‘We are the masters of our story because it’s not what happens to us, but how we interpret what has happened.’

– Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh

It’s 19 August 2016.

The Great Britain women’s hockey team has just won gold at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

To Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh – life partners and players on the team – winning gold was the product of years of hard work that started back in 1999.

The journey to gold, paved with both failures and successes, triumphs and losses, wasn’t all about the medal and title.

For the Richardson-Walshes, it was about growing into the best version of yourself possible and inspiring others around you to do so as well: the ultimate ‘win’.

In their book, Winning Together: An Olympic-Winning Approach to Building Better Teams, Helen and Kate share the wisdom they gained along the journey to gold:

#1: Success is dependent on a healthy mindset

Determined to identify what made some teams more successful than others on the field, Helen and Kate carefully observed teams at play. They learned that hard work is only part of the equation. Believing in yourself and having a positive attitude is what helps you push through in the face of failure and disappointment.

Furthermore, your state of mind not only affects your performance – it affects the mindsets of those around you/your team A large aspect of ‘winning’ is, therefore, investing the time to cultivate a stronger, healthier mindset.

#2: Visions are more than the sum of their words

Under coach Tricia Heberle, the Great Britain hockey team wrote a mission statement that gave the team a sense of identity and guided individual behaviour. This proved effective as the team placed 5th in the 2002 World Cup and qualified for the Champions Trophy – the first for them.

Putting more effort into drafting a vision statement for the London Olympics, the team won bronze. And, in working to create a vision that gave the team a collective purpose and inspired each member, the team won gold at the Rio Olympics.

A vision statement does not need to look fancy on paper; it only needs to inspire, igniting within you a burning desire to commit to it.

#3: Back up your vision with action

It is important to act in accordance with the values laid out in your vision statement. Having clarity around what kind of behaviour or action embodies these values, helps to do just that.

You can use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to evaluate how well your behaviour/actions embody your values. For example, the Great Britain team used KPIs such as ball possession time and penalty conversions.

#4: Processes guide the behaviours needed to achieve goals

Having structures in place for day-to-day activities and anticipated situations improves efficiency and performance. When anticipated moments are broken down into manageable steps and then repeatedly practised, you are emotionally prepared and able to perform at your best if or when those moments occur. The structures/processes also help you assess what is working and what isn’t, allowing you to make adjustments as needed.

The Great Britain team held mini-tournaments on ‘Thinking Thursdays’ to acclimatise the team to the pressures of competing.

#5: Effective leaders create environments conducive to others’ growth

Effective leaders create environments that enable others to contribute and flourish. This involves empowering others, forging relationships based on mutual trust and respect, responding with empathy and compassion, and encouraging others to express their honest opinions.

When you lead by example, in line with your vision and values, you thrive, and so do others under your leadership.

#6: Show vulnerability to allow others to do the same

When you share with others your hopes, dreams, fears, and losses, you encourage others to do the same. Showing vulnerability builds trust and connection.

#7: Expanding your self-awareness to improve performance

The awareness that comes from understanding what holds you back and what fulfils you, leads to self-acceptance. However, getting to this point requires some work.

Under the guidance of team psychologists, the Great Britain hockey players used the insights gained from various self-awareness exercises to expand their self-awareness. Using a strengths-based approach, they then focused on harnessing their strong points rather than correcting their weaknesses.

Self-awareness exercises (such as ‘Good Day/Bad Day’) that prompt you to assess your current state and make adjustments can be helpful.

#8: Approach conflict with empathy and consideration

Conflict isn’t necessarily harmful or damaging – not when people are willing to address differences in opinion with openness, empathy, and consideration. Rather than looking to avoid conflict, choose to see conflict as an opportunity to consider the other person’s point of view and reach an understanding that serves the both of you. When you do so, you enable the relationships in your life to grow.

So, what does ‘winning’ look like to you?

Would you say that you are ‘winning’ in life when you are living an authentic life being the best YOU, you could be?

Whatever your perception of ‘winning’ might be, drop me an email at ilze@ilzealberts.com or send me a WhatsApp if there is something in your life you would love to improve on. Or let me know if you want to book a consultation with me.

I will then connect with you on a complimentary discovery call to discuss the best way forward.

From my heart to yours,


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