In today’s Freedom in Five Minutes Podcast episode, Eric Olsen talks about leadership in times of global crisis. Eric—The Leadership Evangelist—is a freelance consultant who has worked with different organizations both from civilian and military backgrounds.
Right now, he is utilizing his skills for different businesses during this global Coronavirus pandemic. He is focused on the Free Crisis Leadership Program with DiligentPlans.com—something that is truly needed during this tough time.
Overview & Episode Content
- Leadership Coaching at DiligentPlans.com During Times of Crisis
- Eric’s Path to Leadership is Paved with Unanswered Prayers
- Leading Proactively and Staying Ahead to Save Lives
- The Proactive VS The Nearsighted Leader
- How to Unlock Suppressed Talent Through Leadership
- What Does Leadership Mean?
- A Leader is Your Sea Anchor
Free Leadership Coaching at DiligentPlans.com During Times of Crisis
Today, business owners are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of growing in crisis. Over at DiligentPlans.com, most of the coaches have been deployed at least once. They have powerful experiences and wisdom to share and one of these is how good the military is at creating crises so that people are able to grow.
Although it’s true that not everyone is going to go through boot camp, Eric says “A crisis like this really focuses on people. One of my favorite words is ‘DELIBERATE’. Looking at how people have had to become deliberate in this time is definitely something new that none of us have ever seen before.”
Just look at the focus and deliberate mindset that this global pandemic is giving people. For example, Eric shares how his eight-year-old daughter is planning days in advance and specify the time when she will FaceTime her friends. We teach our kids the same discipline of setting an exact time to meet up with friends and family but it never really sinks in until now when everyone is forced to step up out of necessity.
This is a perfect microcosm of what is going on in most of our lives right now. “Deliberate” is such a brilliant word and that is exactly what permeates into everyone across the world in both life and business.
Eric’s Path to Leadership is Paved with Unanswered Prayers
False starts and turns that went the wrong way were littered all throughout Eric’s life. He was passionate about flying a plane from a very young age. One day, someone told him to go to the Air Force since that’s where people go who love to fly! And the Air Force was Eric’s first twist and turn.
Eric recounts his experience in West Point, “If I'm gonna go on a cruise, I want to be drinking piña coladas or something like that. So I decided to go over to the army at West Point and I learned so many great things. One thing that stood out to me was when you come back for your sophomore year, I was nineteen years old, they give you two plebes of your own and they make you responsible for their training and everything that they do.”
Most people do not think of themselves as the leader and do not intend to become one but sometimes life challenges you, and you are forced to step up and lead in a situation where failure is not an option.
Eric is of the mindset that leaders are made, not born. And this is a total mind shift. There is no user manual for becoming responsible for someone else. You simply have to realize what is real, step up, and just do it—lead.
Leading Proactively and Staying Ahead to Save Lives
Eric’s career started off in a relatively peaceful time, training as a helicopter pilot. He was flying an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. So, he found himself yet in a bigger leadership role when wartime suddenly came. Not only was he responsible for people, but for several millions of dollars worth of equipment.
“It forced me to get so much more proactive, rather than just do what I was asked. I had to figure out how to stay ahead of our enemies and keep my guys as safe as possible.”, says Eric.
It was a huge paradigm shift for Eric from being comfortable as a follower to becoming a leader. And it is no joke. In the military, if the people under you mess up, that is your fault as their leader. You, as the leader, are responsible for your people multiplied by their family members. That is the magnitude of your responsibility under a life-or-death stress situation in a war-time military.
Later on, Eric got an opportunity to take on more responsibility as a leader in maintenance. And although maintenance is the kiss of death for a military pilot, Eric took it. This was his transition point from military to corporate.
After being deployed a few more times, Eric switched over to corporate and that was where he discovered there was not much of a difference from the military after all.
The Proactive VS The Nearsighted Leader
Eric tells people all the time, “I stayed ahead of what my clients wanted and identified who had the final say if I was doing a good job or not. And then, I trained my guys so that they would be ready to meet the needs of the customer before they even wanted it or even knew they wanted it.”
Sometimes, leaders tend to be nearsighted when riddled with little concerns daily. Take for example a general manager who has to deal with payroll, hiring, firing, etc… The trick is to learn creative and new ways to do tasks. People are the core aspect of any company or military organization. The manner of how you lead people determines your success.
Leadership is all about doing the right thing no matter what. Whatever the industry, it comes back to relating to people, developing people, looking at who your customer is, and figuring out how to meet their needs.
It is interesting how business owners and leaders tend to not see that there are people who have the potential to be high-value assets to the business but they are suppressed. Eric talks about why this happens so many times in different businesses and how to unlock this “hidden” force multiplier that’s just sitting there, already part of your business but suppressed.
How to Unlock Suppressed Talent Through Leadership
One of the things that get in so many people’s ways nowadays is when people are given responsibility without ownership. And to make it worse, they are micromanaged. You have to realize that with responsibility comes ownership and authority. And right now, this is exactly what plagues most businesses.
People who were under you generally want to see the success of the business. Of course, there are some people who just want a paycheck and go home. Identify those people who actually enjoy what they are doing and what the business does.
And then, give them something, a project—give them a responsibility—and let them own it. Let them do what they think is best for their project. Naturally, as a leader, you have to assess. But by default, If you feel that people want your business to be successful, they will try to do the right thing every day.
A lot of folks have 30 to 40 years of professional history—being given responsibilities with no authority. And they are so disgruntled because of it. You have to realize it can take a long time to overcome that. And that is why leadership is so important and so much needed right now.
Eric shares one realization, “The interesting thing is that giving people responsibility and letting them have the authority and ownership of that project made my job easier! It is one of those things where you don't realize it until you see it.”
What does Leadership Mean?
Business owners are great people but so many of them do not see themselves as leaders. Most of the time, they simply do something because it makes them money.
There is no leadership in their mindset. Everyone out there with a small business is a leader who possesses leadership traits that are much stronger than they have any idea of. Eric helps them embrace the fact that they are a leader now and change the way they think about running a business and what leadership means.
Leadership does not simply mean getting the job done. It is about helping the people who work for you to get better at doing their job. That mindset shift is what makes everyone go to that next level. This is something that the leaders need to realize right now in these small businesses. Leadership is not about them doing it better. Instead, it is about taking the lead so that your people figure out how to do it better.
It was Lee Iacocca who said, “I hire smart people and then I get out of their way.”
So many small business owners have an office manager that has been doing the job — running the office for 20 years. And are not allowed to do anything unless they are told to by the owner! That is not being a leader.
A Leader is Your Sea Anchor
In a global crisis like this, you cannot do that anymore. You have to pull back and start looking at the leader. And perhaps, you may be uncomfortable with it at first and think that you are not prepared for it or that it is not your innate skill. But all these thoughts are wrong. You have to do it, step up, and embrace your role.
However, just because you are the leader does not mean that you will have the answers all the time. It does not necessarily mean that you will be totally certain of what to do next in every situation. Would each of your decisions be the right choice? Or course not.
The people in your organizations are not looking for perfection in their leader. They are looking for a sea anchor in their leader. For those who are non-sailors out there, a sea anchor is deployed off the bow and used to keep a drifting boat’s head to the wind and waves so that it may ride through seas and it keeps the boat oriented in a storm.
That is what a leader is supposed to do. They keep everyone oriented with the best way to negotiate that storm. You are not making the only decisions. It is important to let everyone else on that boat do their job because, with the leader as the anchor, the crew is not getting tossed around by the waves that are hitting the boat sideways.
Allow your people the freedom to decide and take ownership of their responsibilities. They are the ones on the ground floor and have a much better view of what is really happening.
Let go, and synthesize the intel that you gather from your people. That will arm you with enough knowledge to make better decisions, and although it may seem counterintuitive, it will lead the company in a more effective direction if leaders let go.
Resources and Links
At the beginning of this episode, Eric mentioned DiligentPlans.com/freecoaching. This link will point you to a whole team that can coach you for free. These coaches have backgrounds in leadership training, multiple combat tours, Pentagon speaking, and more. These coaches are an amazing group of folks, each one just looking to give time out there for anyone who wants to learn about how to better lead during a crisis.
It is a free session and you have nothing to lose. The other best way to find Eric is on LinkedIn at www.LinkedIn.com/in/EricMOlsen — Eric Olsen Leadership Evangelist.
Reach out to Eric, he loves helping people solve problems whatever that looks like. He does not do cookie-cutter programs, he will try to figure out what is really going on with you, meet you where you are, move forward, and take that next step from there.