Lessons in Motivating People Under Pressure From Curt Harnett

Team Canada chef de mission Curt Harnett. Photo: Bernard Weil/Toronto Star/GettyTeam Canada chef de mission Curt Harnett. Photo: Bernard Weil/Toronto Star/Getty

Curt Harnett only started cycling as a way to train for hockey, but he went on to win three medals over four Olympic games on his bike. This summer, he returned to the Games as chef de mission for Team Canada.

In Rio de Janeiro, Harnett was responsible for rallying the troops for peak performance across a range of sports. Earlier this year, he talked to Courtney Shea about keeping people motivated under pressure and overcoming imposter syndrome.

Here are four things you can learn from their conversation, which you can read in full here.

On leadership

“I’m both a cheerleader and a team player. The organization kind of flattens out when we get into Games mode. It’s important that we are all committed to our own tasks, but I have no issues with washing bottles, delivering tickets or getting an athlete back to the village. That’s important, too.”

On imposter syndrome

“[When I was competing,] I used sports psychology professionals with abandon, and they were really key to my performance. When you start asking, Do I deserve to be here? Am I ready for this? that will really mess with your head and, ultimately, your performance.”

On perfection

“The trouble with having perfection as a goal is that it makes things so absolute. I’m the sort of person who is always happy to weigh in with an opinion, but then I’m always open to having my opinion evolve depending on new information and what I’ve learned from others.”

On pressure

“When you’re working toward a pressure-cooker situation like the Olympics, it’s critical to establish relationships in advance so that when things start going a million miles an hour, communication is easy. You don’t have to be soft around anyone; you can just get the job done.”

This article is from the August 2016 issue of Canadian Business. Subscribe now!


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