I love everything about hockey, from a well thrown hip check to a flawlessly executed toe drag. Each game is the perfect combination of brutality and grace. But what I may love most is how the lessons learned on the ice translate so clearly to the office. Here are a few I've learned from my years of coaching ice hockey.

1. You can't coach instincts, but you can coach will.

Some players have great hockey sense. They just know what to do with the puck in almost every situation. When I have a player like that, I know that's the one I'm going to build my team around.

That's also true in the professional world. People who see the big picture and act decisively are the kind of people you want in key roles in your company. Granted, a lot of this ability comes with experience, but there are people who seem to have business in their bones. Be on the lookout for these employees and help them build teams they can lead to great heights.

But what about the players and employees who aren't stars? The ones who have trouble pushing themselves in the practice rink or at the office? Their growth may not come without your direction--many people choose comfort and complacency over risk and accomplishment.

Rather than letting the former become your corporate culture, consider using these coaching tips:

  • Set high goals.Every target should be bigger than the last, even if it seems impossible. If your staff succeeds, they learn how much more they are capable of.
  • Use failure as a teachable moment. No one makes every shot or wins every game, although the 1995 Detroit Red Wings came close. If you want your team to take smart risks, they can't be afraid of failing. However, you also want to learn something from each misstep so it doesn't happen again. Conduct a postmortem that dissects the issues without focusing on blame.
  • Highlight individual and team success.Recognition tells employees they are on the right track. Monetary rewards may be great motivators, but every employee is different. Find out what inspires your people, and you'll be able to bring out great results.

Using these strategies has helped both my players and employees see the connection between their effort and success.

2. Results matter.

Whether I'm coaching my players or leading my employees, I tend to follow Yoda's advice: "Do, or do not. There is no try." Yes, I want my players to try hard, but that's not the point of the game. We win or we don't win.

Most business owners know results matter. The problem is many of us think the game plan has already been written, and that seldom brings the outcome we're looking for.

Take as an example the company described in the Harvard Business Review. It stepped away from measuring performance on hours worked to scoring employees based on their results. The upshot? Voluntary turnover drop from 18 percent to 10 percent, and 97 percent of clients rated the company as either good or excellent in its performance.

3. Leaders lead by example.

At least once a season, I put on my skates and practice with my team. In part, I want them to know there's still some fight in this old dog, but I also want them to know that I'm not asking them to do anything I wouldn't do.

That's not as easy to do at the office, but I do...

  • Take responsibility for my mistakes.
  • Take risks.
  • Respect my employees' time and effort.
  • Demonstrate the level of dedication I expect.

Find ways you can lead by example if you want your team to step up their game.