Darryl Stewart
By Darryl Stewart
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How a simple conversation undid 20 years of negative thinking

I played a lot of hockey as a kid.  In retrospect, I did not enjoy it very much. I enjoyed the fun and friendships around playing hockey, but the actual hockey itself? Not so much.

I never felt that I was any good at it.

Coaches, parents and other players always seemed to be telling me all the things I was doing wrong.  I had a major inferiority complex about my hockey skills and it left me timid on the ice. I spent my time on the ice just trying not to embarrass myself too much.

Flash forward a few decades and I found myself playing hockey as an adult and enjoying it for the same reasons I did as a kid.  I liked the friendships and camaraderie off the ice, but on the ice, I was mostly just trying to hold my own.

Then something happened one day.  One of my teammates was suggesting that I push the other team a little harder in certain situations.  When I questioned the general wisdom of the idea he looked at me weird and said: “you know you are one of the fastest guys out there right? You can do this where most of us can’t; you have the speed for it.”

The rest of that game I was literally on fire.  I pushed the other team hard. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t, but when it didn’t, my newly discovered speed advantage allowed me to recover easily in most situations.  I was driving the other team crazy!

I often talk about motivating people using strengths.  This is second nature to me in the workplace. Take the time to understand what is unique and special in each of our staff, discuss it with them often, and get them using more of what is right about them as opposed to focusing on what is “wrong”.  If we do this we will have staff with higher confidence, higher performance, and much higher engagement in their work.

With my new insight on my hockey self, I find myself much more excited about the actual hockey these days, instead of just the beer afterwards.  I have gone from a slightly disengaged player to a highly engaged player simply because someone took the time to help understand my true strengths, and let me know that I was actually good at a specific part of our Canadian game.

hockey game
Photo by Mister Leung