When speaking with large groups, I kick-off by sharing a bit about myself. I am from Boston and am a huge New England sports fan (depending where in the country my travels take me—there will be boos). I was one credit away from being a music minor—even though I cannot dance, play an instrument or carry a tune. I went to Union College, a small liberal arts school in New York where I was a division one athlete. I then ask the group to guess what sport I played. The first guess that usually gets shouted out is basketball, followed closely by volleyball (I am 5'9"—around 6' in heels). Then there is some combination of soccer or lacrosse—and even once while down in Texas of all places, someone guessed curling. Spoiler alert—one of those are correct. Very rarely does anyone guess the correct answer: ice hockey.
I have 2 brothers and growing up I would go to the hockey rink with my parents to watch them play. One day, probably due to boredom, I asked if I could play too. That was the beginning of my hockey career. I started playing with the boys, which was great, until they started getting bigger than me and I became an easy target thanks to the ponytail dangling from my helmet. I then joined 2 all-girls club teams. Girls hockey wasn't like it is now—and if you haven't seen the women's gold medal game during this past Olympics, stop reading immediately and pull it up on YouTube—it's amazing. But I digress.
Playing hockey growing up, we always had the worse ice times and my dad drove me to the most random areas of New England to play. But I loved it. I was recruited by Union where I was a four-year athlete, serving as team captain during my junior and senior years.
For anyone that grew up playing team sports, it is clear that the skills you learn in the rink or on the field translate to the workforce. Over the past year, teams across Fidelity—including mine—have been transitioning to an "agile" way of working. Since doing so, we also have aligned the way we work to "scrum" values. (Quick aside for those not familiar with this type of language, agile is a mindset or framework for using continuous learning and discovery to deliver better outcomes for businesses and scrum is a process teams can use for developing, delivering, and sustaining complex products.)
There are five core scrum values: courage, respect, openness, focus, and commitment. My team and I have challenged ourselves to lean into the values as we continually strive to do more for our customers. Even though I am retired from playing hockey, the values I embraced while being an athlete playing a team sport remain, as I continue to improve on my agile skills, it becomes clearer to me how closely they relate to the sport I played for most of my life
Leaders on teams are fearless. They will do whatever is required to help the team win the game. When I played hockey, I learned that you need to have the courage to take risks and go outside of your comfort zone to continually improve upon your game. You have to dive for that puck or pull the goalie with a few minutes left in the third. This also translates off the ice. It takes courage to confront a teammate if they aren't giving it their all or admit to yourself that you could have done more during a pivotal play.
You probably spend more time with your co-workers than most people in your life. This was also true with my teammates. The best team players—those that I am still close to today—are those that have the most respect for others. This doesn't only apply to the people you step onto the ice with each day, but your coaches and others that were truly vested in our success. These were the players that chose to uphold the highest level of character and understand they're representing their team in everything that they do. The same goes for my team at work—what we deliver at work represents our hard work but it also represents Fidelity to our customers.
To perform at a certain level in a sport or job, you must be good at what you do. But to be a true leader, there is a degree of openness that you must possess to reach the level of success you are striving for. You must be open to the suggestions or criticism from your coach and teammates. Instead of coming up with excuses, a successful athlete takes ownership of their actions and learns from them.
There will always be mistakes that happen on the ice—whether that is failing to backcheck or missing an empty net. In my experience, though, the top players that never waste time or energy dwelling on these mistakes—rather they quickly learn from them and move forward to focus on the next opportunity. Focus is essential in getting things done, whether in work or in sports. There will always be distractions but to be successful, you must fight through these and continue to move towards the goal.
Commitment is the ultimate form of dedication. When something is important to you, you are willing to work harder than anyone else. You are eager to ask for feedback and advice from others in order to raise your game to the next level. In order to perform at your best, you need to put yourself in the position to do so, and you do this through preparation. The best teams that I have played on were always the best conditioned and the most prepared for the game ahead. Learning to commit thorough intense preparation during my athletic career has helped me enormously as I grow my professional career, embrace change, and look at each work challenge as my next game.
There are many times I miss being an ice hockey player, which is why I often think back to the skills I gained while playing when I am working with my team today. It helps make my role at work more fun, allows me to connect with my team, and ultimately stay focused so that we can deliver on our goal and help customers wherever they are on their financial journeys.