Just over six years ago, I was in a coaching clinic listening to Red Gendron, currently the Head Men’s Ice Hockey Coach of University of Maine, and he was telling a story about his time coaching with the Albany River Rats of the American Hockey League. At the time, they were the farm team for the New Jersey Devils, and he remembered the first time he met the legendary Lou Lamoriello, the General Manager for the Devils. Above his office door he had this quote.
Good is not enough when better is expected.
I was transitioning to take over a struggling program with a rich and storied history in ice hockey. At one point they were one of the premier programs in the country, but over the previous few season, they had lost their way. They were young, but the level of talent already in the program was clearly visible. I remember this quote becoming the cornerstone of my philosophy as I attempted to establish a new culture in the program and bring them back to where they once were.
There is nothing wrong with being good. Many people are happy with good. You can make a nice paycheck and live a comfortable life with good. What if you tried for better? What if better was the expectation? I recently wrote a piece on the role of failure when striving for success, and a person’s perspective on failure is just a matter of expectations. Many people will be satisfied with good, but for others, good is a failure. By setting a higher standard, you are asking your players not to settle for just being good. When you ask for better, you are asking for a higher level of excellence. Never stop asking for better. Always raise the bar. Once you get comfortable, you are merely settling for good. When better is the expectation, you are asking your players to take the first step towards excellence.
Our program is still on that journey to become better, but we still don’t settle for just being good enough. Six years later this is part of our program culture.
What are your expectations for success? Where do you set the bar?