Communication: In Curling, and in the Family 

(Editor’s note: This post is a translation of last week’s post in French)

Hockey is generally considered to be THE Canadian sport, in which our national teams often win the biggest tournaments, on both the men’s and women’s sides. But there is another winter sport where Canadian teams win gold medals even more often than our hockey teams do.

Thanks to the title of this blog, you have probably already guessed that I am talking about curling. This sport has intrigued me for forty years or so, and since my entire family is not heavily involved in it, I continue to follow it closely.

Both of my kids play on the provincial juvenile curling circuit, and my wife is the coach of our daughter’s team, so every winter I get to watch a lot of bonspiels (tournaments). And when there is curling on TV, you can be sure that at least one of our TV’s will be tuned to TSN to watch the games.

Now you may be wondering what curling could have to do with communication, and even more so about family communication. Just stay with me, I am getting there.

If you are already a fan of curling, you know that communication between the four team members is really important. Each player throws two stones per end, while two teammates sweep (or not) in front of the stone, while the skip waits in the house and yells out instructions.

You can observe this during any curling match, from a recreation league game at a local club, through the juvenile circuit, and all the way up to the best teams in the world.

In any family business, there is also some common basic communication going on, but instead of the skip yelling out instructions, it is usually Dad telling everyone what to do. This goes on in just about any family, from one that owns a simple restaurant, through those with a few hundred employees and who are in the second or third generation, all the way to dynastic families.

But now, let’s start to look at some nuances. The team playing in the weekly rec league for the fun of it probably doesn’t communicate any more than necessary, and it will usually be the skip (the one with the most experience) who gives most of the instructions to the others.

A small family business probably acts in much the same way. No more discussion than necessary, and the boss is the one that runs things, his way.

But when you watch national championships on TV, you can see that curling is truly a team sport. Yes, you can still hear the skip screaming instructions to the sweepers when he/she wants the sweepers to sweep harder, or else the shot will be missed.

Curling became the best televised sport when they put microphones on the players may years ago, giving fans the ability to hear all of the discussions between the team members.

Imagine if you could watch and listen to the Rockefellers, the Desmarais’s, the Irvings, the Molsons, as they communicate about the decisions surrounding their families and their companies. Now THAT would be interesting.

As for curling, I can state unequivocally that the best teams at the highest level are successful in large part because of the way they make decisions and how they communicate with each other during games.

These teams have understood that they win or lose as a team, and that no one person has a monopoly on decisions, and certainly on the information that needs to be exchanged among teammates while the rock is in motion.

I watch my kids play and I am proud to say that they are making the effort to communicate better and more frequently on the ice, and they improve with each game.

Could entrepreneurial families learn something about the importance of communication by watching curling? Maybe so.