How to be a better leader during a crisis.

It’s 2020, and we are all taking a crash course on crisis management, whether we want to or not. This is a crazy time. But life is full of crazy times. And when the crazy times come they create opportunities for leaders to step up and lead their people through the experience. So as Prince once said, let’s go crazy.

The Crisis Question

The great question that we all have to ask ourselves when we face a crisis is: What role will I play?

There are always many roles available to us. We can be The Complainer, The Blamer, The Eye-Roller. The Conspiracy Theorist, Negative Nancy, Debbie Downer, or RBF. These are easy roles to take on. But they add no value to others.

However, there are also these roles:

  • The Optimist
  • The Cheerleader
  • The Rock (the Dwayne Johnson role)
  • The Person of Few Words.
  • The Sage
  • The Jester
  • The Father Figure (George Michael called dibs on this)
  • The Mother Figure.
  • The Big Brother or Sister (Not the CBS version)
  • The Listener
  • The Stabilizer
  • The Rebel (Billy Idol and James Dean role)

These can all be valuable leadership roles that help your organization, team or family through challenging times.

When to Choose Your Role

The best time is to decide which role you will take on is before a crisis occurs. It’s good to think about which of these roles work with your natural tendencies and personality. It’s also good to understand which roles your team, group or organization already have covered, and what is available to you. Just like in Dungeons & Dragons.

Consistency

Once you pick your role, never waiver. I have spent my career building brands for some of the world’s best companies. And the most important factor in developing a strong brand is consistency.

So as you develop your strong crisis leadership brand always be who your team needs you to be.  Don’t be the optimist some days and the complainer other days. That spoils everything.

De-escalation*

In a crisis, emotions naturally escalate. Which simply exacerbates the problem. That’s why there is tremendous value in those who can help decrease the pressure in a situation. Always focus on making things better. Not worse. Others will recognize that, and seek you out in challenging times.

*This is not the down escalator.

Conflict Resolution.

My wife and I recently celebrated our 18-year wedding anniversary. I attribute much of our successful marriage to the fact that we resolve our conflicts quickly. We recently both agreed that in the 20 years we have been together as a couple, including 2 years pre-ring-wearing) the longest we have been in conflict with each other is 24 hours. We swear by the following conflict resolution formula to help get through our sticking points. (I also swear when I am not by the following conflict resolution formula.)

The Sure-Fire Formula

  1. The first person speaks without interruption.
  2. The second person plays back what they heard.
  3. The second person speaks without interruption
  4. The first person plays back what they heard.

Why this works:

  1. You both get to say everything you want to say.
  2. You both feel heard.

Try this the next time you have a conflict with another person. If it doesn’t work I’ll refund the money you spent on this blog post.

Leadership Is Lonely.

As a leader and an entrepreneur, I can’t show indecision or weakness to my team. They have put their trust in me, and I can’t waiver in front of them. Instead, organizational leaders need to find their own support group. This consists of a person or people outside your organization, team or family who you can share your challenges with.

I am part of a CEO roundtable that meets once a month to discuss the challenges we are facing, support each other and offer advice and guidance. It has proven to be a highly effective way of supporting leaders who don’t have a natural support structure within their own organization. And research on roundtables groups has indicated that any shaped table will do.

I have also created a meetup group of men who live in my community. All of them are either successful entrepreneurs or top leadership within their businesses. They are all husbands and fathers. We talk about issues that dudes don’t typically talk about. In this environment we can discuss the real challenges we face, the uncertainty we feel and share thoughts on how to be better businessmen, family men and members of our community.

Taking Care Of Yourself In Crisis.

There are stresses, frustrations and losses that accumulate every day. We are drained by daily setbacks. And 2020 has taken things to 11. So we have to prevent the stress gunk from building up and fouling our systems. The key is to figure out how to reboot, regenerate, and respond positively. 

The following 3 activities provide a proven formula for positively dealing with stress.

  1. Sleep helps your body and mind refresh and recover.
  2. Exercise helps you burn the stress off.
  3. Worship helps you rebalance and offers big-picture perspective.

You need to get rid of the stress gunk that builds up like WD-40. These back-to-basics keys help you find your balance again when you start to weeble or wobble. Try them for yourself. They will make you feel like a better human.

Key Takeaway

  1. Crisis is unavoidable.
  2. Crisis creates opportunity (Remember, chaos is a ladder).
  3. Find your most valuable role and play it consistently.
  4. Learn to de-escalate.
  5. Use the 4-Step approach to conflict resolution.
  6. Leaders need to find their own support system.
  7. Decrease your stress through, exercise, sleep and your own spirituality.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

The best way to develop stronger relationships.

I recently watched the movie Green Book. The film is about a blue collar caucasian who who becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour through the 1960s American South. You know, the typical Hollywood formula… I enjoyed the movie and recommend it. But the highlight for me was a great quote from Viggo Mortensen’s character that jumped off the screen and sucker punched me in the earhole:

‘The world is full of lonely people afraid to make the first move.’ – Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga,  Green Book

GreenBook

Make The First Move

On a planet of 7.5 billion digitally connected people, none of us should feel lonely. Yet we often do. Most people wish they had more, deeper or more fulfilling personal and professional connections. But we fail to recognize that the easiest way to make this happen is to make the first move.

Make Contact

If you want more or better professional contacts be the one that makes contact. You are the one that should make the first phone call, send the first text, or write the first email. It’s that simple.

Connect

If you want to reconnect with your high school friends, cousins or former co-workers from that place where everyone bonded over the stupid boss, you should do the connecting. Your mobile phone offers at least a dozen ways to make this happen. If you are not weird, and there is no guarantee that you are not, chances are very good that others will be happy to reconnect with you too.

8 Easy Ways To Create New Connections Or Reconnect Old Ones:

  1. Coffee/Chocolate Milk Meetings  You don’t have to drink coffee. I don’t. Heck, you can eat caramels or enjoy them apples. It’s all arbitrary. #namethatfilm
  2. Afterwork Happy Hours  My friend Susan Stearns’ Happy Hour game is super strong. She gets a group of former co-workers together a few times a year. Thanks SS!

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    Bar time in Madison at State Street Brats with Badger track guys.
  3. Book Clubs  My friends Betty Garrot and Stacy Sollenberger are both half bookworm, and are in 3 book clubs right now. It’s a great way to facilitate social interactions and improve your bookmarking skills.
  4. Dinner Parties  This is a great way to jumpstart or turbocharge personal relationships. My neighbors Yassir and Ghada are excellent at this.

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    Ghada (front left) and Yassir (back middle) are great at getting people together.
  5. Video Conference Meetups  I created a monthly video meetup with my college track teammates. It’s now a highlight of my month. On Wisconsin!

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    A scene from one of my monthly online track team meetups.
  6. Group Texts  Several of my high school classmates and I have a group text that regularly flares up with jokes. Like it did this week when our classmate Dan Richards was interviewed on NPR. Thanks to Marcus Chioffi for starting that one!
  7. Meeting At A Restaurant or Bar. In a 2-day span this week in Atlanta I met with 10 different people at restaurants: Stephanie Herbst-Lucke, Diana Keough, Theresa and Jabari Pride, Harper Cornell, Nicola Smith, Scott Jenkins, Heather Hudgins, Kim Hoey and Mark O’Brien. I am pretty good at this game. And lucky that people agree to meet me.

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    This week Scott Jenkins and I made last minute lunch plans across the street from his tiny little Atlanta office (in the background).
  8. Go for a hike or ride. This is a healthy way to multi task. The opposite of #7.

The Golden Age For Human Connections

Never in history have people lived so close together, had such phenomenal resources to facilitate interactions, yet felt so isolated. This is bullshit. And it’s all because most people are longing for someone else to make the first move.

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These things are like magic wands for facilitating human connections.

Don’t wait for anyone. Be the initiator. Create an alumni group that consists of people from a school, employer, program or organization you enjoyed. Invite people to be part of the group and watch how positively they respond.

Form a group around shared interests. Develop a professional organization of people who do what you do. Be the spark. Be the glue. Heck, be the who dang craft closet that brings the project to life, and see what happens next.

Phone A Friend Friday

I have long considered Fridays, Phone-A-Friend Fridays. So every Friday I contact someone I haven’t talked to in a long time. You can this too. You are sure to surprise and delight someone. All while reducing global loneliness levels.

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My friend Amy Meadows was one of my first Phone A Friend Friday calls.

Key Takeaway

There is nothing more important to your personal and professional happiness than meaningful connections with other humans. Don’t be afraid to make the first call, text or send the first smoke signal. Start today. Because we all get ahead when we get together.

*Please don’t just read this. Do something about it. You can start by sending someone this blog post as an icebreaker. If you send it to me, you will make me laugh, and cause my ice to break.

Why baby steps are the key to big progress.

I bet you have good ideas all the time. Ideas about inventions you should create, businesses you should start, books you should write, and funny comebacks you should have said (#TheJerkStoreCalled).

We all dream of writing a best seller and starting the next cover-of-Forbes business. Unfortunately, for most people, these are never more than dreams. Because most people have no idea how easy it is to make their dreams a reality.

Baby Steps

There is one simple element that changes dreamers into doers. It’s action. To make a dream come true you simply need to step towards it. You don’t need a giant Giannis Antetokounmpo or Stretch Armstrong-size step. Any baby step will do.

Launching My Business

When I really wanted to start my own advertising agency I started taking little actions that moved the idea forward. First, I bought and read books about starting and running a business. I followed the advice in the books, and actually wrote down my plans. Then I started following the plans. I met with entrepreneurs and harvested their insights and advice.

None of it was hard. Within months I had started a business in my spare time that would support my family. All because I kept taking baby steps.

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Not only is this a baby about to take her next step, it may be the cutest picture that has ever appeared in my blog. Credits go to Angeliz Olivares on Pexels.com

More Baby Steps

Over the past 2 weeks I have taken small but meaningful steps forward on several new projects:

  1. I have created a growing monthly meet up with my college track and field teammates that I think could have a major impact on many lives.
  2. I started writing a script for a live show that I think could become a template for live entertainment shows in every city in the world.
  3. I have taken steps forward to create a new food brand, because I recognized a wide open opportunity that no one else was grabbing.
  4. I contacted a publication and told them I was interested in writing a regular segment for them. I now have a meeting with the publishers in 4 days.
  5. I have started writing 2 different books.
  6. I have been actively studying real estate investing. Not just thinking about it.
  7. I have been sketching out new t-shirts I want to create.

What Happens Next

I am thrilled to have started all of these projects. But they are not reality, yet. They all require more action. In fact, none of the 8 things I started can or will move forward without me. So the baby steps have to continue. But if I keep moving I will have a new line of t-shirts to wear and sell, a food brand you could find at grocery stores, a real estate business, 2 new books, a regular meet up group format that could be repeated around the world, a regular column in a publication and a crazy live show you would pay money to see (even though everyone wears clothes).

Key Takeaway

Action is everything. It is the different between dreams that come true and those that vanish into the ether. Talk is cheap. Action is magic. If you just keep taking baby steps, before you know it, you will have completed a marathon of progress. So, when you get an inkling that you should create or do something, take a baby steps towards it. It’s how I created my advertising and idea agency. And it is how I’ll be able to bring all the other ideas to life too.

If you found value in this post you would also enjoy, The most important ingredient to entrepreneurial success.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.