Survivor’s Christine Hofbeck knows how to win

Flight Templates are templated flights, or sets of questions, written by some of the world’s preeminent business leaders. With Flight Templates, Balloon users get unparalleled access to seasoned perspectives and proven business strategies across all areas of business, including leadership, product, marketing & sales, innovation, employee experience, culture, and more. This feature is part of a series on The Insight that profiles Balloon’s Flight Template authors.

If you ask Christine Hofbeck, she will tell you she won at Survivor in a number of ways. In the spring of 2017 (and after 16 years of applying to play the game), the then-46-year-old actuary joined the CBS reality competition series’s 35th season, subtitled Heroes v. Healers v. Hustlers, competing on the Heroes team for “breaking the glass ceiling for women in business.”

Over 39 days, Hofbeck—known as Chrissy to her Survivor teammates and the friends, family, and fans watching from their couches back home—endured the remote Fijian landscape, overcame her outsider status by using astute social strategy, became only the fourth woman in the show’s history to win four individual immunity challenges, and made lifelong friends and memories. By several accounts, she returned home a winner—even though she came in second place.

“Technically I lost Survivor, but I feel like I was a winner in that game,” the MIT graduate said with a smile. “A win is not always a ‘win.’ The way I think about it, a win is just doing better than you thought you would have done, or having a better outcome than you would have had otherwise.”

A win can look different to different people, or in different contexts. At work, a win could mean being recognized or celebrated for a job well done, or getting a promotion or a job or an interview. A win could mean making a connection or knocking a presentation out of the park or submitting high-quality work before your deadline. Some days, a win could simply mean finishing your to-do list or having a pleasant conversation with a colleague. 

However a win is qualified, Hofbeck has spent the majority of her life thinking about what makes some people win, whether they are the most qualified or not. Over the years, she analyzed her experiences in school, at work, and on Survivor, and she quickly began to understand the concepts she now refers to as “winning conditions.”

“What are winning conditions? I thought about it very deeply for a long time,” Hofbeck said. “I realized it is a universal truth that there are conditions you can set up that can enable you to win.”

Once she returned home from Survivor, with hordes of fans in tow lamenting that Chrissy had been robbed of her rightful win, Hofbeck knew she needed to share her secret to success with the world. In September 2020, she published Winning Conditions: How to Achieve the Professional Success You Deserve by Managing the Details That Matter, and now, the best lessons from her book have been transformed into action in the three-part flight template series, Creating Winning Conditions.

  • Begin with Winning Conditions
  • Build and Learn From Past Successes and Failures
  • Optimize Client Communications

Although she began writing the book long before the pandemic, Hofbeck says understanding how to create winning conditions is more important than ever as we enter this new era of work.

“Now that, all of a sudden, we're remote, you don't see everyone every day. You don't walk down the hall and see your colleagues. It is harder to build relationships,” she explained. “So setting up winning conditions, like staying visible, continuing to share your value, continuing to build your networks, showing that social proof, is critical.”

Hofbeck also says that, while every individual can set up winning conditions for themselves, leaders in collaborative environments can drive success for their entire team by setting up a winning culture through validation of their employees, recognizing the context of any given situation, and starting the right conversations with the right people (hence, her flight template series).

Since her book’s release, Hofbeck has received rave reviews and endless gratitude from her readers. Some people, however, wonder why she shared what seems like precious wisdom in a world where that often feels like a zero-sum game. But Hofbeck rejects that idea; if she learned anything on Survivor, it is that there can be multiple winners, even when only one person walks away with the top prize.

“I enjoy seeing people succeed,” Hofbeck said. “I just love seeing people live up to their full potential and feel like winners. And the truth is, for people who are working really hard and being really awesome, they deserve to win.”

Check out Christine Hofbeck's Flight Template Series

Actuary, speaker, author