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Cheryl Bernard: Why Teams Are So Important

Cheryl Bernard: Why Teams Are So Important

At the age of 23, Cheryl Bernard started an insurance brokerage and propelled the agency to six million dollars in sales in just eleven years. At the age of 43, she helped Canada win a silver medal in curling at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. Passionate about inspiring others to reach their goals and stressing the importance of great leadership and teamwork, Cheryl’s presentations draw from both her business and sport experiences to motivate audiences to achieve greatness in everything they do. In this post below, Cheryl reflects on the parallels between sport and business, and how teamwork plays an important part of everything you do:

There are some striking parallels between business and sport competition: both involve teamwork, achieving goals, and recovering from failure. When I sold my insurance business after 13 years to pursue my curling dream, I understood that my years leading a team in business were directly transferable to sport. So, I applied much of the knowledge from my years in business to building a successful curling team. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I believe in the concept of a team being a sum of the parts: the people you surround yourself with are crucial to your success.

When I retired from the competitive side of curling this past July, I was concerned about two things. First, how would I fill my time, after curling had been a huge part of my life for the better part of 20 years? Also, would I miss the team, the hard work, the perseverance, and the challenges? When the curling season started, I must admit there was a hole. I was missing the practice, preparation, planning, and our many strategic discussions. I was missing that feeling of being part of a team, and working with other people who pushed me, challenged me, and made me better.

Luckily, I received a call in November from TSN about joining them at The Canada Cup of Curling as a guest analyst in December. Needless to say, I was all over that! This was an opportunity to stay involved with the game and the people I loved. My initial thought was that it would be easy–just go in, sit down, and talk curling. I had no idea that it would be so much more than that. I had the opportunity to work with an incredible group of people who have one focus: to put a quality event on TV.

The TSN team is amazing: people with such diverse backgrounds and specialties, all coming together to make something great. The camera specialists find the players’ families in the stands; they catch those great team moments for the viewers. The writers put words to those incredible vignettes that attempt to capture the players and why they do what they do out there. The technicians take all the hours of video and chop, cut, and paste it down to something meaningful. The statistician can pull up pretty much anything you ask during the show, on the fly. How many draws this game? When was the last time in Brier history that a skip and third changed positions mid-week? Oh, and seconds before a final stone: what is his percentage on in-turn draws to the button this game? Everyone, from the producer to the guys pulling cable, has a singular focus: to develop a great product, showcasing the players and the game.

It is the true “sum of the parts” concept: there is no one who is more important than anyone else on the TSN team.

Great teams and business leaders talk about the “law of the inner circle,” which states those closest to you determine your level of success. This concept understands that if you surround yourself with people who are diverse and passionate, they can help you achieve more than you could ever do alone.

A few years ago I read an article about a researcher who surveyed a few hundred highly successful business executives, all over the age of 80. The researcher asked them if they could teach us any life lessons: if they looked back over their lives, what would the main lessons be? The top answer that stood out was the following:

There is nothing more important in life than the relationships you create. Nothing.

I understood this in business, I understood this on our curling team, and it is the most valuable understanding I took into this new opportunity. Even though I had known so many of the crew from my time on the other side of the camera, walking into their team was still daunting. Would I fit in? How could I contribute? Who would be responsible for what? What could I bring to the team? The one thing I kept reminding myself was that the relationships were the most important – those with the crew, with Scott Higgins the producer, and with Vic and Russ in the booth. This was my new team, my inner circle.

To me, teamwork is the beauty of our sport. When you have four players acting as one with a common vision, it will allow you to attain uncommon results. It has the potential to display excellence as human beings.

So thanks, TSN, for reminding me again why teams are so important in my life and allowing me the opportunity to be part of one again.

Cheryl Bernard/March, 2015