Your Employees’ Motivation & the Stanley Cup

This week starts the quest, in earnest, for what many people call the most coveted trophy in all of sport, The Stanley Cup. This championship trophy is awarded to the winner of the playoff tournament in the National Hockey League, which features 30 teams located in the United States and Canada.

Now there may be other prestigious coveted championship trophies, The World Cup signifying the world futbol champion every four years, the Lombardi Trophy in the United States’ National Football League, or even The Ashes, which is the urn that goes to the winner of the historical Test Cricket series between England and Australia. And, I would say each of the journey’s to achieve those levels of success, in their own way, also fit with my Stanley Cup example as it relates to employee motivation.

In my recent workshop in which I engage organizational leaders in a conversation around The Myth of Teamwork an argument was raised about professional athletes, the exorbitant  amounts of money they earn for playing a kids game and their level of motivation.

Having spent 20-years in professional baseball I saw what the professional athletes’ life is like and pushed back on the argument that the money is the primary motivating factor in an athletes psyche.

I can tell you from experience that no matter how much money a human being earns playing 190 baseball games in about 200 or so days with significant travel on more than 50% of those days would be a motivation challenge for anyone.

I argued there has to be more to a wealthy athlete’s motivation than the money. And, no other sport exemplifies that point than a hockey player.

As my New York Rangers prepare to take the ice against the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs on their Stanley Cup journey, I reflected on what it took to get the team to the post season playoffs. The team has earned a reputation as one of the hardest working teams in the game. The team’s greatest strength is its ability to have its non-heavily padded goaltender block shots.

Again, I believe no amount of money in salary and benefits could possibly offer enough motivation to stand 10 feet in front of another player shooting a 3 cubic inch vulcanized rubber puck at speeds upwards of 100 miles per hour with limited protective padding and virtually no facial protection. Yet, this is what most ice hockey players do on a nightly basis and my Rangers more than any other team in the NHL (note: at least 3 players on the NY Rangers this year have been injured on two different occasions and have lost significant time due to broken bones stemming from this shot blocking routine).

My point in all this is that there must be a higher motivation. That higher motivation is to get their name engraved on The Stanley Cup. Once a player wins their name is forever immortalized on the Stanley Cup as a Champion. That is more motivation than any amount of salary could ever offer.

So, what does this have to do with employee motivation? Everything!

What is your organization’s Stanley Cup?

What is the thing you can point to in your organization that would provide the inspiration that people will show up early, stay late and do it with a smile on their face 90% of the time with no bitching, moaning or whining?

What example are you setting for your people to follow?

If you can not articulate that no amount of money is going to motivate them. No promise of a year-end profit sharing bonus is going to motivate them.

I can tell you from 20-years in professional baseball management, during which time I virtually lived at the ballpark during the season. 14-16 hour days are the norm during the season from April through September. We were not motivated by money, we were motivated by doing what we loved and providing a memorable experience each and every night for our ballpark visitors, win or lose and making a difference in our community.

So, again I was, what is your organization’s Stanley Cup?

’til next time, make it an inspiring week!






P.S. – Let’s Go Rangers!

2 thoughts on “Your Employees’ Motivation & the Stanley Cup

  1. Robbie Kramer says:

    Great article, especially because I love hockey. If every organization had something amazing to play for (like the cup) I can only imagine how much more successful they would be. I never considered this before, thanks Skip!

  2. Skip Weisman, Workplace Communication Expert says:

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Glad you found value in the article.
    Although I speak alot about having a vision and strategy that is inspiring to employees and team members and use the metaphor of sports teams, I never really connected it to the selfless efforts athletes make above and beyond the paycheck. I was at a Rangers game two weeks ago where the team was up by a goal with a minute to go in the game and their best player Ryan Callahan slid in front of a slap shot from the blue line and got nailed in the ankle where there is no padding. He crawled off the ice and I knew it was bad news. Broken ankle, out for the playoffs. But, without that effort the team wouldn’t be in the playoffs, even though it is his 2nd stint on the injured list for blocking a shot like that. (Sorry to see the Kings lost in OT tonight, but so did my Rangers last night!)

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