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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!

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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

 

First Step in Leadership? Learn to Learn

I am coaching tyke football for the Nepean Eagles and I am excited!

My excitement extends from my love for the game and from my wanting to coach my 8 year old son who has decided he wants to play!

I get to coach kids up!

We will win some games and lose some games. That is a guarantee. Funny thing is the kids forget the scores of the games (win or lose) about 24 hours after the fact, so the focus for me is not on the scoreboard. Yes, I want them to compete but more importantly I want them to learn how to learn and the value of putting themselves in the position to compete that will invariably offer a high rate of success.

Now keep in mind, the team is made up of 7-9 year old boys who for the most part have very little knowledge of the game. They may think they know a lot about the game but in all honesty, they don’t know squat which is why I am excited.  They are a fresh canvas and their football experience as a tyke can set the tone on their relationship with the game as a player and/or as a future coach.

WORTH NOTING>>>The photo below is not of the Eagles! 

Let’s continue!

There is a great responsibility with being a coach! I have seen far too many get locked in on the trophy rather than the teaching! I have seen a lot of coaches enjoy early success but have no plan B in place when the opposition figures them out. Oh, if I had a nickel for every time I have seen a dynamic running back who is the fastest kid on the field take off on a sweep and score a bunch of touchdowns but look lost when a well prepared team neutralizes his speed. The kid is looking to the bench for answers and the coach is telling the kid to run the play, not wanting to admit that the play doesn’t work and that the failure to develop a plan B, a counter punch is on him!

So, coaching up means coaching with competency! Competency begins with a willingness to grow, to evolve.

Which leads me to share what I think is an invaluable foundation for anyone who is tasked with helping others up to succeed regardless of the arena! It could be  a tyke football team or a high tech startup. Football team or Fortune 500 company.

Initially described as “Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill”, the theory was developed at Gordon Training International by its employee Noel Burch in the 1970’s. I found it while studying former Navy Seal Mark Divine (https://sealfit.com) and how Navy Seals are trained in a bid to enhance their performance in the field. Now, I am not asking my Eagle tykes to plank for an hour but I will utilize the “Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill” theory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 4 stages are as follows…

  • Unconscious Incompetence – Almost all of the kids have no idea what they don’t know! They may think the way I coach isn’t useful. They will want to go run into each other with no sense of technique or skill because they are unaware that they lack the technique and skill. The only way to move to the next level of consciousness is to coach up until the light comes on. Once that light goes on..the real learning begins! By coaching up I can stimulate the kids desire to learn and that is when the game becomes a craft!
  • Conscious Incompetence – So, now I have an athlete that has conceded to the fact that there is a skill or knowledge deficit.  This is a stage where the margin for error is great! Coaching Up with a high degree of competence will set the tone. When a kid bumps into his/ former coach a few years down the road, how the coach taught that athlete in this stage will determine how they react. Happy and excited = coaching success! Unimpressed and disconnected = coaching failure.  No one is perfect. No one masters a skill in a moment. The making of mistakes in a safe environment is integral to the learning process at this stage. Explaining the 5W’s (what, when, where, who and why) is invaluable! Hey kids, this is what we are going to do, when we are going to do it, why we are going to do it, where we are going to do it and who will do it!) Again, it goes back to their becoming craftsmen or craftswomen!
  • Conscious Competence – The Eagles now know how to do something! Tackle, throw a ball, carry a ball or run a play! Yet, repeating the skill a couple of times does not make one a master. To get there, some muscle and mental memory work is required. That requires concentration! The kids may get the play right, then try again and misstep, try again and misstep, then try again and get it done correctly. Limiting the number of missteps requires a refining of the conscious involvement requires concentration. Practice makes almost perfect!
  • Unconscious Competence – Ah grasshopper! You are now a master! You have put the time in! The light is on, the motor is purring like a kitten and you can drive the mission
    with one hand on the steering wheel and one hanging out the window! The kids have had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

Once the Eagles have mastered a skill they can now build on what they have learned and begin the process of mastering another skill. Soon, based on habit forming behavior, they can source out the new challenge and attack it on their own, trusting the learning process.

When you ascend to the top of a mountain, you don’t stand there overlooking the land below and exclaim to the world, “I am a mountain climber…lets go sit on the couch!”.

No, you want to climb more mountains. Bigger, taller mountains!

You want to build on what you know. You want to experience the “Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill” again, again and again!

My goal is to prepare the kids for the challenges that lie ahead, short term and long term. I want to coach them up to succeed in the now and for that moment when they move up to the next level of play! I want them to apply “Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill” to all that they choose to do and for it to become a habit that they can rely on in all facets of their lives.

By doing so, the victory lies in the moment when I bump into them ten years down the road. If they are excited and remember their football experience like it occurred the day before, then I did my job! If they turn the other way or have little to say…I failed!

Coaching and leadership has absolutely nothing to do with the little trophy they give you for winning a game. Changing someones life through empowerment will never fit on a mantle at home!

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

 

Thank you Ottawa 67’s AAA Minor Bantams – CHAMPIONS!

There are many moments when I am amazed at the transformation a team can experience by simply buying in. I have seen it in the boardroom. I have seen it in career transition seminars.

And now I have seen it in the Ottawa 67’s AAA Minor Bantam hockey team. Now, getting a room full of teenage boys to focus for any length of time can be challenging, to say the least, but this team was destined for great things!

Head Coach Jim Cooke gets it! He understands the value of building the team and he understands that bringing a new voice to the locker room was the key. I signed on for 5 sessions, scheduled through the season. They were a very good team that could become great with a little help.

I spoke to them about incremental growth, focus, the finite difference between winning and losing and the knowledge that it isn’t about their opponent but rather, it was all about them and what they do. They would reap what they sow…guaranteed!

Tonight, they face the best team in the league in a do or die playoff game that will reward the winners with a trip to the semi-finals. The losing team would be done for the year.

Like the Grey Cup Champion Ottawa REDBLACKS, the 67’s had an up and down regular season.

The REDBLACKS were underdogs going into the championship game against a Calgary Stampeder’s team that went 16-2 during regular season play.  But they prevailed. Here is a link featuring the day before the championship game clips. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWMqKHSN7lo&t=65s

The focus was on the REDBLACKS being a team that had overcome challenges during the season and were battle tested, unlike the Stampeders. I asked them about the Stampeders not being punched in the face all season (literally and figuratively). They had not faced adversity like the REDBLACKS.  Talk about a fun study of quiet confidence in an athlete and a team!

The 67’s had 6 games left in the regular season. I showed them this video and I challenged them to go 5-1 and become the most dangerous team heading into the playoffs. I wanted them to become the team that no one wanted to play.  They re-focused, promised an incremental improvement in their individual game that would benefit the team and guess what. They went 5-1 over their final 6 games.

They eliminated the Ottawa Senators AAA in semi-final play and then overcame the Ottawa Valley Titans to win the title.

Congrats to the boys and the coaching staff on a job well done!

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

Thank You Team Diabetes

Thank you to the Team Diabetes fundraising team for asking me to speak at their launch party. As a veteran Team Diabetes marathon runner (Honolulu 2x and Barcelona), I see the life-changing impact this great initiative can have on others.

I run for my mom…I run with pride. It’s the most important jersey I have ever worn!

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

Tomato or Tamata? Know your team!

 

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit…wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad!”. 

What a great line! You never know when you are going to find a pearl. Case in point with this line. I found it in a Steve Berry authored book titled “The 14th Colony”.  Thank you!

If you are responsible for leading a team this quote should resonate deeply within you because it is the cardinal rule of all cardinal rules when it comes to setting up others to succeed.

Knowing your team…understanding your team’s individual and cumulative skill set is always the first step. Do you have a roomful of tomato’s, apples, apples or rutabagas? The odds are you have a veritable mix and if you fail to acknowledge the exact make-up of your team you are destined to fail because somewhere along the way you are going to ask a tomato to do something that a potato does quite well.

Oversimplified? Certainly but it is the most common flaw of leadership.

How can you build anything without looking around and asking if you have the ingredients, components, pieces, tools etc.? It doesn’t matter if you are building a team, a cake, an airplane or one of those uber complicated IKEA closets.

So, why do so many leaders get it wrong coming out of the gate?

They have the best of intentions and they certainly want to succeed but getting locked and loaded on one way of accomplishing goals is the fatal flaw. The ability to adapt is everything.

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have won appeared in 9 Super Bowls and won 5 (to the shagrin of all non-Patriot football fans)!

They are known for doing things the “the Patriot way”. The Patriot way is the unwavering understanding that adapting to all challenges and doing all you can to put your players in a position to succeed is key. They won’t always succeed but more often than naught..they won’t fail. No one player is the hero every Sunday afternoon. Week in, week out, they find ways to win with different chess pieces on the board. As soon as you think you have the Patriots figured out…they adjust and offer a new challenge to the opposition. They dictate terms and the ability to do so hinges on the knowing what every player can do and cannot do.

So, why hasn’t every team simply copied the Patriots? It’s because the Patriot way requires patience, perseverance, precision and the willingness to make the tough decision. Its a long haul and many teams need to win today which forces their hand. Patience is not a commodity they own.

The Patriots are always in a position to manage the inevitable, difficult times with clarity, with patience and precision. The bar of competency is never lowered! If a player is injured, traded or retires the adaptation begins. They do not rebuild…they re-load.

As a team builder and movie buff, I am always looking for storylines that inspire.

The movie “Apollo 13” ranks among my top choices. Plenty of very smart people want to work at NASA…very few people actually get to work there because NASA wants a specific type of smart.

They don’t only want people who can help get a 45,931kg rocket to the moon and back but rather a team that can get a flight crew back when the 45,931kg rocket craps out which it did for the Apollo 13 crew.

Apollo 13 Flight Director Gene Krantz discussed one of the crucial issues they had to overcome after an explosion on the ship forced the flight crew from the command module into the landing module which was not designed to carry the crew around the moon and back to earth. Somehow they had to re-build a filter that would save the lives of astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert.

“The trouble was the square lithium hydroxide canisters from the CM (command module) would not fit the round openings of those in the LM (landing module) environmental system. After a day and a half in the LM a warning light showed us that the carbon dioxide had built up to a dangerous level, but the ground was ready. They had thought up a way to attach a CM canister to the LM system by using plastic bags, cardboard, and tape- all materials we had on board. Jack Swigert and I put it together: just like building a model airplane. The contraption wasn’t very handsome, but it worked. It was a great improvisation- and a fine example of cooperation between ground and space.”

The only way a team can enjoy success is for leadership to know what each team member can do individually, incorporate their skill set into the team and then ask to savor the ask of performing at a high level of competency.

So, to get somewhere, get to know your team! Getting off on the right foot is challenging and rewarding. Getting off on the wrong foot is easy and consumes time and energy. For every step in the wrong direction, there are 2 steps backward to make up for getting lost.

Ken Evraire is an award winning presenter, team builder and coach. As a former professional athlete, he has learned a from great coaches…learned even more from his bad coaches!

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

 

 

Leading a Team? Go the DISTANCE!

Question…

Are you planning on leading a team anytime soon? Becoming a business leader? Team leader? Family leader? Perhaps you are already in the leadership thick of things as you read this post and are feeling a tad desperate.

Let’s begin with agreeing on one salient point. The kinetic energy that accompanies your becoming a leader can be exhilarating! Successful leaders have an instinctual desire to help others. To set the table for others to succeed is rewarding in and of itself. Being promoted to a position of leadership is a great honor.

The first caveman who brought fire to his clan likely took the time to give himself a pat on the back during a quiet moment as everyone slept warm and comfortable.

When asked to expand my role as Director of Fundraising / Marketing to Interim Executive Director at a small not- for-profit agency that had been deep in crisis, a part of me was thinking, “No way!” but the leader inside of me was thinking, “Yes, of course!”. I had only been with the agency for 8 months but I wanted to bring fire to my clan no matter how unwelcoming the team was to my promotion.

So back to you. Congratulations! You are now a CEO, new district manager, team captain, father or mother.

Almost everyone will pat you on the back. Congratulate you, wish you the best. Some will promise complete buy in. Some, not so much! Some want to sail with you…some are torpedo captains and they may have you in their sights.

Once the dust settles a series of realities will hit you!

First, you have taken on a great, vast, pressurized responsibility.

Second, for all that you thought you may know about leading a team, you actually don’t know that much. Sure, you have been mentored, you have a great set of parents who served as great role models through your life or you have been the assistant coach behind a legend and learned as much as you possibly could. That is not enough. Yes, it is the foundation of what sustains a soon to become great leader, but in the outset, it is nowhere near enough.

So what can you expect? What should you know? It all begins with Trust.

Trust

You may begin with a grade of A+ by virtue of your being the new boss, but that will change and if you do not work to earn the team’s trust, you will be quickly be facing a failing grade! You cannot inherit trust. Trust is not built overnight. To gain trust, a leader must be willing to go the distance…a leader must be genuine. Trust lies so deep within our being and the physiological response to giving it someone or having it betrayed is powerful! You can’t please everyone but by leading with integrity and professionalism, you can be trusted by everyone. The team may not agree with some of your decisions but they will follow thanks to the credit you have earned with them.

It’s a Marathon!

Any seasoned leader will tell you that there is no eye opening, eureka moment confirming you have figured things out. In fact, if you think you have come to one of those moments… if you think you have figured things out…get set for a big wake up call. You won’t decipher some secret leadership code and sail down easy street for the rest of your career! It is a marathon! The goal is the destination with a focused energy on overcoming the inevitable challenges that lie ahead. All NHL teams want to win the Stanley Cup but not one team on the circuit goes into the season without breaking up the schedule into manageable chapters with attainable goals. Winning 3 of 5 versus winning 55 of 82 is far more manageable. Be prepared to go the distance.

Communicate, Collaborate And Conquer!

If you get the chance to attend an elite level team sporting event, take a moment, close your eyes and just listen. Listen to the back and forth chatter! Any team that has its sight set on conquering the competition must be able to work as a collaborative and if memory serves correct, all great collaborations are founded in great communication. Silence is deadly! Silence leads to speculation and assumption. Talk about taking the expressway to creating negative space and courting inevitable failure! Communication and collaboration is all part of getting on the same page. If the entire team is on the same page the odds of success increase significantly. The first thing I teach aspiring quarterbacks, running backs and receivers at my football academy is that the most important time during the game is the 25 seconds between the play being called and the snap of the ball. By being on the same page you will be able to run the play with a high degree of competency and should the defense line up in a manner that would be detrimental to the play called, the quarterback can audible out of the original play and introduce a new play that will set them up to succeed. That same page, high level of competency allows a team to dictate terms. Staying a step ahead of the competition is the key to success. Sure, some teams that get lucky may win the odd time but those victories are few and far between. Syncopation equals success!

The Value of Time

Time is the most valuable commodity that we own regardless of where we are positioned on the hierarchical ladder at work. As a team leader never lose sight of the fact that people are spending a significant amount of their time at work. Yes, they get paid to do so but taking that for granted is a major leadership misstep. Some need the work, some love the job, some see the gig as a stepping stone to greater things. No matter the circumstance, being mindful of your team’s contribution from the perspective of time is crucial. If you want your team to go the extra mile, to put in the extra time…appreciate and value the investment from the perspective of time. Thank them for their contribution. It’s an investment that offers a high rate of return.

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
evraire.com
or visit him Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17

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.

The Football Player and Explosives Specialist

I had a neighbor who may have the most interesting and in the same breath, the most unwanted career ever. No, he is not a judge on The Voice!

Of the top 5 gigs that you run to Babylon and back rather than pursue…his not only ranks in the top 5 it may also make up the top 5!

He is a bomb disposal specialist.  That’s right. So essentially, when sane people run from the mere hint of an explosive device he walks toward it!

For security reasons, I cannot name him but he ranks a 27 on the alpha male scale and that says something knowing the scale actually only goes up to 10 (trust me it was tough to rank him so high considering I am about a 7.5!).

Now, one Halloween after the kids finished trick or treating, the guys on the street decided to gather for a few beverages!

His wife asked me not to talk about his job and I agreed. Yet, after a few beers and his wanting to talk football until my ears hurt, I felt it was my inalienable right to ask him a couple of work related questions!

In fact, it took me about 1.1 seconds to ask him the obvious $64,000 question.

“Do you ever get scared?”. Amazingly, it took him 1.1 seconds to reply. It was an unequivocal “No”. Being the former investigative reporter that I am I felt compelled to ask the next, hard hitting and seemingly logical question, “Why not?”

Amazingly, it took him 1.1 seconds to reply. It was an unequivocal “No”. Being the former investigative reporter that I am I felt compelled to ask the next, hard hitting and seemingly logical question, “Why not?”

Rather than answer my question he offered up a question of his own. “You played football, right?”.  Were you ever scared?”  I replied, “yes and no”.  He then asked me to explain.

No, I was never scared of the obvious.  The obvious being the potential consequences that accompanied trying to catch a pass on a field filled with defenders aka heat seeking missiles. The decision to compete at a high level came with risks, I understood this reality because it was part of the job description.

Yes, there were times when I was scared and it had to do with my not feeling prepared or feeling like my teammates were not prepared.  A prepared individual can compete on an elevated, instinctual level.  A team of prepared individuals can work in unison and enjoy a higher degree of success.  In turn, the possibility of falling victim in what essentially is a human demolition derby was minimized. Preparedness and awareness allowed me to focus on success and not survival.

“Bingo!” was his reply. “In football, what do you call the process of preparation?” he asked.  I could only come up with “game planning“. “Bingo!” he said.  It was then that I told him to stop saying bingo…it was kind of annoying.  Yes, I am calling out a decorated explosives specialist in a garage on Halloween night. Clearly, the beverages were taking over!

Yet, he agreed that game planning and preparation was the ultimate key in trying to avoid heat-seeking missiles on the football field or explosive situations in the theatre of combat.  Game planning and preparation was the key to his individual success as well as his teams success.

That’s when he introduced the 360 Degree Circle of Influence and to be frank…it immediately spoke to me and my work as a leadership coach and team builder.

With every step a team takes regardless of the theater, the story always has the potential to change in any number of ways. As a result, each and every member of the team plays a critical, organic role in the success of the mission regardless of rank.

Successful teams feature an elevated expectation of competency that allows a team to be versatile and open to change. Getting better is a process that is organic in nature and is key in managing fear and doubt. Managing the fear quotient requires a clear strategy based on the following..

  • trust
  • syncopation
  • communication
  •  willingness to adapt and overcome

A great example of this can be found in auto racing. Drivers utilize

Drivers utilize saccadic vision in the bid to find a balance between their peripheral vision, forward vision, processing information and making decisions at a high rate of speed.  Put a G licensed driver with a clean record into an open-wheeled, Indy racing car and as them to drive. Fear and the anticipation of failure would take over.  A focus that is too narrow or too broad is the recipe for failure. The ability to sense and to adapt to circumstances is key.

Michael Schumacher, Mario Andretti, Dale Earnhardt or any other elite race car driver races to win…not survive.

The ability to sense and to adapt to circumstances is key. It requires practice….it requires an investment that is called preparedness.

Hockey players call it “keeping your head on a swivel!”. Preparation and training slows high stress moments down.

Today, successful corporate leaders have realized that the 360 principal is applicable to themselves and their teams. They understand that the key to fulfilling an objective is to find an alternate route when you come to an obstacle… to problem solve on the go.  NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz surrounded himself with a team of brilliant minds that can launch a rocket into space…but more importantly, bring that rocket back safely after an oxygen tank blows up en route to the moon. “Failure is not an option!”

The combination of preparedness, communication, versatility and trust is the foundation for success regardless of the theater you work in.

Ken Evraire is an award winning keynote speaker, team builder, coach, former pro athlete and part time comic.

For more blog posts, visit Ken at www.kenevraire.com or to contact him, email him at ken@kenevraire.com