We went behind-the-scenes of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, learned how to go from recovery to re-invention post-pandemic, and how to find our superpowers to take on life’s challenges this year at the Canadian Meetings and Events Expo.
The CME Expo kicked off a return to in-person events on October 19-20 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. We were excited to support them and our three incredible keynote speakers that livened up the two-day event with their inspirational stories. Here’s a round-up of a few things we learned.
The Recalculated Road to Tokyo with Marnie McBean
When Marnie McBean accepted the position of chef de mission for the 2020 Olympics, she had no idea that her role would be extended by a year and include leading Team Canada through a worldwide pandemic. Canada was world-leading with their decision to pull out of the 2020 summer Olympics, with the International Olympic Committee officially postponing within 72 hours of Canada’s announcement.
As the chef de mission, Marnie was a spokesperson and mentor for Team Canada during the entire pandemic. She had to be their voice as well as their support team as they moved through the uncertainty of whether or not the Olympics would be cancelled; the uncertainty around what it means now that the Olympics have been postponed; and the uncertainty of whether or not the 2020 Olympics would ever even happen.
Marnie originally took the role with the goal of creating a safe and inclusive environment for her athletes. This stayed at the heart of her leadership strategy throughout the entire pandemic, and lead to one of the most successful Olympics for Canada since 1984. Here are the two leadership lessons that proved crucial to Marnie and Team Canada’s success.
1) Clear, Bold, and Inclusive Communication
From the beginning, Marnie was upfront and honest with her athletes. Even when she had no idea what was going on, she was honest about it and kept her team informed every step of the way — introducing them to the doctors and scientists they were consulting with, reviewing the procedures they were moving forward with, asking for their input on policies that would affect them, etc.
Marnie credits this regular and open communication — 33 emails in total! — in creating a sense of togetherness while being apart. She built spirit through consistent, inclusive, and clear communication that helped to break down silos, minimize isolation, and destigmatize any fear or loneliness people may have been feeling. It turned the team into a family and this camaraderie was seen and celebrated throughout the entire event.
2) Redefine Preparation
March 2020 completely changed how athletes prepared for competition. Prior to the pandemic, the path was pretty clear — if the long-term goal was the Olympics, the mid-term goals were the events and championships leading up to them, with the short-term or daily goals focused on practicing. The pandemic eliminated mid-term goals for all of us, Marnie said, and this contributed to the daily monotony we were feeling. It’s hard to see improvements when we live with only day-to-day goals. That’s why mid-term goals were so important before, Marnie says. But, improvements are actually made on a daily basis. Little by little, day by day, we improve — we get smarter, faster, better. During the pandemic, we had to learn to trust ourselves and trust in the process of our day-to-day goals instead of waiting for that acknowledgement that our mid-terms goals often provide. It was a complete mindset change.
The women’s swim team, Marnie said, couldn’t get into a pool for 100 days. Yet, they were arguably one of the most successful teams at the 2020 Olympics. They had to creatively adapt their preparation, and the results speak for themselves.
There will always be chaos in life, Marnie said. Change is the only constant, and resiliency can only occur when we change our mindset to start anticipating this change instead of assuming the normal. Forget the finish line, because there is no finish line in life. Adapt your preparation — it’s not about finishing, it’s about “can I keep going”. This is how you shake off exhaustion and meet all of life’s challenges.
Marnie McBean is one of Canada’s most decorated Olympians. Drawing on her years of experience as both a performance coach and a top competitor, she leaves audiences with a recipe for success that can be applied to all endeavours.
Now What? Prioritizing Personal and Organizational Growth with Ron Tite
Great challenges create great opportunities. Ron Tite took the stage to encourage and show us how to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime chance to re-invent ourselves, both as individuals and as professionals. We need to stop waiting for things to “get better” so that we can recover, he said. Recovery means going back, and there is no going back. Reinvention, that’s going forward. How do we do it? It starts by prioritizing both personal and organizational growth.
Following a year and half of accelerated change and unrest, the next six months is our opportunity to take a pause, recalibrate, and redefine what life, business, relationships, etc. mean to us. In other words, Ron said, take a look at your life and decide:
- What am I keeping?
- What am I ditching?
- What am I changing?
This is the same on an organizational level. Leadership, Ron says, is about taking action based on the information in front of you to improve the lives of the people around you, including yourself. Growth, on an individual, organizational, and community level, is the key to moving from recovery to reinvention.
- Focused by purpose: Use purpose to create meaningful work for your team. Purpose brings a business strategy to an individual level, empowering employees to engage with their in a meaningful way. In the wake of the great resignation, purpose is the key to retention.
- Defined by action: Grow by embracing limitations. Even when we don’t know what they are yet, they exist. Look for problems and solve them; that is what successful businesses are doing today for both their employees and customers.
- Acted on through communication: Say it simply, say it boldly, say it authentically.
Relevant, engaging, and interactive, Ron Tite exceeds expectations every time he takes the stage. Named one of the “Top 10 Creative Canadians” by Marketing Magazine, he’s an award-winning advertising writer and creative director who speaks to leadership and corporate strategy.
Built to Fly with Kellylee Evans
In 2013, Kellylee Evans was hit by lightning while washing dishes in her home. Her entire life changed in an instant. Prior to this, she was a Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter with multiple albums to her name and a grueling touring schedule. But, in 2013, that came to an abrupt stop. People would joke about how she must be a superhero now after surviving a lightning strike. But six months later, still in a wheelchair and in immense pain, she didn’t feel that way. She knew that she needed to change her mindset to save herself.
“I’m still here,” she said. “That’s my superpower.”
Two years later, she slipped in the bathtub, hit her head, and suffered a severe concussion that left her, once again, helpless, laying in bed unable to do anything. Every step forward, she seemed to get knocked down again. But, through each round of recovery, she learned how to regenerate her resilience, and today she knows what she needs to do on a daily basis to foster that toughness needed to keep moving forward no matter what challenge she may face.
We all have this ability, she says. This is our superpower, and it comes from the power to live, listen, link with others, and love.
Live in the Now
Before her career in music, Kellylee was pursuing academia to follow her mother’s dream. While obtaining her masters, her mother passed away from cancer and she lost any zest she had for academia, so stressed from it that she had ulcers. So, she quit, and her ulcers went away instantly. Feeling better was worth more than her masters, and from that moment Kellylee vowed to live for the now, drop out of unhappy moments, and take risks.
Learning to Listen
As a child, Kellylee said, she learned how to listen to everyone around her but she never learned how to listen to herself. She only learned how after being struck by lightning. Minutes before she was struck, she heard a voice in her head telling her to go sit down and watch TV with her son. She ignored it and was hit by lightning. Today, she chooses not to ignore that voice anymore because it is the voice that helps. Too often we all ignore it in place of the negative voices in our head, she said. Through daily journaling she learned how to listen to that inner voice and be grateful for what it has given her.
Linking with Others
When she was younger, Kellylee believed her single mother was superhuman. At her funeral, she learned that she wasn’t. She had build a community around that gave her strength to keep going. After her concussion, Kellylee finally understood how much she needed people and how much her community could support her, as they rallied around to help her heal. Her community is the basis of her resiliency she said. She commits a portion of her day every day to connect with her community, whether it’s through a phone call, text, email, etc., so that she is reminded daily of the strength she carries with her.
Kellylee prides herself in how much she loves others, but she wasn’t very good at loving herself. Even while recovering, she would pressure herself and question why she still had headaches, mobility issues, etc. While healing from her concussion and feeling angry at how little she could do for herself, she flipped the switch. Instead, she started focusing on what she could do for herself by writing down one task that would make her feel good that day. These tasks were as simple as “have a shower”. Soon that list was able to grow, and she realized that it was actually her “happy list” — a list of daily tasks that brought a little piece of joy to her day. By acting on these tasks, she said, I show that I love myself enough to take some quiet moments each day for myself. This is self-care, she said.
These are her superpowers, they are all of our superpowers, and by leaning into them, she said, we too, can feel unbreakable.
Internationally acclaimed Juno Award-Winning singer-songwriter Kellylee Evans has been making waves around the world with her energy-charged performances. Her inspiration journey of recovery, told through both stories and songs, resonates with anyone who has ever experienced setback in their life.
Interested in learning more about Marnie, Ron, and Kellylee, and what they can bring to your next event as a keynote speaker? Email us at [email protected].