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Former Hockey Coach John Bacon On Going From Worst To Best

In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, best-selling author and former hockey coach Bacon offers lessons he learned turning the nation’s worst high school hockey team into one of its most celebrated.

John Bacon played four years in the high school hockey hotbed of Michigan and managed to graduate without scoring a single goal. He earned a letter at Huron High School for his hard work helping his teammates get all the glory but always felt underappreciated. As he told the Corporate Competitor Podcast, “I was one of those guys who the bus did not wait for, so I was always on time.”

Bacon told himself that if he ever got the opportunity to coach a team, he would apply the same rules for everybody on the team and, even more important, go out of his way to celebrate the players who didn’t get the goals and the accolades. After graduating from the University of Michigan and starting his career in journalism, he got his chance when his old high school came calling.

When he took his spot behind the bench at Huron High School, the team was coming off a 0-22-3 record and was ranked dead last by’s review of 1,256 hockey teams across the nation. Just three years later, the team was 17-4-5 and ranked fourth in the state and 53rd in the nation, “leapfrogging 95 percent of the teams in the nation,” in Bacon’s words. He chronicled his experience in his New York Times bestseller Let Them Lead: Unexpected Lessons in Leadership from America’s Worst High School Hockey Team.

Bacon also fulfilled his oath to himself and built his winning teams on two basic principles of working hard and supporting your teammates—including the unheralded players whose contributions are critical to a team’s success. Bacon’s journalistic success spawned success as a motivational speaker to business leaders. In this episode of Corporate Competitor Podcast, he offers leadership insights that are as fast-paced and hard-hitting as the game he loves.

“You are going to have ups and downs, an account lost or gained, a bad hit with government regulations or whatever,” Bacon averred. “But you should not have ups and downs with your values, you shouldn’t have ups and downs with your principles. I stole that from Rob Palmer, a Michigan All-American hockey player I skate with on Tuesday nights.”

And Bacon welcomes you to steal it from him on this episode of Corporate Competitor Podcast.  


5:00  Why a star system demotivates the entire team.

11:00  The best way to make your team “special.”

12:00  How to be patient with results, but not behavior.

14:30  Mentors are far more important than pay for your first job.

18:00  How to put values over victories

22:00  How to measure statistics in business.

23:30  Why silos are death for team spirit.

24:45  How to break down the sales vs. service silo.

30:00  How to increase discretionary energy.

35:00  How to handle credit given to you and your team.

38:00  The heartwarming story of John’s player Scooter

Check out the full Corporate Competitor Podcast interview archive and subscribe to new episodes.


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