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The Power of Moving Forward: Megan Rapinoe Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way

I was invited to attend the online live Momentive (formerly SurveyMonkey) 2022 Brand and Insights Fast Forward Summit that focused on brand, market, and customer insights as businesses move forward with a focus on creativity and adaptability. The summit opened with Momentive CEO Zander Lurie interviewing professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe. Rapinoe is not only a two-time World Cup Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist for the US Women’s National Team (USWNT), but she is a formidable advocate for equal pay in women sports, an author on what authentic inclusion looks like, and an unwavering spokesperson for race, gender, and justice equity. She also walks the walk in my own community as number 15, playing forward for OL Reign. As an executive leadership and creative/growth coach, I was interested in Rapinoe’s perspectives both on and off the field. I was looking for insights on the power of moving forward from someone who has been often called one of the most “creative” players in US soccer history (and yes, across all genders). And I wasn’t disappointed.

The popularity of US Women’s soccer is often credited with culminating events such as the World Cup and the Olympic Games, but Rapinoe credited the team’s culture and authenticity for that popularity, attributes that long predated those global moments by years and in relative obscurity. According to Rapinoe, being able to create culture without millions of people watching was both a gift and a curse. “We were/are able to be ourselves . . . it allows people (on the team) to be themselves, and the fans connect to that.” And yet, a fun and inclusive culture doesn’t substitute for earning equitable compensation. Known as a data nerd, Rapinoe broke down the sequencing of popularity, authenticity, and culture much the way you would break down a creative field play.

  1. Authenticity comes first (long before popularity). “Allow people to be their full selves, teams come down to individuals executing.”

  2. Be ready. “As a team, we made sure we were ready for popularity. We knew our global stage would be a moment to exhibit our culture and our identity. Every single person on the team is vital and allowed to do what they do best. From that comes individual accountability.”

  3. Invite people in. “We welcomed everyone to come into US Women’s Soccer. We kept it fun and active. We connected to each other and our fans by being the best, and then being better.”

  4. Engineer to win. “We couldn’t compete if we didn’t win. We were engineered to win. We understood that our time to shine is when the lights are on.”

Off the field, Megan Rapinoe has been the leading spokesperson for the players of USWNT and their successful $24 million settlement with the US Soccer Federation for equal pay. She talked about how the conversation on equitable pay in her sport had a long history of excuses and opinions that were akin to “poison in the water,” an ancient war tactic used to weaken your opponent’s strength. Much of the success for the equal pay settlement was based on refocusing from opinion to data points and facts. The facts were irrefutable, and the fans were on the players’ side. In my field of executive coaching that often is referred to as a “no place to hide” moment. It’s at that moment when the high voltage/high impact insights happen. In the case of USWNT, Rapinoe demonstrated that the case was engineered to win, “Every data point is known and that is why we won the legal suit.” The success stemmed from what you might call “In spite of” framing where you begin your argument as follows: In spite of (insert the fact), (describe current outcome). Here are a few examples:

  • “In spite of the USWNT having 4 World Cup Wins compared to 0 by the US Men’s National Team (USMNT), USWNT players are paid less.”

  • “In spite of earning more than $900,000 more revenue than USMNT over the same time period, USWNT players are paid less.”

  • “In spite of USWNT having a fan base and social media following that is much greater than the USMNT, USWNT players don’t have the same media and sponsorship opportunities or compensation.”

CEO Lurie asked Rapinoe about her definition of conviction, something that visibly resonates through both her leadership style and in the way she plays on the field. Rapinoe took a breath and shrugged her shoulders, as she processed the question,

“I don’t know where it comes from, it’s always been there. . . At the end of the day if I’m OK with it, if I can sleep at night, if I believe in the stand or what I’m saying, that’s enough.”

For me, moving forward isn’t about being a great coach, or a great team, or a great anything. Moving forward relies on conviction. And what is conviction? Conviction is something you know, you feel. You don’t adopt it and you aren’t given it. But when you find it, it is yours. You become curious and disciplined. You study it and become a voracious student, an informed advocate, and in Rapinoe’s case a creative player. And that's something that resonates both on and off the soccer field.

Break the Tape Leadership helps people and organizations with conviction move forward and achieve their goals. How? With creativity, strategy, and insight.


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