HPC’s Head of Research, Justin Kinnear attended ATD24’s third and final keynote, delivered by Venus Williams, who took to the stage for the final hour of ATD24.


As the winner of seven tennis grand slam titles and four Olympic gold medals, she is one of the greatest tennis players of all time and is still playing tennis at the top level. She is also known for her advocacy work, fighting for equal prize money for male and female players. She won that fight in 2007 when Wimbledon and the French Open announced they would award equal prize money to all competitors in all rounds. Venus is no stranger to the world of business, as CEO to her own interior design firm in Florida. She has also launched her own fashion line, owns a share of the Miami Dolphins NFL team, and in 2010 released her first book.


MC Holly Ralston sat down with Venus and asked her to reflect on her career and share some key lessons with the ATD delegates. Venus began by discussing how she has never wasted time over her career looking back. “My dad used to say, unless you have a time machine why go back? Just go forward.”


In her view, having a winning mindset is determined by how you frame things. If you dwell on losses or setbacks and beat yourself up, you’ll end up mired in negative self-talk and won’t progress. In Venus’ view a loss is “just a moment in time”. She sees losses as opportunities because “now you found out what not to do” in a similar situation in the future. She also admitted that sometimes she did lack belief but moved forward by asking herself “what would I do if I wasn’t afraid?” adding that sometimes all you have is to project confidence and self-belief on the outside even when it’s not so solid on the inside.


Venus explained that in the mind of the elite performer there is nothing better than crushing your competition. However, you’re not going to feel great every time you compete. Venus shared how she prepared, played, and recovered by following a well-worn process. When times were hard the simple act of sticking to the process helped her to stay on track and get through challenging moments and disappointing results.


Venus also spoke about the expectations and standards that elite performers set for themselves. “You can’t allow your expectations to be low. If you get used to losing that’s a red flag”. Old-fashioned goal setting was a big part of how Venus set expectations from the start of her career, coupled with visualisation. She recalled walking the empty centre court at Wimbledon and soaking up the atmosphere and picturing herself winning in the fabled arena. Preparation was always key, echoing sentiments shared by Matthew McConaughey and Dan Pink, noting how solid preparation eases the pain of losing because you know you did all you could.


Venus spoke about stepping up in a moment of opportunity, because if you don’t step up someone else will. She spoke about going for it but “going for it smart”, taking an intelligent risk because the opportunity might not come again.


Venus shared how she doesn’t take criticism to heart, and tends not to read social media or news articles. She prefers to take time out to reflect on her performance and how she can improve. She noted the importance of coaches in her career, and how the person responsible for coaxing performance out of the performer can make or break the performer’s results and career. Echoing sentiments from Dan Pink, Venus spoke of her desire to not have regrets, and how she intends to use the potential she possesses to keep regrets at bay.


The final part of the conversation explored recovery – Venus has a daily recovery moment which is on her to-do list, leadership – Venus believes “leaders need to be someone worth following”, and building a team. Venus has built her team with people who love the work, and people who take everything in their stride. There will be stress and challenges but people who work through it don’t get stuck in it because it will all be forgotten in a few weeks from now.


Asked by Holly for a single takeaway reflection, Venus offered “stay positive, and love your life” quoting one of her favourite bands, 311.



Justin Kinnear – HPC


Justin is Head of Research at HPC and is at the forefront of creating blended content that is relevant, impactful and in line with the current needs of individuals and teams. Justin undertakes external research and analysis for leading L&D bodies and works in collaboration with our clients to evaluate the impact of HPC’s solutions within their organisations.


His passion for people development and his ability to inspire makes him a key member of HPC’s facilitation and coaching teams. His work with HPC focuses on the development of a high performance culture for our clients with a particular emphasis on accountability and feedback.


As well as his extensive research and facilitation experience, he was formerly Head of L&D at IBM and Britvic.



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