When I was single, in my early 30’s, I had a list of ten qualities I wanted in my future spouse. I made a pledge that my one-day bride would embrace the qualities I held closest to my heart. When I first met my wife, Jill, fifteen years ago, she was recently divorced with a two-year old son. Honestly speaking, marrying a divorced woman with a kid was not on my “top ten” list! But Jill was more than special. She was the most authentic, genuine and gentle woman I’d ever met. And her son, Anthony, was just as special. Two years later we were married. Fifteen years later, Anthony, is now a junior in high school.
Before Jill and I had two children of our own, I made an important promise to myself about Anthony. A promise that I would treat him as my own son. That he would never feel like a “step” son in our home. And that Anthony would always know I loved him just as much as I love his brother and sister. I decided fifteen years ago that would be a legacy of mine.
Last weekend Jill and I took Anthony on his first college visit to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Anthony’s dream is to play D1 college hockey and Miami University is one of his top three school choices. We had the opportunity to meet the assistant hockey coach and got a tour of Miami’s hockey facility: ice rink, workout room, locker room, etc.
What struck me most after touring the hockey facility was Miami’s culture of not only winning, but building men of Character – Brotherhood – Leadership. And although Miami’s current Head Coach, Enrico Blasi, is revered on campus and in the national hockey community, I could not help noticing the tremendous influence of Miami’s former head coach – 23 years earlier. Where ever we turned, where ever we looked, we saw a piece of history with George Gwozdecky’s name on it. Plaques, banners, pictures and quotes, all honoring one of the greatest college hockey coaches of all time.
Coach Gwozdecky was named head coach at Miami University in 1989. He served there for five seasons, winning the school’s first CCHA title and earning its first NCAA tournament bid. While at Miami he won the National Coach of the Year. Coach Gwozdecky then spent 19 seasons as the head coach at the University of Denver, leading the Pioneers to two NCAA National Championships and earning him National Coach of the Year honors in 1993 and 2005. Coach Gwozdecky is the 11th all-time NCAA men’s hockey coach with 593 wins. Gwozdecky is also the only coach in NCAA hockey history to win a Division I National Championship as a player (Wisconsin, 1977), assistant coach (Michigan State, 1986) and as a head coach (Denver, 2004 and 2005). In 2006 George Gwozdecky was added to the Miami University “Cradle of Coaches” Hall of Fame.
Impressive resume, right? But what impresses me even more about Coach Gwozdecky is that after twenty-three years, his fingerprints are still all over Miami University’s winning hockey culture.
Got me thinking. Twenty-three years from now, will your fingerprints be all over your organization’s culture? Will there be plaques, banners, pictures and quotes honoring you throughout the hallways of your current place of employment?
Last year I read a terrific book written by my friend, Liz Wiseman. Liz teaches us in, Multilpliers, the measure of a successful leader is not winning, but multiplying ourselves so others win. She told the story of Earvin Johnson Jr. Earvin grew up in Lansing, Michigan with nine brothers and sisters. His father worked in a General Motors plant and his mother was a school custodian. Young “Junior” passed his time by playing basketball. He practiced all the time. While attending Everett High School, he broke every school personal record. But his basketball coach told Junior that he would never be truly great until he made his teammates around him great. It was not until Junior understood how to “multiply” himself that a sportswriter nicknamed him “Magic”.
Whether you’re a parent, hockey coach, basketball player or a CEO – our greatest legacy is not just winning. Our “magic” is investing in the lives of others. And it is loving and serving them deeply. Even when they’re not your biological son.