January 23, 2018
With the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang just around the corner, the members of the PMCQ are getting into the Olympic spirit! The speaker at January’s event was Danièle Sauvageau, the former first head coach of the Canadian Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, which won the gold medal in women’s ice hockey for the first time at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Danièle’s presentation inspired us to aim for gold as leaders of our own teams.
The President of the PMCQ, Shannon Quinn, opened the meeting by covering a few points of business:
Shannon closed the housekeeping with a short corporate video about Sanofi. The video is a good reminder of the good work we all do every day.
Shannon then introduced the speaker of the night, Danièle Sauvageau, who is no stranger to accepting challenges or working with a team under adverse conditions. Over 25 years, Danièle has been part of various teams, including the RCMP and the Montreal Urban police, but she is best known as first head coach of the Canadian Women’s Olympic Hockey Team. Her expertise in situation assessment, leadership, communication, and coaching were instrumental in her historic, first-ever gold medal win at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. The title of her speech was “Leading a team to victory”.
Danièle began her presentation by playing a video of the 2014 Winter Olympics, where the Canadian Women’s Olympic Hockey Team made a remarkable comeback, giving Team Canada a fourth gold medal for women’s hockey in a row. To understand how the team was able to pull off this feat, you have to understand the history of the women’s hockey program in Canada, which consists of several successes and setbacks.
It began when Hockey Canada created a national women’s team in 1990. The first official Women’s World Hockey Championship was held that same year. In order to sell more tickets, marketers decided the team should play in pink jerseys, even though the players felt this was trivializing their team. Regardless of the jersey colour, the women’s team was talented and it won the gold. This solidified the foundation for women’s hockey in Canada, and at the next world championship, the players were given regular jerseys.
Women’s hockey was introduced to the Olympics at the 1998 games in Nagano. By this time, the Canadian women’s team was dominating world championship games. As a result, the players went to Nagano over-confident and under-prepared. They won the silver medal, which felt like a defeat. Danièle’s lesson: being afraid to lose makes the biggest difference.
In 1999, Danièle was named head coach. For the first time, the team was centralizing in Calgary. The American team had already been centralized for some time. The Canadian team played five games against the American team and lost all of them. After that, the president of Hockey Canada, Bob Nicholson, called Danièle into his office and told her that her team was losing because she kept comparing the budget given to her team to that of the men’s team. He accused her of not trusting him. She agreed that she shouldn’t have been so quick to judge the situation, since she didn’t have all of the information to truly understand it.
Each of these setbacks were great learning opportunities. By 2010, things had turned around dramatically; the team was winning gold medals and setting standards for hockey. Ultimately, creating a strong team is not about choosing the best individual players, but about choosing the best team overall and working with what you have.
Danièle’s lessons about leadership:
Danièle describes leadership as having different levels:
According to Danièle, everyone has the ability to achieve all of these levels of leadership. Just remember:
Now, get out there and go for gold!