Jared
worked for Monumental Sports for four years after graduation, including two
years in Sales & Service for the Caps. We were all thrilled for the players,
the staff and the city.

As the Caps proceeded through the playoffs, finally overcoming the
Pittsburgh Penguins, coming from behind in every round, clinching each
series on the road, I kept asking myself one question: Why did THIS team,
with lower pre-season expectations, an acknowledged lesser level of talent,
fewer veterans and more rookies, finally achieve the ultimate prize: the
Stanley Cup? The answer I came to, one which I also heard from several
experts, was this: The 2017-18 Caps may have had less talent as a whole,
but they were a stronger TEAM. The whole was greater than the sum of its
parts. There was true chemistry among the players. They played for
collective achievements, not individual statistics. How did all this happen
when no one expected it?

Great leadership
Great leadership leads to great teamwork and excellent results. Great
leadership comes from the philosophy of the person in charge. The head
coach of the Washington Capitals, Barry Trotz, said this about his
philosophy: “I have a clarity..If you don’t win any awards or anything, I’m
not going to look at you any different. If you’re a good person, you treat
other people right and you live life right, then I’m going to think really highly
of you. If you don’t, I’m not going to think so much of you. And I started
getting that clarity that everybody looks for the wrong in people rather than
the right.”

As I pondered these words from the man his players call “Trotzy,” I
concluded that the Capitals’s coach understands several basic aspects of
great leadership:

  • Leaders must have clarity about their core beliefs
  • Leadership starts with the leader’s character rather than with the leader’s competence
  • Leaders must learn to lead themselves before they can truly lead others
  • Leaders view their teams through the prism of authenticity and how they show up rather than merely how they complete projects or tasks
  • Leaders make sure that their teammates look out for each other and are committed to “play the right way”

How does your leadership look this right now? How many of these leadership traits do you role model for your teammates? Do you possess clarity about your mission, beliefs and priorities? Are you self-aware of how your character shines through every day? Are you building a culture where team members “play the right way?” It’s never too soon to emulate the winning leadership of a Stanley Cup-winning coach.

Mindfulness: How the Present is Always Perfect, Even When It’s Not

Guest Post by: Talane Meidener (F’87, MA’89)

On the topic of being present and mindfulness, I thought I’d explain a basic spiritual law that often confounds people: the present is perfect. I am sure you’ve probably heard of it before, but most people don’t really understand it. How can the present be perfect when you are sick or have a broken leg? How can the present be perfect when you have massive credit card debt? How can the present be perfect when your boyfriend just dumped you? It certainly doesn’t look or feel perfect in any of these situations. So if the spiritual principle doesn’t change, then how is this very imperfect stuff perfect?

A very wise coach once said that in order for a relationship to really work in the long term, you have to love your partner’s flaws and imperfections. Or at least, find them somewhat charming or amusing. Then it becomes true that you have a “perfect” husband or wife. They are perfect for you, flaws and all. The same works in life. You need to appreciate the perfection in the imperfections. When I was taking pottery classes in New York, I held up my rather wobbly, lopsided bowl and muttered something about it being highly flawed. My teacher, Michael, said, “If you want a perfect bowl, go to Pottery Barn and get one. The beauty lies in the flaws.” So, in that sense, my bowl was indeed perfect. Perhaps more perfect than the one at Pottery Barn, thanks to its flaws. Okay, now let’s take the more difficult leap of faith. How is a broken leg perfect? Or credit card debt? Or even worse, a deadly disease or war? This is much harder to see.

Years ago, my sister was becoming an avid runner when she went skiing for the first time and blew out her knee. After surgery, the doctors said she would never run again. She was in rehabilitation for months, started doing yoga and can now run again, though she has no cartilage left in that knee. If she runs, she is basically wearing down the bone. Not a good long-term strategy. While at first she was saying, “Why me?” and bemoaning her damaged knee, she later realized that she was going down a very athletic path in life and that her real destiny is more intellectual than physical. She later took up fiction writing and absolutely loves it! The universe stopped her in her tracks. So you could say the injured knee was perfect (not that I’d wish it on anyone) and helped her reorient her life around her true gifts and talents. She continued to do yoga and gentler activities like horse-back riding, which she enjoys even more than running.

What about credit card debt? When I was up to my ears in debt, I realized that I needed to learn how to manage my money better or, when the real riches rolled in, I would squander them. Getting more money is not the solution to most financial problems, even though most people think it is. I learned that my spending was driven by an unmet emotional need to be cherished. Until I learned how to fulfill my deeper needs, I would continue to overspend. Once I got my need to be cherished met, then the overspending stopped naturally. The debt was perfect because it forced me to face the facts about my spending habits and also my emotional needs. [Discover your own personal and emotional needs by taking the free Emotional Index Quiz. Now mind you, I still go shopping, but I don’t go into debt to do so—a world of difference.

What looks imperfect in your life? If you imagine yourself describing this event or situation in ten years, how would you describe it as perfect?

If you can realize that the present is perfect right now, you’ll be much calmer when dealing with the seemingly “bad” stuff of life. This is a mindful approach to the inevitable calamities of life.

And, sometimes the thing to do is change what you don’t like by perfecting the present. You can …

Be the Change You Want to See In the World

Some of my clients have asked what to do when they feel guilty for creating an ideal life when there is so much unhappiness in the world?

As Ghandi said, we must, “be the change we want to see in the world.” If you are worried about a current disease or world problem, donate some money to the cause. Being the change you want to see can be as simple as you make it. My hero is the philanthropic Taiwanese vegetable seller, Chen Shu-chu, who is doing exactly that: walking the walk and making huge changes by doing what she can, however small. Not only is she being the change, but by her actions, she is inspiring others to donate to charity as well. Listen to her story here and get inspired to be the change you wish to see in the world.