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Golden Advice from Hayley Wickenheiser

Golden Advice from Hayley Wickenheiser

Hayley Wickenheiser is regarded as one of the best female hockey players in the world. As a decorated Olympian, she has led her team to four gold and one silver medal as well as being named the tournaments’ most valuable player in both 2002 and 2006. At the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Hayley was selected to be the flag bearer for the Canadian Olympic team in the Opening Ceremonies, and it was announced that she had been elected to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Athletes Commission. In 2011, Hayley was also appointed to the Order of Canada. Not just an athlete, Hayley is also a community leader and an accomplished student and business woman who inspires audiences to give their best in everything they undertake. Profit magazine writes about Hayley’s outstanding keynote at their recent summit:

Just a few moments into Hayley Wickenheiser‘s closing keynote address at the 2014 Profit 500 CEO Summit on June 16th, the four-time Olympic gold medalist proved that she understood her audience of entrepreneurial achievers perfectly. “This may be the one group that doesn’t need a motivational talk,” she quipped.

Speaking confidently and compellingly, Wickenheiser shared with the audience some of the best leadership lessons she’s learned over her incredible career (Olympic and otherwise), and they’re as applicable in the boardroom as they are on the ice. Here are five of our favourites:

1. “The more success you have, the harder it is to achieve.”

Many (if not most) people considered the Canadian women’s hockey team the overwhelming favourites to win in Sochi. The team had taken gold in the last three Winter Olympics, including a triumphant victory on home turf in Vancouver in 2010. But none of that made the team’s quest for victory in Sochi any easier, Wickenheiser said. In fact, the team prepared for the games by expecting triumph to be even more difficult than it had been in the past. (That proved to be true, as a series of on- and off-ice setbacks seriously jeopardized the team’s likelihood of success.) The title of Wickenheiser’s speech was “Complacency Kills,” and it’s a lesson she knows well. Whether you’re pursuing your fourth straight gold medal or going into a sales pitch after landing five deals straight, the second you rest on your laurels, you’re finished, she said.

2. “Pressure is a privilege.”

The burden of expectation put on the women’s team this year might have been crippling to its players. But Wickenheiser had been told years earlier that “pressure is a privilege,” and she did her best to both internalize that message and spread it among her teammates. It’s a lucky few who get to compete for a country (or, to put it in business terms, bid on highly prestigious piece of business); if that creates stress, it’s a small price to pay for the opportunity at hand.

3. “Rest is a weapon.”

For professional athletes, there’s a temptation to go all out, all the time. The same is true of those running a growing company. But as Wickenheiser has learned, if you don’t give yourself a bit of downtime—as hard as it may be to do—you’ll never be able to perform at your best when it really counts. “If you don’t get enough rest,” she said, “you can’t possibly compete at the level you need to.”

4. “Surround yourself with people who will be honest with you.”

As she geared up to start training for the 2014 Olympic team, Wickenheiser had gone through a good run of bad luck: a spate of injuries meant she wasn’t able to play at peak (at least, not right away). So, she hired two top-tier coaches: one to help her rebuild her body, the other, to rebuild her game. What set these two coaches aside was not just their technical skill, but their ability to be totally—sometimes brutally—honest with her. “They didn’t always tell me what I wanted to hear,” Wickenheiser says. “But they told me what I needed to hear.” When you’re the kind of person who seldom hears “no”—like, say, a pro athlete or an entrepreneur—some no-bull feedback can be worth its weight in gold.

5. “If you’re not enough without your gold medal, you’ll never be enough with it.”

Wickenheiser made it perfectly clear: she loves her gold medals, and is extremely proud of them. “A gold medal,” she says, “is a wonderful thing.” But she’s also learned that it can’t bring happiness or satisfaction on its own. Speaking of the Olympic depression that plagues many athletes after the rush of the games is over—something not far off from the quiet period after the rush of closing a big deal—she talked of the importance of not letting external markers of success define you.

Profit Magazine/June 2014