28. Antenna Connected

Is your antenna connected and ready to receive signals? Are you actively armed to interface with radio waves propagating through space? Are you prepared to intercept some of the power of a radio wave in order to produce an electric current in your brain? Mmm, let me put it more simply. Are you ready to receive a buying signal from a customer?

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

Buying signals quite often are as visible as radio waves. Most people don’t stand on street corners with flashy signs reading “Sell to me today!” Nor do they advertise on television that they are prepared to sign purchase orders if you call before 5:00…but wait there’s more! Buying signs most times are far subtler.

Try this. Think about the last time you bought a new car. The car didn’t need to be new, it just needed to be new to you. Think about some of the reasons you purchased your car. Maybe it was the color, or the style, you needed it for work or a bigger family car. Now I want you try to remember the first time you sat in the car. That was a pretty cool feeling right? Can you smell the car? You took it out on the road for the first time, for your first ride and what did you notice? Did you notice that your new car was everywhere? Did it seem like every fifth or sixth car was the same as yours? My magic mirror is showing me that a shiny lightbulb just went off over your head.

This effect is common and it’s called the Baader-Meinhor phenomenon. Sometimes its referred to as the frequency illusion or recently illusion. The reason you are noticing all the other people driving the same car as you is that our brains are wired and prejudice towards patterns. The cars you are now noticing have always been there, but now you have a point of reference and your brain automatically identifies matching patterns.
So, what does this have to do with developing as a resilient leader? Everything! Gaining knowledge that we can apply to other places in real time can be used to powerful effect. Making connections at the precise moment can be the difference between success and failure.

Let’s try an experiment to test the Baader-Meinhor phenomenon and test your pattern recognition skills when it comes to making connections. Have you ever heard of a guiro? G-U-I-R-O. The guiro is a Latin American percussion instrument consisting of an open-ended, hollow gourd with parallel notches cut in one side. It is played by rubbing a stick or tines along the notches to produce a ratchet sound. Here is the instrument in use on the Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter. It’s the one that sounds like your scratching a post. (Play song open) I’m sure that you’ve heard this song dozens of times; on the radio or in movies or from cover bands.

Do you have the instrument’s sound in your head? Could you hear its distinctive sound? Good. Most likely you thought it was a cool sound at the song’s intro, right? Let’s go back to our original question. Is your antenna connected? I’m going to play you a different section of the song, a section you may be more familiar with. Feel free to sing along with me? Very often the lyrics are what we focus on rather than the music the band is playing. In most cases, the band plays their music first and the vocals are recorded after. In that case, neither party is interrupted as they conduct their side of the music. Listen one more time and see if you can identify the guiro in the background.

Do you hear it? It’s almost like you can’t listen to the song without hearing it now, right? I promise you that every time you hear this song you will always hear the guiro, just like when you drive on the road you notice the other cars which are exactly like yours. So, how can the understanding of the Baader-Meinhor phenomenon and pattern recognition benefit developing resilient leaders? I’m glad you asked.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on being prepared for opportunity. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Raise your antenna. You heard it. Raise your antenna. This theory has been endorsed by Federal Communication Commission.

The theory is simple. Here’s how it works. We know that our minds are wired to recognize patterns; in life and in business. By having our antenna always up we can identify those rare moments when someone gives us a clue that they’re ready to buy, if something is on sale, if someone has a preference, or if an opportunity is imminent. Because we are listening for these cues we can make instant pattern recognitions to best take advantage of the situation. Let me give you a non-business example of how it worked for me.

Last week I was at Disney’s EPCOT in line for the Test Track ride. The lines over the school holiday were ridiculous. The wait time for the ride was 100 minutes. To enter as a single rider the line was 35 minutes. It’s been a generation since I went to EPCOT and I wanted to take a shot at their premier attraction. The line into the ride was out of the building and around the corner. High above the line was a track of road that a car would ride along outside of the building. Every 8 seconds you could hear the distinctive whiz of another car passing over head. Whiz…whiz…whiz. We waited in the single line and moved our way through the typical Disney maze to the point that I could see the loading of the cars. Then, the announcement came. “This ride is temporarily suspended.” A collective groan rise from the queue. Everyone sat down to wait it out until, “This attraction is closed indefinitely.” You can imagine the frustration of the crowd. We all waited our turn…patiently. We were so close to closing the deal and we lost it.

I checked the EPCOT app on my phone during the balance of the day but the ride remained closed. And, lines for other attractions were increasing because the patrons had to go somewhere. After we finished dinner around 8:00, we were prepared to sit around the EPCOT world showcase lagoon to wait for the 9:00 fireworks show when I heard a faint “whiz”. I turned my head, cocked my ear, eyes to the sky. “Whiz”. I grabbed my companion’s arm and without a word marched us towards Test Track. Whiz…Whiz…Whiz. We reached the attraction and zoomed through the maze to the start of the attraction. The attendant told us that we were the first ones on the ride and we had the entire place to ourselves. In a theme park filled with nearly 100,000 people we were the only people on the ride. Absolutely incredible. When we finished it was a no-brainer to go back on again. This time, the wait was about 10 minutes. Word travels fast when there’s an opportunity. When we finished our second ride we noticed that the line had gone back to its normal wait time of an hour. Just like that the opportunity passed.

It was because my antenna was up that we enjoyed the VIP treatment. My antenna was up and I was ready to act…two key requirements for developing resilient leaders. Where can we apply the lesson? Many places – sales, the stock market, scuttle from your employees what your spouse wants for Valentine’s day…it can be applied everywhere. Keep your antenna up and you will find multitudes of opportunities around you.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you’ve got a couple of minutes, please check out my new website, trenttheroux.com. I’d love feedback if you have any. And, while you’re thinking of it – subscribe to the podcast. That way you can get developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses.

27. Forging Marley’s Chains

How long is your chain? Well, that was a rather awkward question. Sorry, I wasn’t jerking your chain, yanking your chain or listening to Two Chains. I sincerely want to know how long your chain is. Have you forged a long and heavy chain? A heavy steel chain tied down with cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses. Is that your chain?

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where we develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” You may recognize this passage from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Scrooge just met the ghost of his business partner Jacob Marley and was frightened to see the man he knew since a boy tormented by his position in the afterlife.

So, I will ask again – how long is your chain? I guess the answer for each of us is that we don’t actually know until we reach the afterlife. Many of us, myself included, probably think that our chains aren’t that long. We probably think that we are kind and generous people and perpetually in search of doing what is right. Maybe I have a story that will question that ethos.

A Christmas Carol has been performed by Trinity Repertory since 1977. Adrain Hall’s musical interpretation of the fabled moral classic leaves audiences tapping their toes when they exit the theater following the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge.

My son, Max, auditioned to be in the show when he was seven and to our surprise, he was cast as Tiny Tim. He fit the role so well that he was in the cast when he was eight and nine…then he hit a little growth spurt and he wasn’t so tiny anymore. A quick tangent. Matinee shows were often attended by local schools. It was a wonderful treat for students to attend an adult theater production. Following one performance, I was prepared to take Max for lunch before I drove him back to school. He was out of his costume and make up and transformed back into being just Max. There were three school busses lined up in front of the theater. When Max and I exited the theater we heard one girl scream, “There’s Tiny Tim!” Girls pressed against the inside of the bus, pounding their fists on the windows screaming, “Tiny Tim, Tiny Tim.” It was an out of control scene straight out of a Justin Bieber concert. “Tiny Tim, Tiny Tim.” I asked Max if he wanted to stay a while around the bus. “Nah,” he said, “can we get pizza.” I sighed thinking “Son, there will be a time in your life when the pizza won’t seem so important.”
I remember one night in Max’s first season. We walked out of the theater with the crowd. Normally, we would wait under the marquee for Max. As we walked out of the theater we noticed three beggars along the front wall on both sides of the marquee. Theater patrons exiting the show stepped around them, over them and in one case through them to get from the cold night back to the comfort of their cars.

To me the scene was disgusting. Minutes before, these patrons cheered and clapped for one of the greatest redemption stories in literature. The watched Scrooge turn from a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, mean old man into a lion who cherished the poor and his own salvation. Yet, when given an opportunity to apply the lesson they just witnessed, the theater patrons trampled over the beggars in the street as if they didn’t exist.

Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had struck out generous fire; secret, self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. That was Scrooge and maybe some of the patrons.

I witnessed a social experiment take place in three acts. First, the beggars knew their target market. Affluent people who just were touched by a story of generosity towards the poor. The beggars positioned themselves in the perfect spot and at the perfect time to take advantage of these emotions. Act Two, in every show since, the police stationed an officer outside to thwart beggars from taking residence in front of the theater, mainly to eliminate the inconvenience felt by the theater goers of seeing beggars in the street. Final Act, the theater started asking for donations to benefit the local food bank. At the end of each show, the cast announced that they would be posted near the exits collecting donations.

Now, here is where I observed people forging chains. The majority of the patrons did not put money into the baskets. I’m not criticizing people for not giving money. Charity is how you define it. Charity does not need to be given in money; it can be given various ways. But, charity needs to be given. Developing Resilient Leaders should accept that they are fortunate – fortunate to be given the skills to know that they are leaders – on the cusp of being leaders – on the path. And, leadership requires responsibility. It requires responsibility towards society as a whole. Marley’s chain grew and grew because he forgot that responsibility. The story shows how idealistic Marley was as a youth. The world to him was beautiful and he was fortunate to have a magical place in it. Time eroded that idealism. Hardened him. Marley died young. Only in death could he see the massive chain that he forged. Only after it was too late for Marley did he appreciate how he isolated himself from his fellow man.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on showing charity. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Give time to a soup kitchen. You heard it. Give time to a soup kitchen. This theory has been endorsed by nearly 20 million Americans who use their services in any given year.
Here’s how the theory works. Maybe you are like me in that you feel good when you donate money to charity. You write a check, use the “donate now” button on Facebook, or stuff a few dollars in the Salvation Army bucket. It makes you feel good about yourself. For a long time in my life giving money was a fair way to measure that I was a good person and doing my part for society. It took years to realize that I was only assuaging my sense of guilt. I gave money mainly out of guilt.

Now, I give my time. I donate my time (and my money). I’m proud of the work that I do for RISE Above Paralysis. Many of you know my story and understand how personal their mission is to me. My mission has become – I do for other because I got out of the wheelchair. I do it for those who won’t get out of their wheelchair. That’s the lesson I learned.

Marley learned that lesson and sought to teach it to Scrooge. Live with an open heart. Care for others. Be kind. Be gentle. Think of how you can improve people rather than ameliorate guilt. It is these lessons that will make us Resilient Leaders.

I ask of you this holiday season. Give some of your time to your fellow man. Help them string up some lights. Let them in front of you in rush hour traffic. Work two hours in a soup kitchen. It doesn’t need to be money. Charity is defined as help for those in need.

In the words of one of my favorite characters, “Come in, — come in! And know me better, man! I am the Ghost of Christmas Present. Look upon me! You have never seen the like of me before!” I sincerely hope that after this season of giving, the resilient leaders in the audience will be able to say the same to strangers as they pass along the sidewalk.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.
If you’ve got a couple of minutes, please check out my new website, trenttheroux.com. I’d love feedback if you have any. And, while you’re thinking of it – subscribe to the podcast. That way you can get developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses.

I look forward to getting together next time. And, in the immortal words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us all, everyone!.”

26. Courage Knows No Age

Last week I was in a local bar and was eavesdropping on a conversation between two septuagenarians. The two men were telling stories with the quick pace and tempo of a Muhammed Ali jab. The punchline would hit you before you even saw it coming. Their stories were about life, politics and sport. Each short and seemed to take place 30 to 50 years ago. It wasn’t long before I was laughing in my beer trying to be discreet about my social faux pas. One of the gentlemen caught me snickering and called me over. I approached them and one asked me, “How ugly do you think my friend here is?” Ok…what is the right way to respond to that question? Do I give him a direct response? Do I call the bartender over to ignore the question? Or, do I whip up a quick story about an ugly uncle I have?
Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

I chose option three and whipped up a quick story about my ugly uncle. There are two things of note in this response. First, Paul Zak, director of the Neuroeconomics Studies center at Claremont Graduate university, wrote “As social creatures, we depend on others for our survival and happiness. My lab discovered that a neurochemical called oxytocin is a key “it’s safe to approach others” signal in the brain. Oxytocin is produced when we are trusted or shown a kindness, and it motivates cooperation with others. It does this by enhancing the sense of empathy, our ability to experience others’ emotions.” I choose option three because I was seeking a connection with these old rascals. Now, in truth, I don’t have an ugly uncle. Or at least I don’t want to tell him that he’s ugly.

Storytelling is a key to unlocking relationships with other people. Since we were children we always asked for a story. My son growing up always wanted to hear a story in our car rides. He was seeking stories about our family, but in truth he was seeking a connection to me and to our family through the story. Not once did my son ever ask for statistical data from a story. Not once did he ever ask me the weight in pounds and ounces of the largest turkey we ate. He simply asked me to tell him the big turkey story again and again. – And, I always gave it to him.

My magic mirror shows me that many of you are wondering how this connects to our goal of developing resilient leaders. It’s a good question. Phillip Pullman once said, “After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” As developing resilient leaders we need to be able to connect with people on a human level, a relatable level, not a statistical or data driven…or price driven level. Let me give you an example.

Two weeks ago I was in Toronto and shopping for a new suit to wear for a conference where I was giving a speech. You may think like me that when you are dressed well and look good your game is at a higher level. Well, this store provided each patron with a personal shopper. Maya picked out a reddish jacket, blue solid shirt and a dark purple brown and grey checked pant to try. In the changing room I noticed that the pants were a little tighter than I normally wear. Not tighter in the waist, but through the seat and thighs. I emerged wearing the outfit. Purple, brown and grey pants are one thing, the fact that they felt like saran wrap around my thighs was another. “Maya, I’m in my 50s. Guys my age don’t wear these styles and colors.” She smiled, spun me around to look at the back and said, “Trent, courage knows no age.” I went back into the dressing room rolling that sentence on my tongue. Courage knows no age. Ten minutes later I was at the checkout buying all three items without looking at the price tags.

So, is this a good story? Well, master storyteller, Ed Tate, would suggest that it covers all 4.5 criteria good story.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on showing storytelling. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Head.Heart.Humor.Hard Hitting. You heard it. Head.Heart.Humor.Hard Hitting. This theory has been endorsed and espoused by the legend Ed Tate himself.
Here’s how the theory works. There are 4 main components of a good story. The head is to make you think. The heart is for you to connect. Humor is to make you laugh. And, Hard hitting because that is the point. Head. Heart. Humor. Hard Hitting. Four parts to every good story. Now, Alfred Hitchcock said “Movies are like life with the boring bits cut out.” Exactly. Quick question how many of you were fans of the TV show 24? I loved that show. It was must watch TV on Monday nights. Think of the lead Jack Bauer…constantly in and out of trouble, shootings, car crashes, and interrogations. Can you picture him? Good. Ever see him go to the bathroom? Me neither. More basic…ever see him drink a glass of water? Hitchcock’s point a good story is life less the boring bits.

Let’s see how my story about clothes shopping did to follow these four parts. Head to make you think. Heart to help you connect. Humor to make you laugh. Hard hitting because that’s the point. Head – I had a problem. I needed a new suit for a speech I was giving. Heart – how did I try to connect with you? Many people might feel the same way I do that when they are better dressed they feel more confident. Humor – did I give you a funny image? Wearing purple, brown and grey checked pants that fit like saran wrap is not a look for a man in his 50s. Hard hitting – what was the message? Maya told me that courage knows no age. She reframed my insecurity about the clothes by removing my age from the equation. At the same time, as a saleswoman she was closing me on the sale.
Last thing about the story. When you are telling a story – life minus the boring parts – you should be able to keep the story to one minute or less. I know that is tough for some of us. Sometimes, I am wired for maximum verbosity. But, the story needs to get to the punch quickly to be most effective. Joke telling is similar. Two line jokes deliver a punch and a twist rapidly – which is why they are very effective. Stories can be just as brief.

Head. Heart. Humor. Hard Hitting. This format works every time. For developing resilient leaders, our ability to communicate our message to others is crucial. Communicating through a simple, yet poignant story can have a powerful effect on the person or crowd you are seeking to influence.

Let’s try an exercise…yes, I’m giving you a podcast homework assignment. Later tonight, I want you to take five minutes away from your phones and family members. I’m only asking for five quiet minutes for some personal development. Ok, now I want you to use half that time to create a story. The story should be about something of interest that happened to you in the last week. Something that you have not told someone else. It could be something momentous in your life or rather banal. It doesn’t matter. Once you have the story in your head, I want you to write out the four parts; head, heart, humor & hard hitting. Try to keep these points very short. Remember, the objective is to be able to tell the story in only one minute.

Please give this a try. Have some fun. And, I will ask you for a favor. Send me a LinkedIn message of your Hard Hitting point. If we’re not connected on LinkedIn then let’s connect. But, I would enjoy seeing the Hard Hitting lines that some of you have.

Last week, I did this exercise for a sales team of 30 people. The exercise worked well because I asked some of the salespeople to act as coaches to sharpen the story. The improvements made each story stronger and more memorable. By the time we were done, each member had a strong one-minute story to tell – and, more importantly – a method for creating new stories. I was thrilled that this company hired me to help their sales team and I look forward to hearing how their improved storytelling affects their bottom line.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

If you’ve got a couple of minutes, please check out my new website, www.trenttheroux.com I’d love feedback if you have any. And, while you’re thinking of it – subscribe to the podcast. That way you can get developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses.

I look forward to getting together next time. See you.

25. Thank You Noted

Tell me one thing that makes you feel good when you come home from work. Just one thing. Is it the dog? The dog jumping up on your legs as if you were lost at sea for the past eight months. Is it the smell of something good cooking in the kitchen? A warm, hearty soup waiting for you. Is it small children screaming for you to look at the pretty picture they made in art today that resembles blood spatter photos from a CSI episode? For me, one thing that makes me feel good when I come home from work it to find a thank you card in my mailbox. Silly right? Not from the perspective of the person sending the card.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

I recently gave a speech at the University of Rhode Island to a group of over 100 seniors about developing resilient leaders. The students, like most of my audiences, laughed at the funny sections, cried at the tearful sections and used their pencils to take notes of my leadership tips. Then, they did something I did not expect. Ten days after my speech I arrived home and found a large paper package in my mailbox. Inside the package were over 100 printed letters and hand written cards from the students. Each expressing gratitude for the time I took out of my schedule and the lessons I provided.

The letters are the brainchild of their professor, Gail Alofsin. In case you’ve never met Gail, you might find her flying around Newport, Rhode Island in her cape with a large S on her chest for Superwoman. Gail is the type of person who makes you feel good about yourself from the minute you meet her and she makes a tremendous, positive impact on the lives of her charges in the Communications class at URI.

Here is a small sample of what the students wrote, “It inspires me that you work hard with everything you do turning your tragic accident into something wonderful that not only helped others with spinal cord disabilities, but you improved yourself.” Thank you for your letter Olivia.

One more, “I learned that when challenges hit you, it’s okay to accept help. Hearing your advice was rather humbling as I struggle with asking for help. But in reality it’s a good thing.” Thank you card Madison.
Now, there may be some skeptics out there that say – “sure they wrote you a letter. It was probably an assignment.” Maybe…maybe you are right. So what? Does it diminish the feeling of joy I had when I opened the package? Hardly.

Maybe we need a different example. Friday, I came home and found a handwritten card in the mailbox. The card had printed Thank You on the front. Inside it read, “Trent, thank you for trusting us to host trenttheroux.com. Please let us know if you need anything!” Signed, the Course Vector Team. I just finished creating my website and moved it to a new host and the hosting team sent me a lovely card. I felt like a champ for spending money with them. No that’s not quite right. I felt like a champ because I was smart enough to select them to do business with. That’s a different feeling. A feeling that I try to give to my customers.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on showing gratitude. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Send A Thank You Card. You heard it. Send A Thank You Card. This theory has been every member of Hallmark’s Board of Directors.

A study published in the journal of Psychological Science by Amit Kumar, professor at McCoombs School of Business at the University of Texas and Nicholas Epley professor at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business showed that expressing gratitude improves well-being for both expressers and the recipients, but not in the way each thought it would.

Participants in three experiments wrote gratitude letters and then predicted how surprised, happy, and awkward recipients would feel. Recipients then reported how receiving an expression of gratitude actually made them feel. Can you guess the results? My magic mirror shows me that many of you…can see where this is going!

Expressers significantly underestimated how surprised recipients would be about why expressers were grateful, overestimated how awkward recipients would feel, and underestimated how positive recipients would feel. Expected awkwardness and mood were both correlated with participants’ willingness to express gratitude. Wise decisions are guided by an accurate assessment of the expected value of action. Underestimating the value of prosocial actions, such as expressing gratitude, may keep people from engaging in behavior that would maximize their own—and others’—well-being.
This means that many people won’t send a thank you card because that don’t expect that the person on the receiving end will be thankful that one was sent. Nonsense! How many times have you sent a meaningless “thank you” email?
“Thank you for sending me the file.”
“Your welcome. Thank you for saying thank you.”
“I happily thank you for thanking me.”

The email drivel chain of tepid platitudes almost drives me insane. The rule I work with is simple. Do not send a thank you email. It’s a waste of time typing and reading. Thousands of hours are lost in productivity sending meaningless emails back and forth. Trent, didn’t you just say that people are grateful for receiving a thank you note. Yes, a thank you note…not a thank you email. There is a significant difference. One takes forethought to have a card or stock paper, find a pen, hand write your sentiments, address the card, apply a stamp and walk to the mailbox. The other requires you to utilize the artificial intelligence in your email system. Get the difference? Can you see why I ban the email thank yous from my office and near burst with joy when I receive one in my mailbox?
Emily Post, the maven of etiquette, would say this, “Sometimes it’s easy to write off a heartfelt thank-you note. Other times, writer’s block can set in—especially when you are staring down a large stack of them. Before you start, remember that thanking people needs to be about just that: expressing thanks. So refocus, reorganize, and rethink the process. Get in touch with the sincerity of thanking people for thinking about you and giving you something.”

Technology has helped this process in many ways. One that I can express has become the hallmark (okay that was a bad pun.)…had become the hallmark of her communications. My friend Penny Tremblay utilizes a service named Send Out Cards to send her thank yous. Send Out Cards is an online service into which you can upload pictures and write messages. I’m looking now at the card Penny sent me when we first met at a speaking event. She took a selfie of us and added a brief note. Three days later, I received the professionally printed card in the mail with our picture on the front and a thank you note our meeting on the inside. Simple, yet a highly effective way of combining technology and etiquette. Which might be doubly helpful for those of us who failed penmanship in the 3rd grade…both times we went through the 3rd grade.

One last quote from a note to close out the podcast. It comes from URI senior Holly Shepard. “You reminded me to call my mother and thank her. She has reiterated to me throughout my life that when things got hard that she wanted me to be a resilient person. I never thanked my mom for her dedication to make me resilient. Your ability to admit failure, succeed from failure and teach people lessons from your failures is admirable. You inspire me.” No Holly, you inspire me. By writing this beautiful letter, you inspire me to touch more people with my story. Thank you.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.

I will be giving a brand new speech in the Providence area on November 21st at the ON Leadership Conference being held at the Crowne Plaza. Search for ON Leadership Conference to view the speaker lineup and buy tickets.
If you’ve got a couple of minutes, please check out my new website, trenttheroux.com. I’d love feedback if you have any. And, while you’re thinking of it – subscribe to the podcast. That way you can get developing resilient leader theories hot off the presses.

I look forward to getting together next time. See you.

24. I’ll Buy You Fly

The University of Alabama Crimson Tide’s Men’s Football team is ranked number 1 in the country and is in search of its sixth national championship in the last decade. The head coach Nick Saban has been described as a football genius and a hard driving coach. Like most businesses, you would assume that Saban has built a finely tuned machine within his ranks so that he is able to produce nation’s best quality results year after year. You would expect that from every top echelon company. Solid and consistent leadership throughout the ranks so they can produce consistently superior results. However, the opposite is true with Alabama. What if I told you that all the offensive coaches from last year’s national championship finalist team quit and Alabama is still ranked number one this year?

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

Douglas Ready, senior lecturer at Sloan School of Management at MIT conducted a study of 40 international companies that he considered to be “talent factories.” One conclusion he drew was that virtually all of them had an insufficient pipeline of high-potential employees to fill strategic management roles.

Ready argued that even if a company’s practices and technical systems were robust and up to date, talent management will fail without deep-seated commitment from senior executives. Senior line executives may vigorously assert that obtaining and keeping the best people is a major priority—but then fail to act on their words. Other managers believed they could find talented employees by paying a premium (sound familiar) or by using the best executive recruiters (more familiar), while others are distracted by competing priorities.

Passion must start at the top and infuse the corporate culture; otherwise, the talent management processes can easily deteriorate into bureaucratic routines. But is passion enough? For SEC college football?

Ready provided a questionnaire to his companies and asked the responders to rate themselves. Let’s take a minute to answer some of these questions as if we were Nick Saban. The responses ranged from “We’re not doing well enough” at the low end, “We’re OK but not cheering” in the middle and “we’re at or near benchmark status” at the top. No joking. These were on the actual response line. Ok. Ready? You can answer these questions about your company if you want. I’ll be Nick Saban.

Question 1 – Do you know what skills your company needs to meet its growth objectives? Saban here is going to give himself a 10 for the primary reason that he explicitly understands the talents required to perform in each of his assistant positions. He has hired enough assistants and was an assistant for long enough to thoroughly understand.
Question 4 – Do you have a diverse and plentiful pool of leaders who are capable of moving into your organization’s most senior roles? Again, Saban is going to score a ten. One of the bonuses of winning five national championships is that you attract talent – top talent. Saban has exquisitely talented, young coaches and former players seeking him out for opportunities.

Question 7 – Do you offer managers developmental experiences specifically aimed at preparing them for the unique challenges of leading large organizations? Yes. Saban scores a ten. Even from the East German judge! Presently, there are 15 of Saban’s disciples who are in the position of head coach of a Division 1 college football team, or head coach of an NFL team. Many of his former employees compete against him every week.

Last one, number 9 – Have you as a leader unequivocally used words and deeds to demonstrate that you are fully committed to developing talent globally in your organization. I’m going to answer this one for Saban a different way. Alabama was ahead 28-0 in the national semi-final game last year. The co-offensive coordinator called a bad play on third down which resulted in Alabama needing to punt on 4th down. Twelve hours after the game, Saban was breaking the film down with his coaching staff and called out the coordinator for the mistake, using some very spicy Alabama words. The rub here is that the coordinator had accepted a job to become the head coach at the University of Maryland…three days earlier. Saban didn’t care. He was answering question number 9. Saban was fully committed to developing talent in the organization, even for talent that had already given their notice!

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on developing your talent. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. I’ll buy – you fly. You heard it. I’ll buy – you fly. This theory has been endorsed by two licensed teenage drivers in my house.

The theory is simple here’s how it works. After my daughter, Haley, received her license, she was actively seeking ways to use the car. She wanted more responsibility – and specifically more responsibility with the car. As the parents in the audience will appreciate, give your kids the keys to the car and you may not see the teenager for a week, or until they need a meal. Haley earned our trust and I was willing to extend boundaries of control.
On Monday nights in the summer, Newport Creamery has a two-for-one special on milkshakes. Around here, they are called Awful Awfuls. Awful Awful Monday became a great way to transfer responsibility to my daughter. Hales, I’ll buy – you fly. “Chocolate for me, mint chocolate chip for your brother – go and see what your mother wants. Here’s ten bucks. And, I know how much change I should get back.”

Haley reveled in this responsibility. Quick show of hands how many of you as teenagers were on the receiving end of the “I’ll buy you fly” deal from your parents? My magic mirror shows me that….almost everyone has both hands up!

Developing responsibility in your children may not hold the same cache as for a Fortune 500 company or a perennial football powerhouse, but the mindset is the same. Building engagement. Fostering commitment. Ensuring accountability.

Saban puts it this way, “ I actually look for people who have goals and aspirations who are hard workers and very committed to what they do.” This epitomizes Haley. She was driven (bad pun intended) to make sure that we got our Awful Awful…before they melted. And, trust me heads were going to roll if the order got messed up in any way.
Let’s take a minute and go back to our opening question. Saban lost all his offensive coaches after national championship game last year. Saban sees the defections as a sign of his program’s success. He said, “I think if you look at most of the coming and going, it’s people getting better jobs.”

This is exactly what happened with Haley. She defected…well…she went to college. But while I was buying, she was flying! And like many good leaders who develop their assistants that leave for better opportunities, you have a rich talent pool to draw from. For me that was Max, my son, who was itching to take Haley’s spot on the buy & fly deal.

Make your company a talent factory, like the University of Alabama Crimson Tide Football team. Make your company a desirous place to work and you will find that the best talent seeks you out. If you are interested in Douglas Ready’s questionnaire you can find it on the podcast page on my brand new website. www.trenttheroux.com

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together.
I will be giving a brand new speech in the Providence area on November 21st at the ON Leadership Conference being held at the Crowne Plaza. Search for ON Leadership Conference to view the speaker lineup and buy tickets.

23. Cabin In The Woods

Is it 5:00 yet? On Friday? Man, it’s only 1:30 on Wednesday. How many of us wish is was Friday? Why is that? Why do we hope that days pass us by like a meteor shower? John Lennon was right. “Life is what happens while we are busy making other plans.” So, it’s Wednesday afternoon and you wish it was Friday. Maybe it’s as simple as…you’re bored.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

A 1985 study by the Navy Personnel Research and Development Center found that there are many reasons we are bored at our jobs. Let’s see how many of these apply to you. Under-utilization. People with higher intelligence find tasks boring because they are able to process information too rapidly to fill their time. Repetitiveness. Performing the same tasks repeatedly makes our minds tired and leads to daydreaming. Age. You heard it! Younger people tend to get more bored because their minds work faster than us older folks. Extroversion. Extroverts require more mental stimulation than introverts. Monotonous tasks deprive extroverts of the stimulation they require to remain mentally sharp. Unpleasantness. The more unpleasant the task the quicker tedium sets in to make a worker lose focus.

This boredom is what leads us to think that the clock is moving slow. In a study by McBain of long distance truck drivers – now there’s a job that rings the boredom bell – it was found that an underestimation of time was prevalent. They found that the more narrowly people focused on a task, the slower time seemed to pass. The Navy should stick to running air craft carriers and leave the simple stuff to us. We all know that the more we watch the clock the slower it seems to go. That’s not the question resilient leaders need to address. Resilient leaders need to seek ways to minimize the boredom in their even most monotonous tasks.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on boredom. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Go to the cabin in the woods. You heard it. Go to the cabin in the woods. This theory has been endorsed by one transcendentalist living on his own in Walden Woods.
Many of my listeners will probably think that by sending you to the cabin in the woods, I sending you to meet Jason from Friday the 13th. Trust me this isn’t a slasher movie littered with awkward teenage sex.
On July 4th, 1845, Henry David Thoreau set out to live in Walden Woods in a hut he built for himself. Thoreau felt a need to concentrate and work more on his writing. Let’s say that again. Thoreau was bored working in his family’s pencil factory in Concord, Massachusetts. So, he chose to leave to tap into his creative resources.
Thoreau wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live.”

While on his exodus and seeking inspiration at his cabin in the woods, Thoreau wrote what is arguably the most politically charge work of the 19th century, Civil Disobedience. In these pages, Thoreau argues that governments are typically more harmful than helpful and therefore cannot be justified. No, I could rant about government for five podcasts, but this one is about overcoming boredom in our jobs. Thoreau used the extreme measure of living in a cabin in the woods for two years to find his inspiration. I had a similar epiphany… but it took about seventy-two hours.

Last month, I went to a cabin in the woods in North Bay, Ontario to attend an event titled Speaker Jam. The event was hosted by Penny Tremblay, who teaches people to play nice in the sandbox. That’s her skill. She speaks on building productive, peaceful and profitable relationships at work. Also there was a Scott Armstrong, who formerly was an operator of Canada’s largest rehabilitation center for exotic animal and now uses those experiences to speak to audiences about tenacity. Lastly was Roxanne Derhodge. Roxanne is the host of the weekly podcast, Authentic Living with Roxanne Derhodge. Me…well you already know that I Develop Resilient Leaders.

The four of us gathered and each presented an hour long speech. Several friends attended in Penny’s living room to watch some pretty impressive deliveries by virtuosos. This had the feeling of a Led Zeppelin studio session, complete with groupies. So what was the point of going to this cabin in Canada? To create my own inspiration.
The problem many of us have is that we are waiting for inspiration to come to us. It’s tantamount to looking at the heavens and listening for God. We want inspiration to come to us to relieve us of our boredom so we can live more fulfilled lives.

Resilient Leaders know that this works the opposite way. You need to create the environment for your inspiration. Go to the zoo, drive a different way home, listen to a different radio station, try a new vegetable, kiss your lover a different way – these are only a few ways to bring inspiration to yourselves.

Quick show of hands – how many of you have driven the road to work on a Sunday and by hypnosis took the exit you would normally take on Monday through Friday? My magic mirror shows me that many of you have? Why? This phenomenon has a name, it’s called Road Hypnotism and psychologists recognized it almost one hundred years ago…when half the country was still riding horseback. The monotony, boredom and fatigue are the primary factors….the same items that are making us wish it was five o’clock on Friday.
We need to head to our cabin in the woods, physically or metaphorically, so we can create, so we can recharge, so we can be inspired. Because, I’ll tell you – I feel absolutely stupid when I take the wrong exit because of road hypnotism.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together. Please check out my brand new website www.trenttheroux.com . You can find my podcasts and some videos. If you enjoyed today’s show, please tell a friend, share the link on your social network…subscribe.

Thanks again for listening. I look forward to getting together next week.

22. Culture Club

Have you ever joined a cult? No? Have you ever had a few youngsters rock up to you and talk about how beautiful the land was, how there was this special community down in the valley teeming with youths from our generation and how there was this really groovy leader who was almost like a mystic. Want to join? What if they there was an awesome soundtrack? No? What if you could earn stock options?
(Music) Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

Thousands of millennials head to Silicon Valley each year to find their path in the fastest moving cult on the planet. One of the preeminent leaders in the cult of personality was Steve Job, founder of Apple. Much has been written and filmed about Job’s leadership, meaning that many of us feel that we know him and his story quite well. I would argue that none of us really knew him at all. He was a mysterious mystic.

In an interview with UCLA Anderson School of Management professor Maia Young, she said that “the more you saw him as having mystique, the more it wend hand in hand as him being a visionary.” “When mysterious people are successful, we perceive them as if they have a special something endowed to them that most of us don’t have access to.” Young conducted a study in which subjects were asked to assess Job’s potential at predicting government spending, trends in the stock market, and the future of interest rates. The more people saw him as having mystique, the more they ascribed to him the ability to predict those things. It’s a testament to how much people saw in him.

Walking on water was not one of the questions of the survey, though I suspect that over 70% would have agreed that Jobs had that skill covered.

Is this my cheeky way of implying to the developing resilient leaders in the audience that you need to walk on water to gain the love and admiration of your employees and customers? Hardly, I suggest you all have the ability to swim, but we will leave the divine stuff for, well…the divine.

A large portion of what made the cult of Apple wasn’t Jobs, it was the cool products. A quick example…maybe a history lesson for some of you. When Apple launched the iPod in 2001, it wasn’t revolutionary. No. There were several other products that had a reasonable amount of memory capable of playing all the music in your CD collection. Apple wasn’t the first to market. However, Apple made the connection that music is cool and their product should be cool as well. Their redesign of the wheel-based interface changed a basic mp3 player into a listening experience. The old mp3 players required you to fast forward through each song to get to a song you wanted to hear. Apple’s wheel-based model allowed you to select which artists, which album, which song directly. Apple was brilliant in their marketing. Put 1,000 songs in your pocket. A marketing tagline that immediately let you understand the cult of product you were seeking.

One can argue that more people joined the Apple cult because of the products. Consumers wanted to be a part of something cool, hip, edgy. If the Walkman was your dad’s way of listening to music, the iPod was ours. Quick show of hands. How many of you belong to a cult? Hmmm…my magic mirror shows me that many of you are reluctant to raise your hands because YOU think the word has a negative connotation.

I want to go off on a tangent here. I have an intimate relationship with a cult. I never appreciated that it was a cult until I saw the look in some of the employee’s eyes when they talked about saving energy. The company is RISE Engineering and is based in Cranston. For the past 40 years they have been in the energy efficiency business. They go into homes and businesses and identify ways that the end user can reduce their electric consumption.

For a long time RISE was mainly in the business of upgrading light fixtures and replacement windows. However, over the past decade they have been on energy efficiency steroids. In that time they have hired people with a passion to save the world one home insulation project at a time. Reducing energy consumption is met by today’s youth as a clarion call to improve the planet. It’s hard for some older folks to think past “turn off the lights when you leave” as doing your part. These employees study how their work will impact the globe, how their efforts can be measured in terms of sustainability. It’s magnificent to watch and hear.

So, what can we learn as developing resilient leaders about cults? The employees at RISE are not coming to work for a paycheck, but rather a cause. It is the cause and the mission that drive talented people to work at RISE. It is the culture that has been built to foster employee growth and learning in the energy efficiency space that has helped it thrive and grow over the years. It feeds off itself. The employees feed off it and the customers feed from it as well.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on joining a cult. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here’s it is. Get on the bus. You heard it. Get on the bus. This theory has been endorsed by 500,000 youths attending a music and art festival fifty years ago this week.
The theory is simple. Novelist and LSD experiment participant, Ken Kesey wrote “you are either on the bus or you are off the bus.” The Woodstock festival organizers were expecting a crowd up to 200,000. This was a business venture for them. They put up their own money for the acts and sound and stages and marketing. But something happened along the way.

The counter-culture of the 1960s was reaching a tipping point. Hippies once derided by their straight laced parents were now labeled “The Woodstock Generation.” The 200,000 planned swelled to a half a million. Hippies knew that something special was happening, something they wanted to be a part of, something worth getting the bus for. And, that’s exactly what happened. (Play Woodstock)

Maybe it was the time of the year or maybe it was the time of man. Either way, isn’t this exactly the response Apple was seeking? Isn’t this what RISE wants from their employees and customers? A reason to follow and take part in something larger. They want people to get on the bus.

As my good friend the Reverend Jim Ignatowski once said after he learned that there were a half a million people at Woodstock, “It was a good thing that I was at Woodstock. Otherwise, there would have been four hundred ninety-nine thousand. And ninety nine hundred and nine nine people there.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together. You can find more podcasts and videos on my website at www.trenttheroux.com. If you enjoyed today’s show, please tell a friend, share the link on your social network…subscribe. Can I help your company talk about adopting culture? Just write to me at
info@trenttheroux.com and let me understand the items you are seeking to strengthen. Thanks again for listening. I look forward to getting together next week.

21. Fighting the Fescue

Imagine that you are Rory McIlroy, a national treasure. A hero to your hometown, your home country. Crowds cheer your name before you make your first swing of the day. You acknowledge your fans and set in to perform your assigned tasks. The last time you played this course you were masterful. Better than masterful, you set the course record. Your chest is swollen to three times its size with the pride in your abilities. You are on the first tee of Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and you just hooked your opening tee shot out of bounds then slashed the next one into hip high gorse dashing your chances of winning The Open Championship and crushing the hopes of a nation who waited half a century for this moment. It sounds like a Greek tragedy you learned in high school.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

Hubris is the Greek sin of pride and one of the most tragic flaws of a hero or heroine. In the Odyssey, Odysseus’ hubris and arrogance towards the gods causes him to encounter trouble after trouble in a 10-year journey home of the battle of Troy. Narcissus is so prideful of his beauty that he sits staring at his reflection until he starves to death. Achilles is so prideful in his immortality, yet an arrow to the heel kills him.

How does hubris affect resilient leaders? There are numerous examples of hubris amongst CEOs. A University of Missouri study showed that, “Overconfident CEOs, feel that they have superior decision-making abilities and are more capable than their peers. Unfortunately, they tend to make decisions about mergers or acquisitions that can be viewed as risky. For example, CEOs who are over-confident tend to target companies that do not focus on their core line of business. Generally speaking, according to the study, mergers that diversify companies don’t work.”

The study also found that CEOs who are over confident often use cash to purchase or merge with other businesses. They do this because they believe their stock is undervalued. The CEOs are not paying attention to how the market views their stock, they believe that their personal judgement is more valuable. These CEOs are betting millions, nay billions of dollars on these judgements. Some of that may be your 401k or pension money their gambling with. These CEOs are in their current position because they’d proven their worth over the years. Has something changed in them? Are their successes of the past clouding their vision of the future?

Quick show of hands how many of you committed your own sin of hubris? An act of pride based on your newly acquired resilient leader’s skills? Made a decision because you made the same decision a thousand times before? My magic mirror shows me that more and more of you Greek sinners are starting to raise your hands.

Hubris is an ironic sin. Most of us don’t know when we are guilty of it. Most of us don’t know that we are staring at our reflection until we starve to death.

I am now going to give you my unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theory on hubris. Are you ready? Got your pencils out? Here it is: Trust your caddy. You heard it. Trust your caddy. This theory has been recently endorsed by one Northern Ireland golfer with a big swing and impish good looks.

The theory is simple. Here’s how it works. Last week I was competing in a golf tournament in Scotland on a wind ravished course named Gullane #2. I was in the middle of the pack but recently started making a move up the leaderboard. I made three pars in a row when I stepped up to the tee a faced a wind strong enough to make my gums flap. An axiom of golf is when it’s breezy swing easy. Unfortunately, this was one of the longest holes on the course and the wind would only make it two times longer. I needed to pound out a solid drive to give me a chance at keeping my par streak alive. As you can expect, I swung too hard and hooked it into the fescue on the right. I’m not talking the cute little wispy fescue. I’m talking the chest high stuff. The kind of fescue you’d find Sandy Duncan making Wheat Thins commercials from.

My caddie, Caleb, and I searched for the ball. The competitors in my group and their caddies helped to no avail. We couldn’t find the ball. The rules of our tournament varied from normal golf rules. If a ball was lost in the fescue we were allowed to drop where we thought it was lost with only a one stroke penalty. I dropped my ball into the fescue and asked Caleb for the yardage. He replied, 225 to the flag.

Caleb handed me my A-wedge, which is a club I would hit typically 100-110 yards, less than half the distance to the flag. I was already hitting my third shot. I needed to put this on the green or very close to have a chance to make par. I commanded my 3-wood. “Mate, you don’t want to do that.” That was the sage advice from Caleb. You don’t want to do that. I did the math in my head. If I used the A-wedge, I would be – at best – a hundred and a quarter to the flag and at best lose one shot to par, maybe two at best. No, I needed to get to the green now. It was the start of the back nine on the final day. I needed to go for the green.

Caleb dutifully handed me the 3-wood and stepped back. For those of you who don’t play golf or have never hit out of this type of heather imagine playing golf with glasses that are not the correct prescription – got it – okay now rub some Vaseline over the lenses. That’s what it looks like trying to hit a ball in thick fescue. You don’t know how high the ball is sitting off the ground. Is it flat to the ground or is it three inches off. Plus, the fescue has a nasty habit of trying to grab your club as it moves through, like thousands of Lilliputians strapping down Gulliver.

I took a clean rip at the ball and made contact with only the fescue. The ball moved – straight down – as I swung under the ball. I screamed – I screamed words that golfers shouldn’t scream and I glared at Caleb. His look was melancholy. The only feature I noticed was his right arm holding out my A-wedge. He was holding it the entire time I set up with the 3-wood knowing that I would need to use it. I took my A-wedge and punched the ball back into the fairway. Made a triple bogey and effectively ended my chances of winning the tournament.

Why didn’t I listen to Caleb when he instructed me to use the wedge? Was I a better golfer than Caleb (the answer I found out was no). Did I know the course better? No, Did I know what happens to almost everyone who tries to swing a wood out of thick fescue? NO! There was one person who did, my caddie.

So, why didn’t I listen to my caddy? Hubris. Hubris. I had more belief in myself than belief in the expert’s opinion. I will tell you that this is common in leaders. There is a reason people rise to the top – they have a belief, a true conviction that they know what to do in each situation. And, many times they are right. In fact, most times they are right. But, there are those situations when we, as resilient leaders, need to accept that we are not the smartest person in the room. Not even average in many cases.

We need to accept that there are people with more wisdom and experience that can help us navigate. We need to listen to our caddies.

A close friend of mine has a more direct way of saying this. Sgt. Harry Callahan, I know him as Dirty Harry and he thinks this way about my hubris.

A man’s got to know his limitations – Amen Dirty Harry – a man’s got to know his limitations before he gets his head blown clean off. Caleb, hand me the wedge.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together. You can find more podcasts and videos on my website at www.trenttheroux.com. If you enjoyed today’s show, please tell a friend, share the link on your social network…subscribe. I spent some time last week training college professors in resilient leadership. It was just a few ideas on how to better manage their workloads. If your organization could use some outside assistance, Just write to me at info@trenttheroux.com. Send me a quick message if you have an idea that needs to be looked at through a resilient leader lens. Thanks again for listening. I look forward to getting together next week.

swimming in the flood

20. Jockeying for Position

Corporations invest billions of dollars daily on whether projects will become successful. They will measure the potential for economic value added or market value added. Assessments will be made about the track for success in the marketplace and the hurdles the competitors will face. Investments will be based on the number of the competitors in the field and where they will enter the market. Decisions are often made based on the quality of the manager. Their ability to succeed…or maybe just the color of their silks.

Welcome to Swimming in the Flood; a podcast where develop the resilient leader’s mindset by navigating difficult currents in business. My name is Trent Theroux.

I recently attended the horse races at Royal Musselburgh Race Course in Scotland. A dozen highly polished friends joined in the restaurant for a fantastic lunch and an afternoon of wagering on horses. Watching the races left me with countless ideas for how to prepare this episode. My mind was rife with metaphors for resilient leaders. So many that I am going to break format and give you ten unscientific, non-peer reviewed, resilient leader theories. Are you ready? Got those pencils and wagering forms out?  Okay here we go.

Number 1 – The person who wins first doesn’t win every time.

The twelve of us made our initial wagers.  Eleven lost. The sole winner was viewed by the balance as a handicapping savant.  Ten minutes earlier he was enjoying tuna tartar. Now he’s the second coming of Jimmy the Greek. Everyone wanted to know his secret. The truth is he guessed. It is easy to follow someone based on their success. Resilient leaders need to be wary of trendy business models. What works once may never work again.

Number 2 – Horse betting requires an advance mathematical degree.

Each patron receives a book upon entering the track which gives volumes of data about each horse. Data like how much extra weight the horse is carrying or average finishing place on firm tracks versus wet tracks. I was thinking, “It’s Scotland. You can have both tracks in the same race.” Analyzing data you are given will greatly aid your opportunity for success. This is always the case. The more you study the data the better your odds for success.

Number 3 – Bet to win, not show.

We spend hours, years training for our opportunities. Some on the track, some in the office, some in school. Prove the value of your investments by betting on your horses to win. Betting to show – finishing third – shows a lack of confidence in your skills. Be confident…bet on yourself.

Number 4 – Get your horse to the starting gate.

I wagered on a horse named Honey GG. He looked like a great horse on paper. For some reason, the jockey dismounted before entering the gate and Honey GG backed up, went around the starting gate and galloped along the track. The crowd cheered as the rider-less horse frolicked down the track. Me, I held a useless ticket. You can’t win your events unless you are on the line at the start.

Number 5 – Cheer when someone else’s horse comes in. 

It is easy to be frustrated when you lose a large contract or your book submission is rejected by a publisher. Failure has many faces. Be happy for others around you. Cheer when they succeed. Happiness and karma are easily spread and warmly received.  Revel in someone else’s victories. In time, they will be there to support yours.

Number 6 – Race because you want to be racing.

Watching the horses thunder down the track makes me think how much they enjoy showing off their speed. Resilient leaders need to be in places where they can exhibit their skills. Be in a place that they enjoy working or playing. The more excited you are about your surroundings the greater you will perform on the track.

Number 7 – Throw away your losing tickets.

Movies emphasize how losers at the track will ceremoniously tear up their losing tickets and toss them into the air with disgust.  This point is spot on…save for the disgust. Take the experience and lessons of losing the race with you, but tear up the ticket and move onto the next race. How often have you wallowed in what you lost? What could have been? Worse, how often have you drained the person next to you in the story of your loss. Extracting lessons learned from failures is essential. Figuring out how much you possibly could have won if the three-horse placed on your superfecta will only send you to another strata of unfruitful aggravation.

Number 8 –  Put blinders on your horse.

Horses have enormous peripheral vision. Their eyes are located at the sides of the head allowing him to see a panoramic view of the world. In fact, horses can see a nearly full circle around themselves except for a small blind spot in front of their noses and behind their tails.

Blinders cover the rear and side vision of the horse, forcing him to focus only in a forward direction. The reduction in vision for the horses wearing blinders is significant and can reduce a horse’s vision from 180 degrees to as little as 30 degrees. Sometimes when we are managing projects we need to put blinders on ourselves and our teammates to block out the distractions of social media, competing projects…life in general. Blinders give you focus when it is needed most.

Number 9 – Don’t use the whip.

In the final furlong, the final stretch of the race, the jockeys are permitted to whip their horses. New regulations allow the jockeys to whip their horses up to five times down the stretch. I am not a proponent of this practice. The horses are working hard. The concept of the whipping the horse is to motivate them to finish strong as they are fatiguing. I think it’s barbaric.  Whipping your employees is wrong, completely wrong. I understand the desire. But, it’s still wrong. If you are frustrated with your teammates performance to the point you want to go to the whip you should realize. It’s not your teammates…it’s you.

Number 10 – Put a bed of roses on your winning horse.

I followed one of the horses after he won his race back to a marshaling area. His handlers were cooling him down by pouring buckets of water down his back. People were taking pictures of him and calling out his name. The horse glowed in the attention. Reward your people for a job well done. Reward them directly after their race. Let them bask in glory. Lay a bed of roses across their back.

A quick postscript about picking horses based on the jockey’s silks color. The day I went to Royal Musselburgh, if you bet on all green, if you bet on every jockey whose silks were green, you would have won 5 of 9 races…it’s not scientific, but I’m just sayin’ it is a method.

Folks, thank you for listening to Swimming in the Flood. Resilient leaders face challenging currents and it is tough navigating, but with one tack or another we can get there together. You can find more podcasts and videos on my website at www.trenttheroux.com. I recently provided resiliency leadership training to a sales team that was struggling with integration following an acquisition. If I can help your team, please write to me at info@trenttheroux.com. Also, send me a quick message if you have an idea that needs to be looked at through a resilient leader lens. Thanks again for listening. I look forward to getting together next week.

19. What is a 1202 Alarm?

Decisiveness, programming and the moonshot