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3 Lessons Learned from playing with Guy Lafleur!

November 14 / 2018 – Contributed by Ryan Walter

Amateur or Professional? Always our choice!

We finally returned home!

Jenn and I have been so busy training Companies and Organizations across North America these past years that we have not attended a Montreal Canadiens game for a long time. It was so much fun to finally get there with our friends Wayne and Aleesha. My old buddy and teammate, Réjean Houle, welcomed us to the Alumni Suite, Guy Lapointe shook hands with us, and another number 11 (just before me), Yvon Lambert, took a photo with us.

It was already lots of fun and I was just getting going. Later I had the chance to spend time with my Captain, Bob Gainey, and guess who popped in before the game started? My old friend and right winger, Guy Lafleur (This would be name-dropping if these guys weren’t my old teammates).

Jenn and I have been so busy training Companies and Organizations across North America these past years that we have not attended a Montreal Canadiens game for a long time. It was so much fun to finally get there with our friends Wayne and Aleesha. My old buddy and teammate, Réjean Houle, welcomed us to the Alumni Suite, Guy Lapointe shook hands with us, and another number 11 (just before me), Yvon Lambert, took a photo with us.

All of these players were amazing pros and awesome people. My relationship with Guy, in particular, was not only fun, but incredibly instructive. During my early years with the Canadiens I played on a line with “Flower” and Doug Wickenheiser. Guy and Lise lived close to us, so Guy would pick me up for practice once in a while, and in those early seasons, he was my roommate on the road.

I learned so much from Guy! He never took me aside and said, “Here kid, sit down and listen up. I want you to learn this, do more of this, and be more of that!” Guy didn’t give me any advice; he just did it and let me watch.  Guy didn’t tell me… he showed me.

To learn this way, the learner has to pay attention and really focus; you have to dig the gold with your own shovel. Here are the 3 Key lessons I learned as I watched one of the greatest professional hockey players of all time:

1- Turn HAVE-TOs into WANT-TOs

Guy’s signature drive wide with speed, ending with an outside slap-shot, short-side over the goalie’s shoulder, brought every fan (in the building and watching at home) to their feet. Fans, however, usually only see the end outcomes. I watched the process that Guy used to deliver those results. It looked to me like practice! Guy would show up early to every practice. He would be on the ice 30 to 50 minutes before any other player at most practices, working on his outside speed, and top-corner slap shot.

I learned from Guy that great pros decide to turn their HAVE-TOs into WANT-TOs, because Guy didn’t have to be on the ice early. He was the best player on our team, and yet Guy couldn’t wait to get on the ice!

The difference between an amateur and a professional is not always skill; the transition often happens in the area of the will. If you have to get out of bed and practice, and it hasn’t yet become the best part of your day, then the amateur to professional transition has not yet happened. But if you can’t wait to get on the ice to work on your game, then you have a chance to be the best you can be, and maximize your skill.

2- Leaders are in the Energy-Transfer Business

Guy is just like the rest of us. His life has not been Stanley Cup after Stanley Cup (although he did win 5 of them). And Guy is not a natural extrovert; he has worked hard to allow his fans to experience his positive energy. When people first meet Guy, they want an autograph, but they always walk away with a positive feeling – his positive energy.

Guy always looked after his brand. He returned every letter, thanked every fan, signed every autograph. I would watch Flower sit in the dressing room opening, signing and returning what seemed to be hundreds of letters every day after practice. (I also watched young players complain about having to sign autographs).

Guy has had his share of dark days and tough times, but he knows when it’s GAME TIME, and his gentle smile and amazing laugh still shine through.  Guy is the key Canadiens’ ambassador today. Whether you are an old teammate, Team President Geoff Molson, or a Canadiens fan at your first game, when Guy greets you… you feel good. Guy stays in the moment with you, smiling at you and laughing most of the time. Guy has learned that “Energy Transfer” is the business that he is in… and so are you!

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou

Amateurs may sometimes complain and blame others for their disappointing performance or their negative circumstances. Amateurs, at times, pay little attention to the negative energy that they infect their teams with. 

Professionals positively influence as much as they can. Professionals hold themselves personally accountable for their energy and the energy influence that they have on their teammates. They control what they are in control of, and don’t worry about the rest. Leaders, your people emulate your energy. What energy do you want more of in your culture? Be that!

3- Stay Curious… Keep Growing

Guy worked on developing his game every day as a professional hockey player. As mentioned, I watched Guy practice his famous slap shot, short side, top corner, over and over again, but that desire to be better didn’t end when his professional hockey career ended. In the alumni suite at that St. Louis – Canadiens game, a gentleman who flies helicopters told me, “Guy was the only helicopter pilot ever to score 100% on the test. I thought that old hockey players were not very bright. Guy proved me wrong.”

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck would label Guy’s desire to improve his skills, to get better, and to take on new challenges, the “Growth Mindset.” A super star like Guy could easily become stuck in what Dweck calls a “Fixed Mindset.” The “Fixed Mindset” is more focused on maintaining status, not being caught wrong, while the “Growth Mindset” focusses on effort, and developing as a person and a performer.

In the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck writes: “For 20 years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.”

The “Growth Mindset” is what Jenn and I call a Future Positive Concept. We stay curious, so we learn, and then we choose to take Future Positive Action. Professionals ask brilliant questions. They want to understand things, processes, and people in a deeper way. Professionals, like Guy, stay curious, and continue to grow.

Its almost Christmas so I’d like to challenge you to receive these 3 gifts from Guy Lafleur:

1- Turn HAVE-TOs into WANT-TOs

2- Leaders are in the Energy-Transfer Business

3- Stay Curious… Keep Growing

Enjoy your PRO Career!

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