A Leadership Lesson From The Great One

The Caldwell men visiting Wayne Gretzky’s Restaurant in Toronto, ON, Canada on a cold winter’s day in 2009.

Wayne Gretzky is ‘The Great One.’
It’s a nickname that sets him apart from everyone else. In the nickname itself, is the use of the word ‘one.’
There’s an emphasis on the singular, the individual.

It makes sense. He has achieved more than any other hockey player in the history of the NHL. He holds the record for holding the most records. But where I think there’s a little bit of a disconnect, is that Gretzky was not entirely focused on himself. He had a mindset for the success of his teammates.

One of the many records Gretzky holds is for the most points earned by a player.
For those who do not follow hockey closely, a point is earned by a player for every goal they score and a point is earned for every assist they earn.

Gretzky’s career points totaled 2,857.
Out of the 2,857 points, 894 were from goals while 1,963 were from assists.
To put things into perspective on just how great Gretzky is, compare his totals with Jaromir Jagr, who is in second place.

Wayne GretzkyJaromir Jagr
Total Points2,8571,921
Wayne Gretzky with assists alone, would still be the greatest NHL points leader of all time.

If you were to take away all 894 goals that Gretzky scored, he would still have enough points with just his assists to continue to be the NHL’s all-time points leader!

Why is this interesting?
Is it because it’s fun to talk about how amazing Wayne Gretzky is?
(I mean, I do have fun talking about Gretzky, but that’s not the point.)

Gretzky famously played with a stick that had a blade with almost zero curve. This is important to point out because a curved blade on a hockey stick has some distinct advantages for goal scoring and puck control. So, why would Gretzky forego these advantages with a nearly zero-curve blade?
In an interview he shared that he wanted a flat blade so he could more easily and most effectively pass to his teammates on both his forehand and his backhand.
He classified it as a ‘passing stick.’

The greatest hockey player ever, and he was focused on setting his teammates up for success.
And he was the greatest at doing that!

Do you have the same attitude in your role?
Are you focused on using your opportunities or the tools you have to set your teammates up for success?
Are you competitive enough and have enough of a desire to win that you’re willing to pass the puck to your teammate if they’re in a position to score rather than trying to keep the credit or opportunity to yourself?

Do you make choices to set others up for success?

If we take away all of Gretzky’s goals, he’s still the #1 All-Time NHL Points Leader because of passing the puck and making his teammates successful.
If all your personal accomplishments dissolved into thin air, would the sum of what you have done for others outweigh what you’ve accomplished for yourself?

Wherever you work, you can be a leader like Gretzky.

You have the opportunity to look to your teammates, and share the success.

Pass them the puck.

Invite them in on special projects, seek their advice on difficult problems, give your teammates the opportunity to perform, have a voice, share in the win and even score the goal.

Pass them the puck.

We use the team metaphor frequently in the work environment. It’s probably the most common used term to describe a group of people within an organization.
We use the term so much, yet, unfortunately, it’s so rare to find teammates among our teams.
People willing to pass.
People willing to give credit.
People willing to step up and help a teammate when they’re struggling.

And then we have The Great One who, at a rate of MORE THAN DOUBLE, gave his teammates the success of shooting the goal and receiving credit.

We may desire to work with more teammates like The Great One because we think that it would be fun to have someone pass the puck to us more, and give us more opportunities to achieve personal success. Instead of thinking how fun it would be to have someone set us up for success, take on the role yourself! Think about ways you can set up others for success.

Redefine success in the team sport of ‘work’ and look at the ultimate goal being the team win.
The way we get there is by being kind to one another and give our teammates opportunities.

What if, because of the kindness you have shown others, you were known as their Great One?

It makes you want to pass the puck more, doesn’t it?

Nathan Caldwell Inspirational Leadership Speaker on Kindness

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