When the U.S. Olympic team entered Fisht Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremonies in Sochi, Olympic Silver medalist and World Champion, Todd Lodwick, who is competing in a record-setting 6th Winter Games, carried the American flag.
Yes, his six winter Olympics is a new record. And yes, he’s a world champion, but it’s also his endurance and perseverance that made him the fitting choice.
It’s almost 20 years ago, to the day, that Todd competed in his first Winter Olympics in Lillehammer with U.S. Ski Team coach, Tom Steitz, by his side. Tom identified Todd during his high school years in Ski-town USA (Steamboat Springs), and worked with him and other Nordic Combined teammates to turn around the U.S. program from last place on the world stage to the podium.
Today, Tom lends his coaching talents to coaching executives in public boardrooms and tech startups– including companies like Avaya, eBay, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson and Orbitz. As head of 3 Peaks Consulting, Tom reinforces a set of core attributes – mutual trust, accountability and commitment – that makes a true leader. He also focuses on training executives like he trains athletes: developing programs that take individuals and teams to maximum performance and building muscle memory for winning leadership that pulls through for decades.
We recently caught up with Tom in the Bay Area to ask him a few questions about Todd, the parallels of Olympic training and executive leadership, and how team-based fundamentals can deliver winners on the slopes and in business.
Were you surprised Todd was chosen as Team USA’s flag bearer during the Opening Ceremonies?
TS: Not at all! The flag bearer has the important role of leading Team USA onto the primetime, worldwide stage. Because fellow Olympians select this person, peer relationships and respect are essential. Todd is the only Olympian and first American to compete in six Winter Games. Imagine the dedication it takes to make a single Olympics! You think it’s hard leading a company? Try being the absolute best in the world for one day, let alone 20-plus years.
What qualities about Todd stood out to you the most?
TS: When I first approached Todd about joining the team, he was debating between Nordic Combined and special jumping. I convinced him to step outside his comfort zone and join Nordic Combined despite having never really cross-country skied. He had a gung-ho, take-no-prisoners attitude and was great on the jump hill – exactly what the team needed to get on its feet and move toward rebuilding. Teaching him to cross-country ski was the easy part. Over the years, Todd has focused on building the basic principles of leadership: mutual trust, accountability and commitment. Those basic concepts are often hard to live while we work on the training, whether as an athlete or executive.
Photo Credit- craigdailypress.com
You coached the U.S Nordic Combined Ski Team from 1988 to 2002 and are credited with putting the sport on the worldwide skiing map. What’s the secret to developing leaders?
TS: I’ve always believed that true leadership is a set of principles and processes that stand the test of time. They don’t change with the latest leadership book or program. The vision and beliefs that have driven me for three decades haven’t changed. And, for Todd, his teammates, and executives, it’s all the same. It all starts with the team in shared goals, and individual egos have to take a back seat.
What parallels exist between coaching skiers and coaching executives?
TS: When you strip away the medals, the skis, and the suits, it’s no different training an athlete vs. an executive. The coaching principles are the same, and I use the same set of core attributes with executives that I used with Todd and others on the Ski Team: mutual trust, accountability and commitment.
What motivates you? What’s impacted you the most?
TS: What motivates me is watching athletes and executives succeed and knowing that I helped in some small way by finding methods that unlocked a hidden potential in them.
What has impacted me the most? That’s always a tough question. I have had a few really good coaches and mentors myself and these people have had the biggest impact on my success. I want the executives I work with to look back someday when they are being interviewed and feel the same way.
You live in Steamboat. Any tips for skiing there?
TS: Go now!!!! It’s a really big snow year.