5 Questions with Andrew Price

“5 Questions With ______” is an interview series from executive search firm Amrop Rosin. These are quick-hitter interview discussions between Amrop Rosin’s Partners and North American executives on the topic of Purposeful Leadership -  a strategic framework used at Amrop to identify, assess, and position leaders in roles where they can drive impact for business, society and the planet.

In this edition of 5 “Questions With______”, Marcie Gurr, Engagement Manager at Amrop Rosin, speaks to Andrew Price, CEO of Gymnastics Canada, on his approach to purpose-driven leadership in the sport industry.

Andrew Price HS

Marcie Gurr: When you think about leaders who can balance profits, the planet, and people, what do you think are the most important leadership characteristics that those leaders need to embody?

Andrew Price: There’s a couple that come to mind. I think it’s important for leaders to be visionary while also being mission driven. This is a person who can articulate a vision for the future that’s positive, aspirational, and ensures their team can feel they’re a part of something bigger. To achieve this, the leader needs to be very active about how they coach and help people understand how the work that they're doing fits in to that bigger picture. Leaders need to articulate the big hairy idea, but also communicate to the team how their day-to-day work is contributing to the bigger, brighter future. A Purposeful Leader supports all members of the team - regardless of their technical roles and responsibilities – to understand how initiatives fit together. Then there’s the complementary piece to that, which is making sure that the measures or outcomes are being looked at, and that these are reflective and aligned to the big picture. Leaders who act with integrity and with vision, create a sustainable and positive future impact.

MG: That's great, Andrew. Thank you. You very recently joined Gymnastics Canada and are the CEO there. I’m curious to know, how do you ensure that your personal leadership philosophy, aligns with the overall goals and the mission of your organization?

AP: I think there are two parts to this. A key part of the conversations with Board Members who were part of the selection process was to do a two-way interview. Often, we think of the hiring process being one way. But I saw the opportunity to really engage members of the hiring committee in conversations. I asked them questions that were less technical and far more focused on their own philosophy. I asked fewer questions about the objectives, and more on the how. For me, that was an important, deliberate part of my decision to join the organization. Then when I joined the organization, I took it upon myself to hold a series of one-on-one discovery conversations with stakeholders that were not only focused on individual aspirations and goals, but also, what were they looking for from me as the CEO. I conducted about thirty-five of these conversations with board members, staff, and provincial partners. They gave me an opportunity to model my curiosity in general, but also listen and reflect back what I was hearing, to understand where there was alignment and gaps. This process gave me an opportunity to package up what I heard and reflect that back for the community. This was a demonstration of my ability to listen and condense everything I learned, but also an opportunity to start articulating where I believe there was that common purpose, and alignment that was going to allow us to move forward. One of the most valuable leadership lessons I've learned over the years is that there’s so much power in being able to listen to a group of people who feel they face a lot of challenges and a lack of alignment, and then actually play back to them all the areas where they actually have common ground. Then you can say, “now we know this about ourselves, we can build a future together.”

MG: I'm curious to hear, as a leader, when you’re interviewing individuals for a role on your team, and you’re thinking about building that shared vision for the future together, what values or characteristics do you look for?

AP: I look for people who demonstrate a propensity for ongoing learning. Because we live in such a fast-paced world, the importance of this is only increasing. It’s unrealistic to think that I can rest on the body of knowledge that I already have, or to rely on my past experiences and kind of say “that's going to bring me success.” If I think about purpose and being focused and centered on a mission, that requires people to be constantly adapting and reflecting on stakeholder feedback. I look for people who are not waiting for somebody else but who have a thirst for knowledge and understanding of whether the experiences of all our stakeholders reflect the values of the organization. So, they go out to gather that insight, and then they think about that in terms of the systems, processes and practices of the organization – and then after all that they feel empowered to make adjustments to how the work is done.

MG: What steps do you take to continuously evolve and improve as a purpose-driven leader in the ever-changing sports landscape? For example, nowadays I know that ensuring Safe Sport is an important conversation that the industry is having. Can you share how you try and address issues like this at GymCan?

AP: With the challenges we face in the world, a lot of these are complex matters where you need a lot of context and understanding of organizational culture. I think about these challenges in a multifaceted way. Earlier, I alluded to being naturally curious, but also being attuned to my own lack of knowledge and understanding. So, as a leader, I must hold up the mirror and understand that if I am going to lead on an issue, I need to know what understanding I do and don’t have and how I better equip myself to lead. If I can get more specific to the sport landscape, I can apply this to the issue of Safe Sport. I've led in this area outside of sport. So, when I started this work, the first thing I did was draw on my experience from Scouts Canada. In that past role, I sought out partners who had a better understanding of these matters than I did, trying to build relationships that were meaningful and mutually beneficial. At Scouts Canada, I even partnered with some sport organizations like the Canadian Coaching Association and others to help design the Responsible Coaching Movement a number of years ago, which offered me a foundation. As I transitioned into my role at GymCan, I brought my experience in leading that type of transformation, but also the recognition that these transformations require a focus on culture. I need to help connect individual members of our community to the bigger purpose, the why behind the work. I know that sounds very basic. But in my experience, it's one of the things that has the impact to transform the work. People assume, often wrongly, that there's alignment on the why. And I can tell you there was not great alignment on why on the topic of safe sport within gymnastics, let alone within the sport community. That's the most critical part of this early work; to help people deconstruct and understand that we have a shared vision for a future that's not only free from maltreatment and abuse, but also includes an environment that’s positive, nurturing, and inclusive.

MG: My final question to you Andrew is a bit of a fun one. You’re obviously a busy guy but tell me what you do outside of work to relax and recharge so that you’re able to show up as the best possible version of yourself for the organization and the people you lead.

AP: You’re right, we're all busy people. To be completely transparent, I'm sure this is something that many leaders struggle with, myself included. How do you make sure that you're leaving space for yourself, your loved ones and the people that matter most to you? One of the things that's always been a part of my life is volunteerism. I’m a lifelong volunteer. So, it's exciting for me to have moved out of the professional sphere at Scouts Canada and come back to being a volunteer. My wife and I do that together and it's something that's both very fulfilling but also value-adding for the community. I sit on the Board of a social housing corporation; housing is an issue that's important to me. These activities help me both personally and professionally, but I don't see them as one-sided. They help keep me grounded in what matters. Most of the things that I get myself involved with personally have a human element. When I understand the struggles and joys of people, I can bring that empathetic human lens to my professional work. Now, on a very personal level, I love to travel and I love the outdoors. In October I was in Nepal and we went hiking for 10 days. There’s a real positive benefit to being outdoors and being in nature; it is where I am most calm and stress-free. It's also where I do some of my best thinking.