In 2014, Mike Gillis was fired from the Vancouver Canucks. After many years of involvement in the sport as a former player, coach, executive agent and the lifelong student he considers himself to be, he took a five-year sabbatical from the game. This trained lawyer took it upon himself to study the success of other sports teams. He wanted to find out how they create cultures of winning and how they operated successfully, and now he is back with all his knowledge to share. In his successful career, Gillis was awarded GM of the Year in 2011; he also managed to build the winning teams of two Presidents’ Trophies. He made it clear that he is not interested in becoming a GM again.
A Journey to Expand Horizons
It seems that during this sabbatical, no trouble or effort was too much for Gillis to obtain his goal of getting as much knowledge as possible. This means that he travelled the globe to learn as much as possible. Gillis spent some time in Oregon at the Nike Sport Research Lab to learn more about cognitive awareness. He went off to Switzerland and the Campus BioTech, at the University of Michigan he participated in a business school, and he studied how KHL teams develop their players. He went to Spain, Australia and China and never stopped to research how other organizations in different cultures run their organizations successfully.
The Knowledge Obtained
The main lesson learned from his travels can be taken as the importance which other successful and modern teams put on their training environment, on a day-to-day basis. They follow a much more holistic approach towards the players and every moment is seen as crucial as part of the training, from the arrival of the player until the player departs again.
Another suggestion which Gillis feels can bring significant change within the leagues is how front offices are run. He thinks that the organizational structures need to change, and one of the ways this can be done would be through changing the workflow. Gillis is convinced that a GM has too much on his plate and shouldn’t have to oversee the entire operations department. If more people can share in the responsibility, it would ensure that GM’s don’t get worn out and then when they are tired, make poor decisions.
Another suggestion is to employ four assistants to the GM. This is much based on the models of many English elite soccer clubs. Having this structure allows for a group of people to be able to influence the club and not only having the entire responsibility rest on one person alone.
Gillis also made suggestions around the time of day when practice times are scheduled and so much more. He is very keen on sharing his knowledge and expertise, and it would be exciting to see what the future holds.