FACING DEFEAT, WINNING THE GAME

Even the best general managers or business leaders face a time when they have to make improvements to a defeated team. I always followed this strategy:

  1. Evaluate - Tell the entire group that everyone will be evaluated fairly and commit to that. You always know, going in, that there are some people that need to move on and others whose negative attitudes will simply drag the workforce down.
  2. Eliminate - I knew enough about the Rangers that I could fairly quickly excise the people that had to be removed. If I hadn't done so right away, every time I spoke to my employees about the future, I would have been lying to the ones I knew had to leave.
  3. Reassure - After that "bad egg" period was over, I spent weeks reassuring the rest of the team that we were in it for the long haul together. I didn't send out a lot of memos during this time; I made the communication personal.
  4. Revitalize and Realign - There's a time of fruitful change in filling some of your organization's open positions with players you've developed who eagerly enter with fresh perspectives. You need to inspire young and old players to commit their energies to moving the company forward.
  5. Ignite and Win - It's important your team knows your intention is to run the company for the long haul. If you can convey your passion to them, you will ignite their desire to succeed. When employees know that the big boss isn't there just to grab a big paycheck or nab stock options, they'll have a fiery commitment to the organization and deliver a big win!


  • “Neil Smith was able to do what no other general manager could in 54 years for the New York Rangers-win the Stanley Cup! It was Neil's bold approach to changing the culture that allowed the team to galvanize into champions.”