LeaderLab: How to create success from within with Tennis Canada CEO Michael Downey

Michael Downey, President and CEO of Tennis Canada, shares his thoughts on managing the company’s transformation from event host to a leading model for developing top talent.  

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In this episode

Michael Downey discusses:  

  • The culture change he felt was needed at Tennis Canada (02:00) 
  • What he did to create change (02:54) 
  • The importance of having people at the top who support your vision (04:03) 
  • How he managed push back from those in the industry who weren’t on board with this plan to bring in external talent (05:12
  • Key lessons learned (07:52) 
  • How his vision for the organization developed over time (09:09) 
  • His approach to creating the right strategy and culture (14:34) 
  •  The importance of continuing to push for growth (17:36) 
  • Advice for other companies looking to shift their strategy (20:55)
  • His favourite emoji (25:10) 

Michael’s advice for leaders:  

  • Look at the problem from every angle (02:54) 
  • Know where your resources are and make the most of them (07:52) 
  • Be nimble (09:46) 
  • Get outside help if needed and keep your board on board (21:18) 
  • Let your passion show (22:21) 

More about Michael Downey:  

Michael Downey has been the President and CEO of Tennis Canada since 2004, with a brief break between 2013 and 2017, when the left to head up the British Lawn Tennis Association.  During his tenure at Tennis Canada he set out to transform the organization from one known for hosting tournaments to leader in talent development and high performance. He’s credited with changing the company’s culture and prompting its board of directors to invest in new talent. His work helped develop tennis stars such as Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard, whose performances on the world stage raised the profile of Tennis Canada to unprecedented levels. In 2013, he was recruited to oversee British Tennis, where he led the development of a new strategic plan focussed on reversing a decade long decline in grassroots participation.  

He was previously the president of the Ontario-Western Canada region at Molson Breweries and held senior executive positions with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors. He also served as President of Skydome and Molson Sports and Entertainment. Downey lives in Toronto with his wife Jinder and has three children, Schara, Mackenzie and Sam. 

Links to additional resources: 

http://www.tenniscanada.com  

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/tennis/article-rising-stars-boost-interest-in-tennis-in-canada-but-lack-of-winter/  

Memorable quote:  

“It’s about focus, doing your best practices, and developing the strategies – and then basically sticking to the approach because it may not be easy out of the gate.”  

About TILTCO, Inc.

TILTCO is a boutique consulting company that helps leaders define and execute their strategies in order to achieve extraordinary business and personal results. Founded by Tineke Keesmaat, who has over 20 years of leadership consulting experience with McKinsey & Company, Accenture and now TILTCO Inc. To find out more go to www.tiltco.ca.

Full Episode Transcript:  

TINEKE KEESMAAT: Denis, Eugenie, Milos, and now Bianca – this organization has a bold strategy to produce exceptional results. Listen in to find out more.   

NARRATOR: Welcome to Leader Lab, where we talk to experts about how leaders can excel in a modern world. Helping leaders for over 20 years, your host, Tineke Keesmaat.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: I'm here today with Michael Downey, the CEO of Tennis Canada. Michael is known as a change agent who makes things happen. He's produced results Labatt’s, Molson, MLSE, and in British Tennis, but of course, his most recent results at Tennis Canada is what has most people talking.   

We have him here today to learn about the formula of success and how to make big changes within an organization. Michael has a business degree from the Ivey School of Business and readily admits, although passionate about the sport, he's not a tennis player. Welcome to the Leader Lab, Michael.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Glad to be here.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: Awesome. So you have an amazing background at creating awesome change in organizations. Tell me a bit about that and how you landed at Tennis Canada.  

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Well, I think I'm just not a good maintenance manager, and so I like change. And I've just tended to look for opportunities or be hired to run opportunities that are looking for change, and that's really how I got into Tennis Canada. Tennis Canada, back in 2004, was probably known for putting on two phenomenal tennis tournaments called the Rogers Cup.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: Right.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: But it's an organization that really hadn't made a dent in growing the game at all levels, both at grassroots and high performance. So the board wanted a non-tennis person. I had a sports marketing background and a general manager background and a marketing background. They want me to apply all of that, but I had no backhand.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: Well, even without the backhand, you've had tremendous success. There's been a huge shift in the organization in the last few years. Can you tell me a little bit about what you did when you first came to the organization and how you thought about rebooting it?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Well, I think it needed culture change. No disrespect to the organization at the time and the staff that there were the time. But I think it was an organization that hadn't changed much, and there wasn't what I would call a business approach.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: Right.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: It was-- and I don't mean to be disrespectful to non-for-profits-- but it was a traditional non-for-profit. We'll just try hard. If we don't get the results, we'll get a new budget next year, and we'll try hard again, and that's foreign to me. So it was all about we need to actually make a difference here, and so the first thing we wanted to do was pay off our debt faster.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: Right.  

MICHAEL DOWNEY: On the Aviva Centre, but the other thing was invest in high performance. Because we knew high performance tennis was going to be the change agent to actually change the degree of growth that the sport was having from grassroots to the highest level.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: And what did that mean for you? Define what high performance sport was and then what needed to be in place to make that successful.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Well, we needed to go out and learn what the best countries were doing and staff had already done a fair bit of work in that space before I arrived. So credit needs to go to them to have the foresight to say, let's go look at what France is doing, the Americans are doing, the Aussies, the Brits, and other countries that historically have been successful in high performance tennis. And that really said, look, we needed to get more serious. It was about probably looking at a national tennis center which we had never had before.  

And at that point in time, it was about getting the board onside, because this was a pretty significant move for the organization. And it was also raising the funds, because you can't start a national training center and actually not have the funding on an ongoing basis, because we knew it would probably be some lean years out of the gate. It wouldn't necessarily generate money. It's more about the investment to grow the sport at the highest level.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: That's awesome. So I'm hearing not only a culture change, but really it was about having a very clear strategy for the organization.  

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Absolutely. It was really about focus, because I think the organization had a history of doing a lot of things average, and this was more about let's make a dent in here and let's really have focus. And we benefited from the fact, in my first tenure here at Tennis Canada, that we had chair of the boards that all saw the same vision, and they stuck with it. So it went from a labor lawyer from Jack Graham, who was my first chair, to Tony [? Ames, ?] who was the CEO-- had been the CEO of Coca-Cola Canada, to Roger Martin who was head of the Rotman School and a consultant, and it carried through, and that was a big part of the success.   

Because sometimes when you get into federations of tennis, you get change at the chair level, they want to make their mark. I'm only the chair for three years. How do I change things? And in this case, all three of these leaders actually said, no, we're going to stick the course and actually passed the baton with me as a CEO.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: That's great. So a bit of just here's the vision, and now we're staying with it for the duration, until we actually achieve the goals. It sounds like it was a pretty big shift for the organization, so from a culture perspective of good at lots of things but not great at any one thing. How did the organization respond, and what did you do to get the organization on board with this big, bold vision?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Well, it probably wasn't as hard as I maybe thought it would be, and the reason I say that is I think there was frustration in the organization. There was frustration on the commercial side, that they were putting on these two great tennis tournaments that made a fair bit of money, and quite frankly, they thought the money was just being wasted in tennis development. So we go earn it, and you waste it, and let's start all over again the next day. So I think the commercial side was onside that we needed to really have a delta change here.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: Great.  

MICHAEL DOWNEY: And I think from a tennis development side, they appreciated a new leader that said, like, we're going to drive-through brick walls to get this done, and that's what I did coming in, to say we're going to get this done. And I think the first big move, other than actually getting approval to do it, was to actually say, we need to go out and get people in the industry that have actually done this before, and that made us go outside of Canada. And so we went out and got some international leaders and convinced them to come to Canada on a full-time and part-time basis. And that was new for the organization, because it had a history of always having Canadian coaches.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: And how did people respond to that?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Internally, it was fine, because we hired what I would call really breakthrough people. We hired a guy named Louis Borfiga who was from the French Tennis Federation. He had run their national training center for years and had helped develop a lot of marquee players, Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon and others. And we hired probably one of the best coaches in the world, a guy named Bob Brett, an Aussie who lived in Monaco, and Bob had coach Boris Becker and Goran and others. So we actually at that time said, we went out for one, and we came back for two.   

Now, to answer your question, we took some flak from the external world in Canada, because a lot of the external coaches said, aren't we good enough? Why did you have to go across the pond to find this kind of talent? And our argument was, look, we wanted to find people who had actually been to the promise land, knew what it felt like, knew what it took. And no disrespect to the Canadian coaches, but they hadn't done that.   

They may not have had a chance to do it, but we weren't going to necessarily say that was the right way. We wanted to go get experience here, because we wanted the experience to drive our organization. But we also wanted to change culture in high performance as well and bring a real winning attitude that these two gentlemen brought from both France and Australia.  

TINEKE KEESMAAT: That's amazing. So I'm hearing big, bold vision, getting people on board, making some big, bold moves, such as going outside to get talent to help lead. Other lessons that you learned along the way of making this happen for Tennis Canada?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Well, I think the other side is know where your resources are, and the government of Quebec is really, really supportive of sport. And that had a lot of the reason why we decided to put the National Training Centre in Montreal. The city of Montreal and the province of Quebec were very supportive and actually gave us some financial incentives to help us start a National Training Centre there. Because we did take a little bit of flak about, why did you go to Montreal? Why didn't you put your National Training Centre in Toronto?   

But we said, for two reasons we went to Montreal. One, there was some government funding there, but the other side of it is we said, if we're going to be bringing the best kids from across the country. It's a great experience actually to live with a family in Montreal, with the language difference, and everything else that we actually said, we think we're actually going to help create better citizens of the country with that kind of diversity.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: That's great. That's great. So if you look back now, you set out this vision in 2004-- '14? Sorry.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: 2004, yeah.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: 2004, we are today now producing amazing athletes. Was the vision that you set out the same vision as you're executing today, or did it evolve as things went on?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: No, it has evolved, actually  

TINEKE KEESMAAT: OK. Talk to me a little bit about what those key changes were.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Well, I think we've become more flexible. I think partly because we hired a gentleman from the French Tennis Federation, Louis Borfiga, and there was a certain way that they were used to doing things in France.  

TINEKE KEESMAAT: Right.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: And it was about, when we ask you, you will come, meaning the players. And the parents would want their kid to come to the National Training Centre.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: You’re getting like 12-year-old, 13-year-old kids coming?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Absolutely. A little older than that probably more 14 and 15, but the fundamental difference is Canada, geography-wise, is a lot bigger than France.  

TINEKE KEESMAAT: Right.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: So you can have a national training center in Paris, and you can get to that center from just about anywhere in the same day. You can't do that in Canada, and we also didn't have what I would call a high performance tennis culture here, like you have in France. So people didn't just say, I'll come, when you ask them.   

So I think we needed to become more flexible over time to say, look, we want you to come, but if you don't, there may be some support in a different way. Because there isn't-- one thing we've there isn't one way of developing a player. A national training program is one way, but it can be done outside the marketplace with independent coaches.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: Do you have an example of what that looked like, where you allowed this flexibility?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Well, I would look at there's probably three that are quite different. Milos Raonic went when he was 17 years of age. He went to the National Training Centre in the first year of it.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: OK.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: He moved from Toronto to Montreal. I do find that was an interesting example, because his parents actually were really, really picky of the family that he was going to live with. They wanted a professional family, because they were both engineers. So they wanted the same type of environment for their son, and then we eventually moved him to Spain, after a couple of years. Because we thought he was ready to be immersed in more of a tennis culture, because we didn't have the breadth of talent in Montreal at the NTC. That's one example.   

A different example is Bianca Andreescu, who we didn't move to Montreal, but she stayed in our regional program in Toronto, but she did camps in Montreal. And what we did is we built a team around her, when she was 14 or 15, in Toronto, at the Toronto center, so again, a different approach. And the third would be Denis.   

So Denis, who's now the top Canadian at 15 in the world, he was largely developed by his mother, Tessa, and didn't go to Montreal and was trained independent. He was inspired by the Miloses and the [? Genies ?] that went through the National Training Centre, but it was an independent route. So I think one of things we've needed to convince both internally and externally is, while we believe in the national program, it's not the only way to develop top talent.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: That's great. You've mentioned a couple times the need for a performance culture. In your mind, like how would you describe that to people? What does a performance culture look like?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Well, with Louis Borfiga, he would talk about humble confidence. So he wants the players to be confident in their abilities but humble and kind of a Canadian way. And he thinks that's part of the success is under promise, over deliver type of approach.  

But I think the culture has changed, because we had a winning tournament culture here, with the Rogers Cups, because they're so well regarded. I don't think we had a winning culture in high performance, and it took external leaders to come in and change that. And I think it went from, Louis used to say, when he arrived in 2006, Canadians just want to get to the top 100.  

Now, if you look at this next generation, they just look at the top 100 as they're like passing through a green light and moving onto the next stage. Like they want to be top 10. They want to be number one, and these kids actually believe they're capable of getting there. I think, if we go back 15 years ago, Canadians really thought, if they made the top 100, they've actually achieved a phenomenal achievement. And I think now people would say, I've actually failed if I only get to 95 in the world.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: What have you done to really instill that belief and confidence in your athletes?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Well, I think a lot of it, in Montreal, in the National Training Centre, it's more of what I hear, because I'm not there day in and day out. But they immerse these kids in what we call a professional tennis environment, because it is very taxing. So these kids may show up when they're 15, 16 years of age.   

They're practicing every day. They're doing fitness every day. They're learning the ins and outs of professional tennis, that they wouldn't get in individual coaching across the country, because we were putting them all together with coaches that understand professional tennis.  

So it's more you're immersing in this, and I think that was a big win for Milos, when he went to Montreal. Because it was shocking to him, that I'm thinking tennis all the time, all the time. Other than when I go home to my boarded family, I'm coming back, and I'm thinking tennis. And even when I'm undoing schooling in Montreal, we actually had a classroom there, and they're doing it all through correspondence, but they're with other kids in tennis.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: So it's about having the talent around them that knows how to coach them but then also the camaraderie of folks that speak the same language and are pushing each other.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: The friendship's there, but the competition's there too, and that's good. Like we like to use a term pack mentality. Like I think Bianca, Denis, and Felix are benefiting from pack mentality, where Milos and Genie were more on their own.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: And you were in the private sector for a number of years as well. Any thoughts about how you would take that performance mentality into the more traditional business context? Do you think it applies, or what would you encourage other business leaders to do?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Well, it does apply, but I think it's about focus and doing your best practices and developing the strategies. And then basically sticking to the approach, actually, because it may not be easy out of the gate. I think that's the biggest thing that Tennis Canada did is we stuck with it.   

And we were a little lucky, but you create your luck. Because we actually had the system, and we had the willpower. And the fact that Milos got results earlier than we thought, well, but he wouldn't have got those results probably if we didn't have the National Training Centre.  

TINEKE KEESMAAT: What did you do in those moments where, I'm sure along the way, you wanted it to stick to it, but somebody had a different opinion, or it got hard? Like what did you do as a leader to have the resiliency just to stay the course?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: It wasn't too difficult, because I believed in it, the head of high performance believed it, and the board believed in it. And we also looked at it as we don't have any choice. We're not performing very well.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: Right.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: And this is our business. Like our business model is to grow tennis, and we believe that the inspiration that would be created by these kids succeeding on the world stage is the best marketing. And we've actually proven that time and time again now with Denis doing well or Milos or Genie or whoever, Bianca. They actually move the dial with inspiration on the sport and that's getting more kids picking up a racket. We have more fans. So I think part of it is we knew we were going nowhere, and we needed to really significantly change our focus.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: So you all believed in the vision, the idea, and so because you all had that alignment, it was easy to keep the course.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: A little bit, and I think we were also captivated by these two guys that we hired, because their experiences were so foreign to what we had been used to. Like Louis had been used to running a national training center where the best kids from France showed up. They worked them really hard, and they had a lot of results, and he brought that experience to Canada.   

And in the case of Bob, it was more about like customized programming for kids. And again, he had worked at such a high level with these Boris Becker to one in the world, and he wanted to bring that talent to the young kids of Canada. And I think those two guys-- and there was conflict between them. Because one was a system guy and one was an independent, but I actually think the conflict between them actually got us to a better place. They kept each other honest.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: That's awesome. So really this idea of like let's get some external fresh thinking in to challenge us, and in that becomes inspiration as well, because you're learning and growing.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: And challenge each other.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: Yeah.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Because Bob had never worked for a federation, and Louis had only worked for a federation.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: Right.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: So there was a lot of competition.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: It must have been a fun job for you.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: It was difficult at times. It was, but I think actually, like I talked about the pack mentality of players competing, there was a little of that between Bob and Louis. But I think in the end, if they were really honest with each other, they'd say, we actually got to a better place because we pushed each other.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: That's awesome. That's awesome. So looking ahead now, you've taken the organization to an amazing place. What's next for Tennis Canada? What are you focused on? What do you think the next phase of growth is?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Well, we're never going to give up on the focus on high performance, because at the end of the day, it's a never-ending search, and it's going to get tougher as countries just evolve. So you can't stay still. So our focus is clearly on investment in high performance, because it'll pay dividends down the road. And we think we've got something special, but it always needs to be tweaked.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: Right.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: You can't sit idle in that and think you've got it all fixed. Somebody is going to be ahead of you. But what we also want to do is take that inspiration that these kids are creating and turn it into more covered courts in this country. So our sport is growing, and it's been growing for years in the summer. We're known in most municipalities in Canada as a summer sport.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: Right.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: And what we want to do is turn that into a year-round sport, but this country doesn't have enough covered courts. So what we want to do is advocate for more covered courts.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: And we're sitting here on a snowy day, so very appropriate, but what does that look like for you guys? How are you thinking about getting it?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Well, I think one of it was again go out and do our research, so we understand what's available in Canada. And we are one of the worst performing countries for covered courts per capita, if you look at leading tennis nations. We have one court for every 50,000 people.   

You go to France, it's like 1 to 5,000. The Netherlands is like 1 to 10,000, and our weather is generally worse than most of Europe. So we know we've got a shortfall.  

We need to get out there and communicate that shortfall, but what we've done is we've created everything a municipality needs to know about covered courts, kind of the 101 booklet, both from capital costs, operating costs. And we just need to get out and see whether it's the mayors, where's the head of Parks and Rec, and get them onside, that they should be looking at this. Because the sport is growing, and it's about active advocacy at this point in time  

TINEKE KEESMAAT: That's great, and for people who would like to learn more about that, can they go to your website?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Yes. Go to TennisCanada.com, and there's everything they need to know. And there's a lot to know, but the win is enormous, actually. Because the one thing that tennis can provide-- and no disrespect to our friends in ice hockey or swimming-- but hockey arenas and swimming pools are loss leaders for cities. They continually need to invest in it, and they do, because they're good for the society.   

When I grew up, you always knew cities had a church, and they had a hockey arena. Well, usually that hockey arena doesn't make money. In tennis, it's different. You can take four or six outdoor courts in the summer, put a bubble over them, a temporary cover for six, seven, eight months a year, and you can actually make money on that. So you can get a return on the capital investment, and it can be an asset that the city can benefit.   

They can take that money they're making in plowed into after school programs or whatever. Or a municipality that might be risk adverse can say, I'll lease the land to a private operator who will put the bubble up and run it. So in that case, the citizens of that municipality get 12 months of tennis, but the municipality didn't need to invest. They actually pass that risk onto an operator.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: Michael, this is awesome, and I know that organizations are starting to look at Tennis Canada for examples of what to do. What would you say to organizations who are starting out on this trajectory of more focus, more strategy, staying the course? What would your advice be?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: It sounds self-serving, and I don't mean it that way. I came from outside of tennis. I'm a business person. I'm a marketer. I had sports marketing background, and I actually think being an outsider helped.   

Because I brought hopefully the prowess of running a business into a non-for-profit, but I also had probably maybe more objectivity than others that had spent their life in tennis. So I think that's one of the keys as well, because historically-- and I don't mean to be critical-- many national sports organizations hire like tennis players who have graduated into business or skiers that have graduate into business. It doesn't mean they can't be successful, but their view on life is pretty narrow, because that's been their experience.   

I think the other thing is making sure that your board is fully supportive of this, and in our world, I think we were quite lucky. Because we tend to attract a very solid board member, both people who understand tennis from the grassroots but also some great business minds. And if I look at the first 10 years of this strategy, we had chairs that really, really believed it and still do actually. And we needed their commitment, but we also needed their prowess, because there were some tough business decisions to be made. It wasn't just about tennis. It was about the business of tennis, and I think we benefited from that.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: That's great, and what about you personally as a leader? What's been your biggest takeaway or insight about what it means to lead through this process?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Especially-- and no disrespect to other jobs I had-- but the great thing about running Tennis Canada, overseeing Tennis Canada, is it allows for the passion to come out. And even though I'm not a tennis player, I have phenomenal passion for the sport and seeing us not only putting on great tournaments but seeing Milos or Bianca breaking through or, quite frankly, just seeing kids develop from 8, 9, 10, 12 years of age. And I think it's being able to unleash a lot of passion I have for it, and you end up being a bit of a Pied Piper.   

And I think I'm known here as one that says, the guy won't go out on a court. He probably doesn't feel too comfortable on a court, but there's no one more passionate about the sport. And I think the staff would say that with me they've got a very passionate leader that wants to lead us to a better place, and that's been the goal from day one here. I didn't take this as a maintenance job. It was a turnaround on the high performance side, and now we've got a convert it into more covered courts, and if we don't do that, I've failed as a leader.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: This has been phenomenal. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, and for me, what I'm taking away is this need to have a relentless focus on a strategy, stick with it. And I've been hearing lots about having the courage to get external perspectives in and to challenge thinking and to help people learn.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Absolutely, and keep tweaking. The worst thing we can do-- because we get praise from around the world now. Like what's in the water in Canada that these three kids have broken through all at the same time? We could actually probably sit back and say, we've got it right.   

We actually don't have it right. There's things we've got to do to fix what we call the pipeline. We need to do better at actually attracting, retaining, and developing kids that might be 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 years of age. And we're focused on that now, trying to study best practices of what other nations are doing in that pipeline build.   

Because you're only going to be as good as how many kids are coming through the system, and we use what we call a conversion. We say, if we've got x number of kids in the pipeline, we want a high conversion. Because we're never going to have a ton of kids in a country that's got winter weather and, quite frankly, is going to be short a covered court. So the talent that's there, we need a pretty high batting average of conversion.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: No sitting still. Always pushing to the next level. That's awesome.   

NARRATOR: And now, let's get to know our guest a little better with some rapid-fire questions.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: So now, the fun part. We have some fun questions to help our listeners get to know you better. Don't think too hard. Here we go. Ready? The craziest place in the world you've ever been?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: I lived in Jakarta, Indonesia, for three years as an expat, and it was actually during a dictatorship in the '80s, and it was like shocking for a 28-year-old Canadian.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: That's a good one. Are you a morning person or a night owl?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Morning person.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: You as a teenager in three words.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Focus on leadership.  

 TINEKE KEESMAAT: Great. Your favorite emoji.   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: Just a smile, I use it all the time.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: And the last all-important question-- how do you feel about Brussels sprouts?   

MICHAEL DOWNEY: I don't like them, but my wife loves them. She actually says I don't eat enough green things.   

TINEKE KEESMAAT: All right. Thank you so much for your time today.   

NARRATOR: Thank you for joining us today on Leader Lab. Leader Lab is powered by TILTCO, helping exceptional leaders achieve extraordinary results, and the Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School, Canada's home for learning and development. You can learn more about TILTCO and Leader Lab at tiltco.ca, and to find out more about the Ivey Academy, go to IveyAcademy.com.