I was fortunate to sit in on a Denver Startup Week session, Women Who Mean Business, with U.S. skiing legend Lindsey Vonn, and learned that competitive ski racing is a lot like PR.
We all recognize the name Lindsey Vonn – one of the best skiers in the world, three-time Olympic medal winner, World Cup champion. But it took years of hard work and dedication to elevate Lindsey to the top of her game. Her family moved to Vail, Colorado when she was 11 years old so she could train at the highest level with the best coaches in the world. By the age of 17, she debuted in her first Olympics in Salt Lake City and won her first gold medal in downhill at the 2010 games in Vancouver, the first American woman to do so. Before retiring this year, Lindsey won 82 World Cup races and appeared in four Olympics throughout her career.
At the session, Lindsey spoke on life after skiing and her next steps for her new business. She couldn’t stress enough how teamwork got her through all the ups and downs of competitive skiing and how it’s helped her become a better businesswoman.
Her advice made me think of what PR pros can do to create a better environment where teamwork and collaboration are celebrated. If professional skiers are building each other up in order to succeed, maybe we can learn a lesson on why we need to ditch the cutthroat stigma of the PR industry and work together to deliver the best results for our clients.
Here are three lessons PR pros can learn from the best skiers in the world:
Collaboration Does Not Equal Weakness
Often, asking questions is viewed as a weakness – are these the best contacts for this pitch or am I targeting the best analysts for the new product? Lindsey has never been afraid of asking questions, either to her teammates, competitors and even as she’s starting her business.
This was a great reminder to me that no one knows everything, and there’s energy built when people collaborate. At SSPR, I see my teammates collaborating with each other every day and in turn, building stronger campaigns and better results for our clients.
Support Each Other
Sometimes offering support is easier said than done, especially when everyone is trying to be the PR hero by securing that homerun lead or a speaking slot at the biggest event of the year. Lindsey said she always cheered for her teammates and competitors at the start gate of every race. It wasn’t the norm, but the more she and her teammates fired each other up, the better they did.
PR pros: Build each other up and find ways to help your teammates who are struggling. The added benefit of this positive work environment is that you’ll likely befriend your teammates just like Lindsey did, making life at work a little more fun.
Celebrate Your Wins, Learn From Your Falls
The world of PR goes about a thousand miles a minutes, so it can be challenging to take a step back. Lindsey knows what it feels like to be at the top of her game and then be pushed straight to the bottom. She’s had her fair share of injuries, but she learned the most about herself when she was down.
Instead of pointing fingers the next time a product launch goes awry or an ad campaign falls flat, take a look at what you can learn as a team and get back up on your feet.
In the end, everyone wins when we work together – both internal teams and clients. Find ways to work together instead of competing against each other, and the results might surprise you! If part of Lindsey’s path to Olympic championship was formed by cheering on her teammates, it could definitely benefit your career, as well.