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I am giving my brain away.

“I could while away the hours, conferring with the flowers, consulting with the rain. And my head I’ll be scratching, while my thoughts were busy hatching, if I only had a brain.”

Friday evening…B.C. Place, Vancouver, B.C.

Somewhere in the red zone (between the 20-yard line and the goal line). I woke up to Dr. Mark Aubry looking down at me.

I asked him what happened? He told me I got hit!

“No shit I got hit!”.

I could hear voices.  I could taste blood.  I could hear the opposing players arguing with the officials about their ruling it was indeed a catch and not a fumble.  I could hear the crowd responding to the replay of the hit on the big screen.  I always wondered what an “audible gasp” sounded like.  Now I knew.

I had a couple of teammates telling me to hang in there.  Who they specifically were I couldn’t tell you.

I remember it all like it happened this morning which is odd because it happened back in the fall of 1990.

I had always assumed that you would not remember anything after getting knocked out, but I did.

A few moments earlier I was exiting the huddle after QB Damon Allen called the play.  The play called for me to run a 12-15 yard hook route on the right side of the line of scrimmage.  I went through my usual pre-snap checks and balances.  What is the body language of the defensive back covering me?  Would he play man or zone? Would he play press coverage?  Would he blitz?  I caught the strong side linebacker peeking my way which told me he was looking to cheat in his drop to his zone.  I was not surprised what with it being an obvious passing situation.  Just to be sure, I tracked the free safety.  Where he lines up often dictates the defense you will see.

On this occasion,  he was playing at depth (about 15-17 yards away and in the middle of the field) which told me he was going to drop deeper to defend against any deep passes.

Based on all of the variables, I had a good sense that I was going to get the ball.

As I took off on my route, my first steps widened me away from the SAM linebacker in a bid to avoid his trying to bump me off my route. I knew that once I got passed him I could settle at 12-14 yards in a window between him and the middle linebacker.  It was a route I had run a million times during my career.  I was confident.  Maybe too confident!  I got to depth, settled down and gave Damon a target. This was simple pitch and catch!  He delivered a dime hitting me right in the middle of my jersey numbers with the pass.  I was all set to take off up field in a bid to gain some extra yardage…then BOOM!

The last thing I saw were brown eyes.  The very same brown eyes belonging to free safety Robin Belanger.  The very Robin Belanger that had I failed to notice cheating up on coverage as the play unfolded.  Safe to assume I noticed as soon as he sent me into la-la land!

*Of note, I only knew it was Robin Belanger after I watched the game film a couple of days later!

After Dr. Aubry established that I had been knocked out, I miraculously sat up, yet was wary of the news that was about to come, because I knew something was not right.  I felt like I had gotten run over by a truck!  I asked him what the damage was.

He replied, “Separated shoulder, a broken nose, a few teeth had pierced your lower lip and you likely have a concussion.”. 

All were injuries I would recover from.  It’s not like I blew out my knee (which I did in 1993).  I didn’t think twice about making a recovery and getting back on the field.  The concussion didn’t even trigger an element of fear or doubt.

“With the thoughts I’d be thinking, I could be another Lincoln, if I only had a brain.”

Yes, I was done for the day.  In hindsight, it was also the day I subconsciously decided that I would play the game safe.

It was not the first time I was knocked out and thanks to a combination of forces (an ability to catch punts and being on a bad team) it would not be the last.

The first knockout took place in Ottawa when we hosted the Toronto Argos.  I ran a shallow crossing route and saw the LB on the other side of the field drop back into zone.  Cool, I would just gear down in the space he vacated and all would be good.  Yet, that was not just any linebacker.  It was all-star Ben Zambiasi.  He was a former Georgia Bulldog, tougher than nails and sly…very sly.  I had heard stories about Zambiasi but as a young, seemingly invincible fool, I chose not to give any of those stories credence.  That I regret…a lot.  I didn’t see him but I sure felt and heard him.  As I geared down, I looked to the QB and it was in that moment the lights went out. Zambiasi had dropped a few steps then torpedoed me and I was sent ass over tea-kettle.  The wind was knocked out of me but rather than panic, everything was oddly calm…almost surreal.  The best way to describe it may be he hit my Control-Alt-Delete button.  I knew I was hurt but not injured. I could hear Zambiasi arguing with the ref that I had ran into him but I couldn’t see anything! I tried turning the lights on by opening my eyes and closing them over again but nothing.  I know I scared the crap out of my teammates what with their looking down at me and watching me blink my eyes over and over again! Odd thing is, I did not leave the game. I missed a couple of plays but continued to play.  There was no “how many fingers?” questions.  I was asked how I felt and I said great! I wanted to compete.

(Funny thing is Ben Zambiasi was on the coaching staff when I joined the Hamilton Tiger Cats. My fondest memory was his plotting to steal the team bus after a season ending loss in Edmonton. I was an eager recruit but regrettably, the mission failed.)

The third time I got knocked out was in San Antonio, Texas. As a member of the Ottawa Rough Riders, we traveled there from Memphis as part of a 2 city road trip.  By then, I was trying to recover from a surgically repaired torn ACL, just finishing out the string!  Truth is, I never completely recovered.  My knee doesn’t completely bend.  The knee cap was bogged down with scar tissue despite my going in to have it cleaned on 4 separate occasions!  I was holding on to the game and was a mere shadow of my former self. Life beyond the game scared me.  During my recovery, I enrolled in a Computer Programming Diploma Program  at CDI College, even though there was nothing about me that screamed computer programming.  Everyone was seemingly in computers and they were making money doing it.  Why couldn’t I?  Sure, I wasn’t passionate about it but I was in survival mode.  So much so that I returned to what was in essence, an abusive relationship that was not good for me.  Like they say, “It’s better to dance with the devil you know than the one you don’t know”, and I knew football.  All for $55,000 before taxes!

Did I mention we were not a very good football team?  So much so, that the coach in his infinite wisdom had me return punts.  Now, I was never a burner to begin with but as luck would have it I was one of the few on the team that could catch a punt which is all that I was asked to do.  Why? Because every time we lined up on punt return we tried to block the damn thing.  Great idea if it works but bad for me if it doesn’t.  If we are going for the block, I have next to no blockers available to help me out.  It just made sense what with our being a bad football team, that we would be fail miserably in the category of “blocked punts”.

I swear I could hear the Texans punter Roman Anderson laughing before he punted one my way.  It was in the Alamo Dome so tracking the ball was challenging to say the least.  His hitting the ball about 9 kilometers up didn’t help either.  By the time the ball came down and was caught, I was surrounded by the Texans punt cover team.  I utilized the old “duck and cover” technique which fared well until the 2nd quarter.  As luck would have it Texans FB Tony Burse, all 6 ft. 220 lbs. of hurt, figured out my strategy.  He whacked me pretty good.  There were 2 sounds…him hitting me and my hitting the turf. This time the lights went out and back on quickly.  Just a flash!  I immediately regained my focus but in that moment, completely lost my will to play.  That was when I decided I would retire at the end of the season.  I also decided I was not going to return punts or play football for that matter on that day.  The trainer pulled me from the game.  I went to the locker room, showered, took a couple of pain killers and then drank a few beers on the team bus while listening to the rest of the game with the bus driver. He was pretty chatty and I had nothing to say.

“I would not be just a nothing, my head all full of stuffin, my heart all full of pain. I would dance and be merry, life would be a ding-a-derry. If I only had a brain.”

So, I am giving away my brain.  It may be the only thing worth giving away once everything is said and done. I have had 2 cardiac ablations for an atrial fibrillation issue. My back and hips are stiffer than a Regina wind storm and my memory is starting to go.

I am a father to 3 wonderful, precocious children. I have a wonderful, patient partner in Pamela, who has gone to hell and back with me. I have been impatient, moody, confused and frightened. I have also avoided seeking help for fear that there is some real damage. Again, another example of my dancing with the devil I knew versus the one I don’t know.

I am sharing my story because by going public, I have intentionally forced my hand.

I have chosen to share my story because I have decided to seek help. I have decided to avoid the trap of thinking I am invincible, that I am okay and that I am being brave by “manning up”, by not doing anything.

If I didn’t have kids, I probably would not be seeking help. Picking yourself up and pretending you are okay and getting back into the game is not an act of bravery.  Asking for help is.

I would have continued to live in the silence.  To simply exist but my kids need me.  Elijah, Summer and Nate need me.  Pamela Joy needs me.

I am not regretful. I grew up in Lebreton Flats and spent hours at the Boys and Girls Club.  We did not have much besides big dreams and great parents.  My dad, Ken Sr., played minor league baseball with Pete Rose and Ritchie Allen.  My mom, Paulette, was and still is our Rock of Gibraltar.

I knew as soon as my dad lifted me up on to the ticket box outside Lansdowne Park so I could see one half of the field as the Rough Riders played the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, football would be my way out.

With that said, as much as I loved the game, Pamela and I will have plenty of discussions regarding our kids and their playing contact sports.

Here’s the rub in all of this. I have no idea if what I just shared made sense.  I guess that is yet another reason I have decided to donate my brain. They will likely find nothing (pardon the pun!).

Gosh, it would be awful pleasin, to reason out the reason, for things I can’t explain. Then perhaps I’ll deserve your and be even worthy of you.
If I only had a brain!

————————–

Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder. As a former professional athlete, he has learned from great coaches and learned even more from the bad ones!

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.kenevraire.com or visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17

 

Steve Kerr – I would want you to coach my son.

I have always liked Steve Kerr. Ever since he was a member of the Chicago Bulls!

Yes, that team had Michael, Scottie, Tony, B.J., Horace, Bill and of course Dennis but there were a handful of consummate team guys who stood out thanks to their subtle contributions. Steve Kerr was one of those guys.  His back story is incredible.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Kerr)

Once you do a background check on Kerr, everything simply makes sense as it relates to his success as a person and as a coach.

After coaching the Golden State Warriors to the 2017 NBA title, Kerr now has 7 NBA titles to his credit (5 as a player and 2 as a coach). Yet, its not what he has done in the spotlight that really impresses.  What really stands out is his humility, respect for the game and his genuine connection to those around him.  It’s his ability to lead, give credit where credit is due and connect on a deeper level with his players and staff that leaves me wishing every coach/leader at any level should spend a day with Steve Kerr.

He is a LEADER! No doubt about.

Here is a great article written by John Eades entitled “6 Powerful Leadership Lessons From World Champion Steve Kerr”

https://www.inc.com/john-eades/6-powerful-leadership-lessons-from-world-champion-steve-kerr.html

Far too many leaders stray from the fundamental lessons. Pressure will do that. The key is sticking to what brough you success in the first place!  Don’t blink. Trust in your core leadership principals and coach up!

Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder. As a former professional athlete, he has learned from great coaches and learned even more from the bad ones!

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.ken
evraire.com
or visit him Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17

Wayne Gretzky lied to me (well kind of!)

It was the summer of 2001. Team Canada’s Olympic training camp began in Ottawa at Ottawa U.  A who’s who of media types were on hand including yours truly (who was not part of the who’s who club!).

I took a seat in the front row of the press room like a kid looking forward to the first day of school. I was going to get straight A’s this year! Honor roll here I come! This one was going on my demo tape!

The Team Canada Olympic Team brass entered the room and made their way to the stage and after a brief review of press conference instructions from the media rep, the floor was opened for questions and, like everyone else in the room, I raised my hand.

As luck would have it, I was selected first. I had a great question for Team Canada Executive Director, Wayne Gretzky.  I was going to set the tone! With one question I was going to trigger an in-depth, thought provoking, life changing, symbiotic dialogue between The Great One (TGO) and Kenneth Russell Joseph Simon Maurice Evraire Jr. (KRJSMAJ)! A question that would lead to a lifelong friendship. He would call me by my nickname (Cowboy) and I would call him Gretzk or Wayner!  All because I had a question that no one in the room would have thought of but would all would go on to poach for their stories.

Boy, was I wrong! On all counts!

I asked, “With a roster filled with star players, the worlds best, will it be difficult for some of them to adjust to 3rd line and 4th line roles and less ice time?”.

He pondered my question for a millisecond then responded, “No, they are the best players in the world and if they can’t adjust, they wouldn’t be here.”

Ta-da! There it was.  Short and sweet. Nothing more, nothing less!

The media relations guy took the mic from me and gave me a look that reminded me of the Soup Nazi character in the series Seinfeld. “No more questions for you!”. I could almost hear the rest of the media throng mumbling “what an idiot!” to themselves. Back to media 101 summer school for me!

All I could do was sit there and pretend I was completely intrigued with all of the other questions and answers shared during the presser, when in truth, I just wanted to get the heck out of there! Time just seemed to slow down! I was pissed. I was pissed because, one, I thought I had a great question,  two, I thought it warranted a longer answer and three, I thought..no wait, I knew The Great One was wrong! I had been in a room filled with pro athletes before. Adaptation and change only take place when it benefits the individual. I get the entire team sport thing but it has been my experience that great team players are great team players when it benefits them.

My football instincts were telling me to crack back block the crap out of WAYNER when he left the stage. (Wayner…what a dumb-ass nickname!).  Yep, the solution was to just ear-hole his hockey playing, jofa helmet wearing, frosted hair tips attitude then and there. Dave Semenko isn’t around to protect you now pal! Call Mark Messier and I will call Darren Joseph.  Shout out to Marty McSorley, I will make a toll-free call to Glenn Kulka!

If you google search “football player ear-holes the greatest hockey player ever” you won’t find anything because after taking a couple of deep breaths, I chose to take the high road and keep my emotions in check.  Why? Because I knew I was right. Talent doesn’t always win out. The ability to adapt does.

    (courtesy of The Hockey Hall of Fame)

It took some time (6 months)  but I was eventually proven right.

On February 18, 2002, Gretzky lashed out at the media at a press conference, frustrated with media and fan comments regarding his team’s uninspiring 1–1–1 start in pre-Olympic Games exhibition play. He would go on to say his rant was designed to protect his team as they adjusted and worked to become a gold medal winning team.

I jest when saying The Great One lied to me but the fact of the matter is,  any roster including a team made up of the world’s greatest players, needs time to adjust to new roles. Head Coach Pat Quinn had to find those players within this all-star roster willing to change their game. He had to find a new set of strengths within a number of players that would translate into success. As good as the players were, Quinn and his staff had to do some serious coaching. Team Canada didn’t just show up and dominate. They had to earn their title of Olympic Champion the hard way. I think that is part of the reason why the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games gold medal meant so much to so many and continues to, to this day.

Every team will need to adjust….it’s inevitable. This truth applies to sports teams, small businesses all the way through to Fortune 500 companies.

When watching a best of 7 playoff series be it in hockey, basketball, baseball etc, the ability to overcome the physical challenges combined with being able to counter punch from a strategic perspective is everything. The margin for error is far greater in the playoffs versus a regular season game because the teams see each other every second night. The differences between the teams become so finite thanks to the in-depth understanding of the opposition. The same applies to the business sector. Everyone is competing for their piece of the pie. The tide can turn at any time. Being able to adapt is key.

This fact leads me to the 3 Cs…Communicate, Collaborate and Conquer. They should serve as the principals that make up the foundation that every team is built on.

Communication is everything. It begins with 5 Ws (what, when, who, where and why).

There was a time when a coach/CEO/manager would tell the employees to do something and they would just go about doing it, whether it made sense or not. It’s the “Jump! How High?” approach. Fact is, the one voice, the providence of one and only one offers a high risk, low reward outcome. Times began to change in the late 70’s. The realization that the silent majority had been an untapped resource came to be. Silence was no longer accepted. Speak up and forever support your team was the new approach.

Today, asking the 5Ws (what, when, where, why and who) helped to create a low risk-high reward scenario. It is the foundation of my coaching.

Create the opportunity to succeed by providing answers to questions before they are asked. Answer the what we are going to do, why we are going to do it, where we are going to do it, when we are going to do it and who is going to do it questions. By doing so you create a win in the bid to elevate overall team proficiency and competency!

Communication segues to Collaboration. A leader/decision maker is not always right. The idea may be bang on but the roll out strategy may need some significant tweaking. Collaboration is designed to utilize people’s strengths. Collaboration sets individuals up to succeed. Fewer questions are left unanswered and more problems are solved when working with others.

Conquering is the by-product of healthy communication lines and ensuing collaboration.  When a mountain climber makes his/her way to the top of the mountain, the very next thought should be, “I need to go find me a taller mountain, a greater challenge!”. 

No matter how talented your team, the need to adapt and overcome, the need to expect and accept evolving roles in a bid to succeed as a team is inevitable.

Coach Up!

Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder. As a former professional athlete, he has learned from great coaches and learned even more from the bad ones!

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.ken
evraire.com
or visit him Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17

 

 

 

Popsicle Moments Make Teams!

I recently posted an invitation to leaders from all walks to consider kenevraire.com as a team building reward or maybe a kick-start for their team. One reader made this comment…

I have to disagree. Unless the reward is further education or training. Rewards are earned based on performance. If your employees are not provided with the tools, training and, education to be able to perform better, then your rewards program is going to fail.

So I replied with the following…

Thank you for your comment. I agree that further education and training is a great reward in a bid to elevate individual competencies but from a team perspective, the focus should be on “group” growth. I remember practising with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on what felt like the hottest day of summer. Guys were competing on the field for more playing time, for a greater role within the game plan but the turning point of practice and perhaps the season came when the coach stopped practice and opened up coolers filled with popsicles. Yes, it was only frozen sugared water on a stick but it brought the team together. The coach didn’t have to do it, but in one small gesture, he rallied the team and made the entire professional football experience quite “personal”. I remember sitting down with teammates from Tampa FL, Compton CA, Rochester NY, Winnipeg MB, Toronto On, and other places throughout North America, relaxing during what was a shared experience. Thanks to moments like the popsicle break, I was willing to go through the wall for them because I cared about them. I was going to show up early for work stay late and find a way to succeed because I knew they would do the same.

This morning, I woke up feeling compelled to expand on my position.

The cool, tendy thing in corporate culture today is the celebration of “the team”.  Truth is since the 70’s, business leaders have come to the realisation that decision making should not be reserved for a few. Decision making was not the providence of a couple of voices in window view offices on the top floor. The expectation that the rest of the company as a whole should follow faithfully without a say, had begun to change. The value of input, the value of acknowledging that there is indeed an “I” in team – the invested, inspired, initiative taking individual was a turning point.

Today companies have foosball tables, in-house daycare, open concept layouts etc. all in a bid to inspire and connect the human spirit found within the team.

Back to that hot July day in Hamilton.

I remember the team struggling and guys were not in a great mood. We had to bus up to a high school field located on the escarpment in Hamilton which was a pain the gluteus maximus.

As per life in the Canadian Football League, there were a couple of new faces competing for jobs, unhappy veterans who felt they were not getting their playing time, upstart players who wanted more playing time. Everyone was competing for a paycheck. The pressure was enormous but the fact is, it was just another Tuesday for us! It was just another regular day filled with competition.

The special part of the experience was the unspoken understanding that each man, though uber competitive and fighting for a job, would do all he could to help the team win. No one man was greater than the team and its goals. It was about the team for the star players, for the back-ups and for the practice roster players.

Yet, how do get a group of high testosterone, high energy individuals to buy in?

The coach could share an inspirational pre-practice or pre-game speech and some guys would buy in and some wouldn’t. Some players tune out and some tune in! Yes, we get that we have to play hard, play smart and do all we could to win. We have been hearing that speech since our days playing kids football.

I have not heard a pre-game speech that could ever rival the popsicle break as a source of inspiration.

As mentioned, mid-practice saw an unscheduled time out. We wanted to get the practice over with but Coach John Gregory called us to the centre of the field. That’s when he told us to relax, not press too hard and that there was a lot of football to be played. Then he motioned to the training staff to bring out coolers filled with popsicles!

In the blink of an eye, the entire energy surrounding the team had changed.  Everyone found shade, everyone shared and everyone cared.

I laughed out loud at jokes shared between Lonzell “Mo” Hill (2nd Rd. draft pick of the New Orleans Saints), Wally Zatylny (fellow CIS All-Canadian from Bishops University), Richard Nurse (Hamilton boy who went to Canisius College) and Scott Walker (from Lenoir-Rhyne College Bears – Hickory, North Carolina).

I learned that LB Terry Wright (Temple University Owls) and I shared birthdays (July 17th), I watched John Motton (LB – University of Akron Zips) do an impression of DL Mike Jones (Brockport State Golden Eagles) watching plays on the Jumbotron in the Skydome while the defensive huddle moved downfield away from him. At one time, the Toronto Argonauts complained to the refs about his being too close to their huddle. They thought that he was trying to listen to their plays! From that moment on, Mike was known as Jumbotron!

Getting to know your teammates on a personal level is key to any team’s success. It is the foundation for success.

The “popsicle” moments make a team. The “popsicle” moments get the team through the tough times.

I can barely remember the scores of games but I can tell you that RB Archie Amerson (Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks) was the toughest player, pound for pound, I have ever seen on the football field. I can tell you that no one understood half the things WR Tony Champion (Tennessee-Martin University Skyhawks) said and that no one will ever forget any of WR Earl Winfield (North Carolina Tar Heels) stories, including the one about fellow UNC alumni member Michael Jordan giving Earl a pair of NBA rookie season Air Jordan shoes and how Earl decided to wear them when he went out to cut the grass!

I will never forget LB Tony Visco (Purdue Boilermakers), knowing he wasn’t going to make the team, calling his own number to blitz every play during a pre-season game, which pissed off defensive coordinator Joe Moss to no end. Who could forget watching game film in the dark and hearing Coach Moss’ dog (half-blind poodle named Sam), bumping into the furniture?

Spitball fights, nailing teammates shoes to their locker rooms, a father and son walking into a bathroom at a player autograph signing event to see C Dale Sanderson (University of Tennessee Volunteers) with no shirt on and Wally Zatylny, also with no shirt on, applying temporary tattoos to each other in advance of heading out to Tailgate Charlies for a few beers with teammates!

I love my teammates. I was willing to pay the price asked of football players because of how I felt about my teammates. Not because of a great pre-game speech!

When I left football I brought popsicle moments to other teams I was a part of, be it the news team at The New RO and A-Channel, the Ottawa Invaders or mu family!

Popsicle moments will make better teams.

Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder. As a former professional athlete, he has learned from great coaches and learned even more from the bad ones!

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.ken
evraire.com
or visit him Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17

 

Leadership is not easy! Ta-da…the secret is out!

Let me state the obvious. Leadership is not easy.

Never has been…never will be. There will be days when the last thing you may want to do is lead! There will be times when you want to just sit in the back of the bus and watch the street blocks go by!

It’s a natural response when you take on a role of leadership. As invincible as you may think you need to be, yes, there will be days when the last thing you ever want to do is stand in front of the band as it makes its way down the parade route!

“Let them lead themselves! They don’t listen to me half the time anyway!”

When that moment of hesitation or doubt arrives, stand in front of the mirror, look at yourself and ask one question and one question only.

“Did you expect this to be easy?”

If you answer yes, then you need to re-visit why you have taken on the responsibility of leading others. If you answer no, then a great opportunity to raise your team’s game is at hand!

First and foremost, it’s not your job to make the team succeed, it’s your job to put the team in a position to succeed. One man or woman does not make a team but a leader that continues to search for growth opportunities within his/herself and the team does!

“High-risk leadership beckons many, but few accept the call. Apollo 13 succeeded at critical moments like this because the bosses had no hesitation about assigning crucial tasks to one individual, trusting his judgment, and then getting out of his way.” Apollo 13 Flight Director Gene Kranz

Leading others is a great responsibility. It’s personal. It requires someone who is special and is led by the single-minded desire to see other’s succeed. It requires someone who recognizes the day to day investment and sacrifices his team makes.

Think about it…when someone punches the clock for a total of 40 hours a week, that is half of their week minus sleeping.  Yes, one could argue that the company has an investment in them and they should just do their jobs, but do not lose sight of the fact that the employee has also invested in the company and the investment they make in terms of effort, focus, going the extra mile will reflect the type of leadership they receive, good, bad or indifferent.

Hiring someone or someone accepting a job offer is a professional decision influenced by a series of personal circumstances, unique to each company and individual.

Great leadership equals buy in…bad leadership equals buy-out!

Leadership is not about one person sitting atop the mountain enjoying providence over all as it was in pre-70’s business world, but rather an open journey that is built on a foundation of trust, patience, communication and respect.

Self-correction is key to leadership success. Without it, you will fall into the trap of simply repeating the same mistakes!

When it comes to leadership, there is never the “hit a walk-off home run and win the game” moment. You may hit a home run but there is always another game, another plate appearance and an opportunity to either hit a home run or strike out.

It doesn’t matter if you lead a team of 500 or a team of 5!  Leadership is a tenuous journey.

“Leadership is fragile. It is more a matter of mind and heart than resources, and it seemed that we no longer had the heart for those things that demanded discipline, commitment, and risk.” – Gene Kranz – NASA Flight Director.

Don’t be afraid to look in the mirror and remind yourself that it’s not supposed to be easy…but anything of value worth fighting for never is.

Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder. As a former professional athlete, he has learned a from great coaches and learned even more from the bad ones!

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.ken
evraire.com
or visit him Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17

The Theseus’ Paradox and Team Building

Time for a little Philosophy 101 debate!

The ship of Theseus, also known as Theseus’ Paradox, is a thought experiment that raises the question of whether an object which has had all of its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object. The paradox is most notably recorded by Plutarch in Life of Theseus from the late first century. Plutarch asked whether a ship which was restored by replacing each and every one of its wooden parts remained the same ship. When I present this question at a team building event the debate often becomes heated!

Is it the same ship? Yes? No? Maybe so? Yes, it’s the same ship! No, it’s not the same ship! Back and forth the argument would go like a tennis match being played at warp speed.

I let the debate continue for a bit of time. When the room agrees to disagree, I go on to ask the audience to look at it from a team perspective. I ask them to shift their focus from the make up of the ship and turn toward what needs to get done for the ship to reach its destination and not sink!

I have seen many a team, be it corporate, athletic or even a family, celebrate the foundations and pillars that make up their chemistry! They all have belief pillars! Respect, communication, support & trust, balanced team roles, cooperation through understanding, clarity of aims/goals etc. All quite nice and tidy in the theoretical application but not as easy in the practical delivery.

Belief pillars are easy to believe in and apply when the sea is calm! Everyone can buy in!  It’s when the calm turns into a calamitous chaos that you get a real sense of what your team is made of. Is the focus on the “we” or does it turn to  “I”. Is it abut the collective or the individual. When the captain declares that the entire ship needs to be replaced en route, is the response “We can’t do that..I am going to drown!” or is it “Forget plan A, let’s go to plan B,C,D and continue to adapt until we find land. Drowning is not an option”? Roles may have changed. Becoming adaptable in the face of crisis may be the ask.

Avoid panic. By choosing to panic, the belief pillars are no longer applicable. They have shifted in the sand, displaced an ineffective. By choosing to forget plan A and moving to contingency plan B,C,D and so on, the belief pillars hold their value!

I remember a moment during a football game when we became aware that the game plan we had built would not work and that we had to do something. Our offensive coordinator tweaked some pass route combinations, altered some blocking schemes and changed our point of attack on run plays. It all made sense but a couple of guys were in a state of panic because we had not practiced it. I remember as a child playing football with my friends on the street in front of our house. The game plan was simple. If Roger was near the parked car then go to the street sign across the street. If he was at the street sign across the street then go to the parked car for the pass. Simple but even professional athletes have a difficult time with change.

“Let’s work the problem” is a line from NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz in the movie Apollo 13. As basic and rudimentary as it sounds, it was the next logical step in averting what could have been a significant tragedy. Big problems often require a series of small solutions!

When asked about the Apollo 13 mission he said…“The missions run on trust,” he said. “When you turn seven-and-a-half million pounds of thrust loose on a Saturn that contains three men, trust is the thing that allows you to make a split-second decision and very rapidly seek out every option that may exist.” 

Some say a miracle took place! Truth is, the miracle would have been the crew of Apollo 13 returning safely while Mission Control fell apart! No, the Apollo 13 mission was a success because it trusted in and remained dedicated to their belief pillars.

A ship, be it a spacecraft, boat, business, team or family, manned by challenge seeking believers, armed with a concise strategy (today we replace this piece, tomorrow this piece etc. and here is why, when and how we are going to do it) sets a team up for success.

A team willing to trust and adapt when chaos arrives doesn’t care if it’s the same boat or not. The focus is on doing whatever it takes to find land without leaving anyone behind! Don’t panic and magnify the challenge. Poised problem seekers are what the ship captain is looking for.

Ken Evraire is an award-winning leadership coach and team builder. As a former professional athlete, he has learned from great coaches and learned even more from the bad ones!

To contact Ken email him at ken@kenevraire.com.

To learn more about Ken, visit his website www.ken
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Ken Evraire is an award winning coach, team building strategist, keynote speaker, author and former professional athlete.Through his professional career he was been traded, released, waived, retired, cut, celebrated and inducted. Visit his website at www.kenevraire.com or email him at ken@kenevraire for more information.

Leadership and the Average Employee

I read a blog on the Canada Human Resources Centre site about three distinct categories that job seekers are broken into and the groupings made complete sense. There is group 1- the top performers, group 2 – the average performers and group 3 – the low performers. What struck me as interesting is that the top performers made up 16% of the population, low performers also made up another 16% and the average performers made up a whopping 68% of the audience. (http://www.canadahrcentre.com/base/finding-top-talent-among-majority-of-average-performers/)

Initially, I understood that it would be tough for employers to find the top performers and I also understood the need to avoid the below average performers. So, the search for the right candidate would center on the large body of average performers. So far it made complete sense to me.

What turned my compass askew was the suggested solution.

The blog forwarded the notion that somehow and someway the HR teams had to sort through the average performers to find the best of the average performers. This struck me as odd. The onus was being put on the employee to be above average without any thought of taking the average employee and working to make them top performers. The margin between an average employee and an above average employee could not be that great. Why spend time splitting hairs.

Now, I get the need for due diligence as it relates to hiring a new CEO. The financial investment associated with finding a new leader is usually far greater than that of a standard employee search. The hiring of the wrong CEO could be disastrous but the hiring of the wrong technician likely has little to no effect.

Yet, how do you find the best of the average group in an expeditious and cost-effective manner? The fact of the matter is you don’t. It is an imperfect process. How many times have you heard an HR Director say “We really lucked out finding her” or “I can’t believe we found him”? Finding the perfect employee can be a crapshoot on the best of days.

So perhaps the search for the best of the average is not the way to go. Perhaps the focus should be on creating an environment that supports growth.

I coach football and on a number of occasions I have had player’s tryout and coaches on my staff inform me that the kid though talented is un-coachable. The natural reaction is to red flag the athlete. His margin for error would be slim. He would be forced to work under that added pressure, fear making mistakes rather than simply go out and compete in an instinctual manner and as a result he would likely fail.

My first thought when being told about an un-coachable kid is…”Who coached him?” Maybe just maybe the player did not flourish under another coach because the system did not fit, his skills were not being utilized properly or he was not put in a position to succeed? Maybe there was a reason why he was average and not a top performer?

If I judged him based on his past I would have been no better than his previous coach. It’s akin to a kid showing up for the first day of school with a mark of C- without doing any work. Now, he may be un-coachable. As the leader of the team, the onus is on me to find out. As a leader, I choose to coach him up.

So, perhaps the focus should be on creating a culture that cultivates success, is cognizant of the importance of the invested individual and celebrates their work.

Average employees will remain average unless you create the opportunity to turn them into top performers and that responsibility falls on the shoulders of leadership. The common denominator that links all CEO’s with each and every staff member is the valuation of time. Everyone gets up and goes to work. Some work in the mailroom, some work in the corner office on the top floor. When the day ends, each and every one of them would like to believe they are part of something. Something that justifies their spending their time and energy on, something that goes beyond salaries and benefits!

A power with people leadership approach will turn average employees into top performers. Leadership isn’t a title. It’s an active, organic, ever changing responsibility that requires a genuine, honest effort. Contrary to what many coaches have trumpeted through the years, there is an “I” in Team and each individual requires a tailored coaching effort. Is it tough to do? It sure is. Yet, anything worth anything requires an effort! At the end of the day, you turn the average into great and you attract the great. It’s a win-win situation.