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Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #83: The Opportunity in Adversity

April 16, 2020
Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #83: The Opportunity in Adversity

The ability for a leader to face the challenges of the day and find new opportunities is what sets them apart from others. In this episode Chris and Perry talk about three things that occur in challenging times that help leaders find new opportunities and a way forward.

As we continue to work on our leadership during these uncertain times, self-assessments are a valuable tool for leaders to learn more about themselves and reflect on new opportunities.

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Read Transcript Below:

Hello, and welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast. I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach. And I’m here with my colleague and friend Chris Goede, who is the Vice President of The John Maxwell Company. We are once again in our respective studios but enjoying coming to you, during this time of crisis we’re facing and what a great time for leaders. Welcome, Chris.

Thanks, Perry. And once again, thanks for joining us. Thanks for, being a follower of just our content. And we’re going to talk about that in some upcoming podcasts about where we’re at. We’re pretty excited about some of the movement that’s happening there. Well, we are going to continue as Perry mentioned, just hearing a little bit from John and then what we thought we would do is really take what he is delivering to us, content wise and then really talk about how we apply that in our daily life as leaders. And so we always joke around about the title. And Perry, I think, gotta continue to work on your creativity, you’re starting to, here you are, everything got serious all of a sudden, you know, all of a sudden the whole world gets serious and you get dialed in and we want to help people, we want to add value. But today’s title is finding opportunity in adversity, and there is opportunity. And so we’re going to talk a little bit about that. Give you some pointers coming back. But do me a favor, pull up a chair, put in that earbud a little bit closer and listen to John as he shares with just a couple minutes from a virtual leadership summit that he did in the past and then we’ll be right back with you.

Good things come out of bad things. If you have the right perspective, if you have the wrong perspective, that’s not true. If here’s, here’s the quote, how we view things is how we do things. So it’s possible for two people to view adversity and have two different responses to that adversity. One takes adversity and turns it into an advantage. And the other one takes adversity and says, Oh, I’m at a disadvantage. And I’m a victim, and they just basically lay down, and instead of getting better, they get worse. Let me give you an example. Albert Einstein, was a brilliant fellow and he said this: in the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.

Now, I’ve loved that statement for quite some time, and I share it with you, because I think there’s something very interesting and what Albert Einstein said he said it was in the middle in the middle, in fact, when I put that quote in here, I capitalized all the letters on ‘middle’ in the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity. You know what Einstein was saying? He said, You have got to get into the crisis, you have got to get into the middle of the problem before you see how to get opportunity out of it, because at the beginning, we don’t understand how deep the problem is going to be. It doesn’t affect us enough to take away our options so that all of a sudden we get desperate for an answer. It’s not at the end. If by the end, we haven’t seen the opportunity – to be honest with you-  we just passed it. The door was back in the middle. But in the middle of difficulty adversity, crisis: that’s where Albert Einstein said that’s where we find opportunity.

Well, welcome back. Thank you for taking just a second to listen to that and some of John’s input. And you know, Perry and I, we’ve told you on this podcast before we both in regards to the 5 Levels of Leadership probably have a natural bent,  level two when it comes to relationships and connecting but, and now more than ever Perry, we need to be making sure that we are always putting our people first, talk a little bit about today’s lesson, talk about where it kind of originated from what’s on your heart. And then let’s dive into some of the content.

Yeah, fantastic. I: Well, I love John talking about you know that there is opportunity in adversity and how does he know that? Because there is always opportunity in adversity, our tendencies sometimes, and we spoke on a previous podcast about perspective, and how you see things and how you view things is how you’ll do things. And if you’re really feeling the adversity and the crisis and the pressure of that it’s going to affect how you’re able to raise your head up and to see what the new opportunities are. And then we do this on coaching calls all the time and have been asking, I know what’s wrong. I know how it must feel and all that. But tell me what’s good. Tell me what’s changed. What’s the new view you have from this, from this new plateau that you’re sitting on that didn’t exist maybe last week? And if I get them thinking, they almost always come up with something. You know, we just learned something about our business. Hey, we just learned something about our customers that we didn’t know before. And I’m thinking Yes, if you’ll take a moment, as John said, there’s almost alwaysm from bad experience can either define you or it will define you going forward, or it can push you back? And so I love this idea of getting that right perspective and then finding where is the opportunity in the middle of adversity. I thought John has some great ideas on that.

Yeah, and as only John can do, every experience is a learning experience as long as you take time to evaluate and look for the silver lining, look for those opportunities. And I know that even not only in the way that you’re doing things as an organization, but maybe even the opportunity to learn more about your people, or to take the opportunity to learn a little bit even about their personal life. I think it’s so interesting. We’re doing so many of these zoom calls now. And all of our we’re working remote just like many of you are, and so now we’re having these calls. And yes, we have virtual backgrounds. But a lot of times we just turn those off. And our CEO was given a message the other night on Facebook Live, which is one of the ways we’re beginning to communicate to the bigger part of our team. And I thought one of the best parts about this was to learn just a little bit more about his home life because his grandson is staying with them currently. And actually towards the end of his time and his message to the team, you could hear him in the background. And I think he’s probably seven or eight years old. He was just biting it, just wanted to be on camera and started off Mark goes come up, come on over here and he tried to put his arm around them. And he ended up just kind of hanging out with us for two or three or four minutes. And it allowed us as part of his team just to see the opportunity for us to see the opportunity of what he’s like at home and what he’s like, you know, with his family, and just the environment of which our team lives in. So I think there’s all kinds of opportunities, not just when we say opportunity, I don’t want you to think in dollar and cents, although there is some of that there is opportunity to save some money to make some money differently to think differently, but even just when it comes to you People, right? 

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Somebody sent me a pie chart graphic that said, the attention span on a zoom call now that we’re all doing it. And so that 2% of the 100% pie was toward the meeting content. Like 25% were looking at other people’s houses 10% was, does my chin always look that way? And all these, all these distractions going on with 2% on the meeting content, wow. Anyway, I will not be in the meeting notes, I promise. So John, in his recording that we just listened to, really talks about how you find opportunity in the middle of adversity and why that happens. And the first one I thought, be interesting, to get your perspective on it as you’re leaving your business. He said that it changes the balance of risk and reward that we tend in normal times. Not to Risk so easily. We like the status quo. We stay where we were, this works, let’s don’t change it, don’t rock the boat. I know we teach a lot about being change agents as leaders, your job is really we. I have a bumper sticker now that says “If there’s no need for change. There’s no need for you.” But we want to be change agents, but we tend to stay safe. Sometimes I noticed that in adversity right now, the whole world changed. And I’ve got to take some, I’ve got to do some things differently as far as how you’re seeing that from where you sit.

Yeah, I think complacency is a word that comes to my mind when I begin to think about what it’s like in what we will call normal times. Incremental growth is what a lot of people you know strive for. And so, just that kind of steady plotting, and I think what ends up happening in adversity in a time like this, is you realize very quickly you better change. And I think the pace of which you change also needs to happen quickly. And so one of the things Marc Cole and I were talking about the other day, and we kind of began to unpack this and didn’t even know where we were going to get in regards to this, but he’s talking about as a leader, because I need to make sure that my team knows that. I’ve been thinking I’ve been working around some of the changes, okay, and so I just am not spare of the moment. 

As a leader, I’m thinking through that, however, I do realize that I need to risk a little bit more. I need to make changes at a quicker pace. And we began talking about courageous, and what that looks like to be a courageous leader. And we could, even unpack that on one of our podcasts of what it looks like in a time like this to be to be courageous. But I think in times like this, when our backs are against the wall, no matter what that may look like in your situation, whether you have too much work to handle right now, because some of you do, or you all of it disappeared in about less than three days. I think all of us get into a mode where we’re like, Hey, I got to change something, I gotta risk something and you have a different mindset. And so I challenged my team one time I said, Well, why wouldn’t we think like this in normal times? Now, I said, that is almost rhetorical because I’m asking myself the same thing because I’m an analyzer by trade. And so I tend to like wanna over analyze, and aim, aim, aim, and never pull the trigger. And I think at times like this, you gotta aim and pull the trigger. and then retest. Right. It may not all work, but we got to be testing everything. We are in a leadership team meeting the other day, and one of the gentlemen that’s on the leadership team, Paul Marinelli said that he said, we should be testing everything right now to figure out what in small beta test, what’s working and what’s not, what’s adding value and what’s not. And just continue to retest and retest until we’re, you know, we were able to find things that were, we can do a little bit differently.

Right. Another thing John said that really struck me in this time of adversity or crisis that how you find opportunity is you increases our focus. And he’d mentioned in the recording, you just heard about competing or conflicting priorities in your business and or in your life, and that we tend to let those and normal times just kind of go on, we just almost accept them. But now it’s really we’re eliminating these. There’s no time for this conflict or competing. We absolutely have to be what are the essentials that we should be focused on? And is it really that narrowing of my focus on what is really important now? And then that opens your eyes and you say: Wow, like you’re saying, what Paul was saying, why don’t we just be testing this stuff? This is a great opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t. Yeah, because there’s going to be a new world when this is over and it’s going to be people. I think John said in one of the recordings there are gonna be a lot of college kids that don’t go back because they just figured out, they can go to college on a computer, and be at home and have a job. So it’s gonna change a lot of mindsets for that. I know you’re seeing a lot of. 

And I think when you talk about focus, I know as an organization, we struggle with that. We tend to be opportunistic, and figuring out ways to add value and to develop people. And John sees different opportunities, and we tend to be all over the place. And I think in times like this, when you talk about increasing your focus, I think there’s two things that come to mind. What is it that you’ve been doing that you no longer need to be doing? Right? Like, you could think about that personally. And we’ve had that conversation, even just as a family, what is it that we are spending money on that we don’t need to be spending money on? We realize it’s not, it’s not that important, in times like this. And then the second part is, and I’d love to just get some feedback from you because I know that you spent a lot of time at IBM and big organizations. I think at times like this as people of organization, all conversations should be acceptable about how to get out of things like this. Meaning: We all know that every organization has sacred cows. And we all work in silos, and we’re trying our best to help organizations in their culture around the world, break those walls down. But even at the John Maxwell company, we deal with that. And I think in times like this, your focus has to be as one enterprise as one organization. And you’ve got to get out of the mindset of just my department, just my team, just me, and you got to increase your focus. It’s almost like an oxymoron. I’m saying increase your focus, but it’s got to be on a broader perspective, because you got to figure out as a team how to come together and increase your focus about what is that we can be doing to help the enterprise. 

I had a great conversation a couple of days ago with a leader of another one of our groups, we have four groups inside our enterprise. And it was a great conversation, because he was basically leading the conversation saying, Hey, we’ve got to begin thinking about and focusing on how my group can do a better job at helping your group in a business situation like this. And, so it was a fascinating conversation. And when you mentioned that we started talking about increasing, you know, our focus. It made me think about that as an organization. Any thoughts to that? Have you seen any of that in your experience? And listen, we have limited time. Okay, listen, but just just bounce off of that for a second.

Well, you mentioned that I do spend a lot of years at IBM and leadership development. And when I wrote my book about repeating, remarkable, I looked at IBM as a 100 plus year old company, and they were remarkable, I thought in a number of ways. But the way they got that and the way that an individual kind of repeats the remarkable performances, is by being able to increase focus and not have those sacred cows. When we always did that. We all got to keep doing that. And IBM was about to go out of business in the 90s and figured out while I was there at the time going that, “wow, we’ve got to get back to what it is we do.”And you find things like the PC World, where they invented the PC, why are they gonna get out of PCs, and all of a sudden they just cut it. And it had an enormous impact and it was a big decision. But it probably saved the company, number of stories like that through a lot of organizations where they figured out you know, Jack Welch was so good at GE and let’s focus, we’re gonna be number one or number two, and we’re not going to do it. And thinking that, you know, these times of crisis, we start to really hone that focus that we probably should have all the time in doing that. So yeah, it’s that’s why I think it captured my attention. And so much on that one. The last one, John mentioned that really got me was that it really identifies this, these times like this identify leaders that he says you can’t manage your way out of crisis, but that leaders will, will stand up and stand out. And so I’m really lucky to encourage our listeners about this. You know, it is a hard time, no doubt, and there are gonna be hard days ahead. But this is the time I heard John say, this is what I was born for. But I don’t actually think that, maybe I should. That’s a great perspective. We talked about perspective. That’s why I’m the leader. I’m here for this time such as this. I love that.

Yeah, I think we often talk about our world. We talk about the fact that leaders are in their character and their attributes in their quality of leaders are revealed in moments like this and that your team needs to do a couple things. A good friend of ours who’s also on our team, one of our executive coaches, Michael Bryan sent me a Gallup article over today that may have sent it to you as well. And there’s a quote in there that just kind of grabbed me and said, “If leaders have a clear way forward, human beings are amazingly resilient.” And so as a leader, what is that rallying cry? You know, what, what is that clear message of the rallying cry of the hope of the way forward, that will allow you to kind of stand up and stand after your team, they need to hear that from you. And we talk a lot about an organization about communicating. We also talk a lot about Listen, it’s not about having a good hand and playing it well. Most people can take good hands and play it well. There are some people who could probably mess up a good hand, but it’s really about taking a bad hand or hand that you’ve been dealt and playing it the best way that is possible. And, and so I think in times like this, you know, you’ll see leaders begin to do that you’ll, you know, I think about a guy like Ed Bastion, who’s a good friend of our organization, I cannot imagine, at times playing the hand that he’s been telling, right when you think about everything that goes into to the airline industry, already a tough industry as it is, and what they’re having to deal with. And so, I’ll give you this last thought, and then I’ll kind of throw it to you and kind of let you wrap up. Okay. I think at the end of the day, when you talk about finding opportunities in adversity, the ultimate thing as a leader that you need to be thinking about, is find what’s right for your people. Communicate that and then begin to take steps on that, there are opportunities that if you find out what’s right for not all your team, but your customers. I think there’s our opportunities for you to connect, I think there’s opportunities for you to produce, I think there’s opportunities for you to reproduce, which by the way, I just went Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4, in the 5 Levels of Leadership, Perry, and I’ve been talking about this a little bit offline. And there are times like this, that going through the 5 Levels of Leadership. They are now more than ever needed from you as a leader, and you need to be very aware of, you know, what level you’re on with each one of your team members. But then also what are the opportunities for you as a leader to increase your influence with them?

Very good. Well said, I, I’ll just close that john made a comment that kind of got me really thinking about the whole thing with the crisis will bump us from our comfort zone to our creative zone. And I have found that to be incredibly true, but there’s two types of people: those that will put their head down and wait for this thing to pass and, and those that are leaders that will raise their head up and look for that true opportunity  that now is within our grasp. And we can have that correct perspective to look for ways to to shine in this moment of challenge and that john is the bump. The crisis is the bump that’s pushing us out to that. So, enjoy being with you today. If just a reminder, if you would like the show notes from this episode, you can get that and from any of our episodes at You can also leave Chris and I a question there and learn more about the 5 Levels. If you’d like to know more about that. If we haven’t said it will say it now. We very much appreciate you joining us in this journey. And we look forward to joining you again soon. This is The John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.

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