Learning About Teamwork By Watching Saturday Night Hockey

Learning About Teamwork by Watching Saturday Night Hockey

After being responsible for the management of  i24 Call Management Solutions for almost two decades, no one has to sell me on the importance of teamwork.  A call answering service, like all customer-facing services, is particularly challenged in the human resource area. It’s impossible to build a team culture without a core group of individuals who contribute and nurture that culture.  However, aside from the current external challenges, I’m very proud of the positive and supportive culture we have built. It has manifested itself in meeting the COVID challenges of the last eighteen months and the winning of nearly twenty-five consecutive industry awards of excellence.

It occurred to me while listening to the hordes of Habs fans reacting to our “almost” win of the Stanley Cup last month, that one of the reasons I focus so much on team building goes back to me watching Hockey Night in Canada with my mother on Saturday nights.  My mother was passionate and vocal about her love for the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal is a hockey town and we have the riots to prove it.

Montreal Hockey Riots 1986

The hoopla outside the  Bell Centre and in every bar with a TV screen reminded me of those glorious “original 6” days of the Montreal Canadians, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers. Hockey Night in Canada was the hottest show on Saturday night. Some of you may actually remember this ESSO commercial. Our house was that cliché image of the family around the TV, but unlike a Rockwellian domestic scene, we were a cacophony of jeers, cheers and elbowing. When things looked bad for the HABS my mother would grab at anything near to her and trust me, you didn’t want it to be you!

Hockey Night in Canada was a religion in our household and my mother was the high priestess. She knew every player and their stats. (Having only six teams makes that a lot easier.)  She second-guessed the coaching constantly and when the Canadians scored her voice could be heard right down the block.

If watching a game at home wasn’t dangerous enough, sitting next to her at an actual game took it to a disaster movie level. Being the sensitive boy I was, I would cringe and look to the left and right pretending I had no idea who this banshee was. Even when she praised a good play she sounded like Ethel Merman.

I don’t know if this experience had any influence on my avoiding team sports. I favoured competing with myself as a marathon runner as you may recall from my Gems Perserverence issue.

Proud Marathon runner with parents

“In sports, it is often observed that a team might have the best players or the best strategy, but if it does not have a winning culture, that elusive gel of belief in itself, it is still doomed to defeat.” – Andrew Coyne

When I took over from my father as head of our call answering service, my first order of business was to modernize the “Mad Men” environment and create a work culture that reflected my vision for the company.  i24 wouldn’t be run on a top-down but on a collaborative model. Every employee was recognized for their individual talents and encouraged to use those talents for the benefit of the team.

One of the things I learned from watching the game on Saturday nights with my mom  (while ducking her animated commentary) was that teamwork means every person on the team has a role to play in making the goal. A good team player exploits his talent for the benefit of the ensemble. Yes, there is an “i” in “team” and every “I” contributes to the success of the “WE”.

Here are your August Gems. I figure you can guess this month’s theme. 😉

Subscribe to Gary's Monthly Gems