From CEOs to Stick Boys - 3 Leadership Lessons Learned Through Hard Times

Updated: Apr 14


Fog breeds uncertainty. The fastest, most powerful cars in the world are slowed to the speed of a bicycle when the driver's vision is inhibited by fog and he/she can't see past the next corner. Many of us have become fogged-in by uncertainty. Our journey forward seems clouded with mist. Here's the thing about uncertainty and fog: they both slow down traffic and they both clear up eventually, but for many of us, it's never soon enough.


During this time of uncertainty, I have been checking in with leaders, clients and friends across the world. Our goal at ryanwalter.com is to support our extended team as they compete daily against this tough opponent. From vice presidents of companies in Europe, to owners of restaurants and businesses all across North America, to friends in the tourism industry locally, we are hearing some tough stories, but the hardest thing that we are hearing is that today's decisions may change tomorrow, because today's clarity can turn into tomorrow's fog.


As I talk with those responsible for shepherding their teams, I am noticing a leadership pattern. These great leaders are taking the following consistent actions:


1- Increased Communication

2- Increased Value Focus

3- Increased Coaching


Increased Communication: In a time of uncertainty or crisis, communication must be accelerated. Most of the leaders that I talked with have spent entire days on the phone communicating to their people. Increased personal communication is a proven way to build rapport and connection during these uncertain times.


As this virus keeps us separated for potentially longer periods of time, new ways to increase communication need to be discovered and employed. NHL Coach Dave King developed an interesting concept and shared it in our 4th book, Simply the Best - Insights and Strategies from great Hockey Coaches. Dave found that sometimes the message he delivered would fall flat on the NHL dressing room floor. Dave built a process that he called "carriers" to remedy this problem.


Dave examined his team to discover both the formal and informal leaders that had influence throughout the team. He then brought those people into his coach's room before he communicated with the team and asked these "carriers" about "what message needed to be delivered?" The leaders would discuss where the team was at, and what words were important at this time. Dave was always amazed at how most of the time he already had exactly the same intentions on his mind.


Dave would then walk into the dressing room and deliver his message. Dave walked out of the room knowing that if his message fell flat on the floor, his "carriers" would pick up his message and deliver it again.


Increased Value Focus: During the difficult game we are faced with right now, it's important to view the virus, and not our competitors, as our opponent. At least this is what we are seeing leaders pivot towards over the past weeks. Len Jillard, a friend of many years, and Corporate SVP & CPO IOM McDonalds, shared a story with me about how his team in Europe contacted Grocery Chains (who needed extra workers) to offer McDonalds workers. Len also told me that McDonalds was checking in with their competitors to see how they were doing.


The best value delivered always comes from personal values discovered. Another corporate friend in Alberta, who is experiencing the double punch of the virus combined with the drop in oil pricing, has asked me to consider delivering TED-like talks (online) for both his customers and competitors. His company wants to find ways to add value and encourage their business community, as they continue to live out their why.


Increased Coaching: Leaders are also discussing leveraging the current uncertainty as a way to grow their people/leadership skills. My friend Bob Hancox is an expert executive coach but also has amazing skills in the area of coaching leaders in how to coach. He recounted yesterday that he has coached a number of leaders in Hungary over this past month and they are so thankful to have developed these coaching skills before this uncertainty hit.


We are having many conversations with clients and potential clients who are thinking about how to best use this time to help their employees grow. Leaders are wanting us to coach their teams now in expectation that the teams will come out of the gate ready and refreshed when the present time of isolation recedes. Leaders are also asking questions about growth. "How do we coach our leaders during this crisis, so that they are better prepared to handle the next crisis?" These are amazing and invigorating conversations.

If you step back and take a broader look at these three areas that leaders are ramping up, another theme emerges! These leaders are focusing on "shifting" their people from uncertainty (playing in the Defensive Zone) to increasing their Offensive Zone, positive play.


During a crisis people need to hear from their leaders more often, more consistently.

During a crisis people need to see the value that leaders bring; they need to know that their leaders deeply care.


During a crisis people want to be coached towards victory and away from their fears.

Merriam-Webster's Definition of resilient:

- capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture

- tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change

Resilient people withstand, and resilient people recover. They withstand and recover by taking Short Shifts out of negativity, and drive intentionally towards the positive side of the road. Positivity aids us in hundreds of ways but during a Pandemic there is an incredibly relevant reason for all of us to increase communication, focus on value, and positivity through coaching.


Activating a FUTURE POSITIVE Focus helps boost your immune system!


Optimism doesn't just boost your mood. According to new research, a glass-half-full attitude also strengthens the immune system.


"To investigate the connection, University of Kentucky psychology professor Suzanne Segerstrom recruited 124 incoming law students and had them complete five questionnaires and immunity checks over the course of a year. The questionnaires measured students' optimism by asking how closely they identified with statements like 'I will be less successful than most of my classmates.'


To test immunity, the students had a dose of dead mumps virus or candida yeast injected under the skin of the forearm. These harmless cocktails trigger a cellular immune response, resulting in a small bump at the injection site. By measuring the bump, researchers can estimate the strength of the immune response.


As the students experienced classes, exams and internship interviews, their optimism levels rose and fell. So did their cell-mediated immunity. When optimism went up, so did the cell-mediated immune response. When optimism dropped, the immune system weakened."


Most of us will survive Covid-19's hit on our wallet but what about the virus's punch reducing our positivity, and its emotional impact on our immune system? Finding a way to win during tough games demands a focus on "what we will do" instead of on "what we can't do." And that is the clear positive path that great leaders are helping us drive towards!


Play hard,

Stay HUNGRY,

If you would like me to train/coach you or your team in these critical leadership skills, call me directly at 604.996.4446 or contact me to discuss coaching options.





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​For more coaching information, watch the short video below.






https://www.livescience.com/8158-optimism-boosts-immune-system.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1948078/ PLAY SOUND

To investigate the connection, Segerstrom recruited 124 incoming law students and had them complete five questionnaires and immunity checks over the course of a year. The questionnaires measured students' optimism by asking how closely they identified with statements like "I will be less successful than most of my classmates."


To test immunity, the students had a dose of dead mumps virus or candida yeast injected under the skin of the forearm. These harmless cocktails trigger a cellular immune response, resulting in a small bump at the injection site. By measuring the bump, researchers can estimate the strength of the immune response.


As the students experienced classes, exams and internship interviews, their optimism levels rose and fell. So did their cell-mediated immunity. When optimism went up, so did the cell-mediated immune response. When optimism dropped, the immune system weakened.






navigate this bumpy sea.


I was out on the water the other day and I was struct by the simple way that small boat operators navigate in the local waters around the gulf Islands. As the captain of the boat my first glance is out into the waters just ahead of me. Watching for debry, logs, my specific direction, etc. My second glance was towards my GPS. Once in a while I needed to look ahead, towards the big-general-picture, where I would be headed in the future. But most of the time, my eyes were on the road (covered in water) ahead.


Sounds like the times that leaders are experiencing right now. "Eyes on the road ahead!" As the boat gets moving in the desired direction (even slightly) then wee take a short glance at your GPS. The GPS is an interesting metaphor to use in these times, because for some of us leaders our GPS Maps may be changing. Coming out of this rough see, we may have a different future landscape. This adds complexity to the captain/leader's seamanship, because thee landing point for our journey may be changing.



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