Dancing With My Devil

“If you dance with the devil, then you haven’t got a clue, for you think you’ll change the devil, but the devil changes you.”  J.M. Smith (Author) – “If You Dance with the Devil

In what had become a reassuring habit I developed over a 2 ½ year span, I was trying to count the number of lights in the surgical lamps stationed above me in the operating room before the anesthesiologist knocked me out.  The answer on this day was 55. There I lay, prepped for surgical procedure number 5 on my left knee. All part of an effort to get back into the game of pro football. The first procedure, the major repair of my torn ACL and meniscus, took place on Monday October 18th, 1993. All thanks to a less than heroic moment one week earlier on the Toronto SkyDome field as a member of the Hamilton Tiger Cats.  It began with my brief chat with Toronto Argonaut receiver Jeff Fairholm as we went out for our pregame warm up.  He stood with the support of crutches and had a full knee brace on his left leg. He looked like a cyborg!  I asked him what had happened and he told me the turf got him.  No one touched him…he had sprained his knee running a route. Nothing more, nothing less…nothing dramatic.  What the mind believes the rest of the body will achieve. For the first time ever, I played scared.  All because of that one singular moment. I should have left the stadium and hopped on a GO Train back to Hamilton then and there.  Everything felt off after that. I had a bad warm up.  I bobbled a couple of passes early on in the game.  I remember telling myself to wake the fuck up before someone tore my head off.  In the 2nd quarter, QB Reggie Slack called a play and based on all of the variables in the moment, I knew I was going to get the ball. I just had to run a great route and I did. Perhaps the best hook route I had ever run in my career. As expected, the passing lane opened up and Slack hit me right on the numbers with the pass. In a bid to avoid a heat seeking missile/Toronto Argonaut defender, I planted my foot into the turf and rather than pivot away to protect myself and the ball that I had just caught, my knee hyper-extended and blew up!  Literally!  To this day, I can still hear the pop!  So could the defender.

Rather than take a moment to develop perspective and re-group, I raced to the operating room and the surgeons scalpel, all in a bid to get back into the huddle. All for a salary of $55,000 before taxes!  As luck would have it, the one thing I do better than play football is build fibrous tissue. My body builds scar tissue. So much so that I endured 3 follow up arthroscopic procedures in a bid to clean the knee up, release the knee cap and increase my ranger of motion. Now I was looking at procedure number 5 and I kind of vowed it would be the last.

“There is a fine line that separates courage and obsession.” Ken Evraire

In Chinese, the term Lingchi translates into “the slow process, the lingering death or also known as death by a thousand cuts”.  It is related to a form of torture long outlawed.  I wish I had known this as I lay on the field that day.  For years after that misstep I put myself through my own form of Lingchi.  Little did I know it was the first step in a long, arduous waltz with my devil.  Rather than be a death of a thousand cuts, the dance was a death of a thousand rationalizations and justifications.  With each justification, with each rationalization I became a better dance partner.  A willing dance partner all in a bid to avoid looking at life beyond football.

What doesn’t kill you doesn’t necessarily make you stronger. It just kind of kills you and makes you more comfortable with discomfort.  

As they carted me off the field, I knew my life had changed.  The distance between my teammates and I was palpable.  Sure, I knew I was never going to play football forever but I never really thought about life beyond the game until that moment. Every athlete needs to feel invincible. It’s why I would never visit a teammate in a hospital if he had undergone knee surgery. Any other surgery, I would be there with flowers but not knee surgery. I went from invincible to invisible in the blink of an eye.

In what is a tad ironic, two weeks before I blew out my knee I sat down with pen and paper and attempted to look at life beyond football.  I was going to build my resume.  The idea was inspired by my taking time to clean my one bedroom rental.  As I cleaned up I found little brown packets.  Two by my bed, 3 in the kitchen, 2 in the couch cushions and a single packet in my gym bag, another in my shaving kit.  Within the packets were tablets. Toradol, percocet, naproxen and Tylenol 3’s.  Toradol was my favorite.

If you look it up toradol is described as “a short term treatment of moderate to severe pain in adults.  It is traditionally prescribed before or after medical procedures or after surgery.  Reducing pain helps you recover more comfortably so that you can return to your normal daily activities”.  Well, when your normal activities include getting run over by guys who take great pleasure in running people over, toradol was the perfect dance partner.  At that moment, I was both excited and horrified.  Excited that I found a stash and horrified that I was excited about finding a stash. 

It was my scared kind of straight moment. It was time to consider my next life chapter.  As I began to write out my resume, the panicked set in.  I immediately realized that if anyone wanted to hire someone who, on 2nd down and 10 with time winding down, could adjust his route in a split second against a safety blitz, catch a ball in the red zone with a guy zeroing in on him with the single minded goal of wiping him out, then I was your guy.  Regrettably, most HR Managers were not hiring anyone with those particular skills in mind.  It was then I first felt an overwhelming sense of worthlessness. 

In that failed resume building moment, somewhere in my sub-conscious I decided that I would dance with the football devil I knew intimately rather than embrace what I perceived as an unknown devil waiting for me on the other side.  I preferred to dance with the devil I knew versus the devil I did not know. I had already sabotaged things with the assumption that a devil waited for me on the other side. I could not fathom that mere possibility that great opportunities awaited on the other side. 

Despite waking up each morning feeling like I had been in a minor car wreck, I kept the chips on the table and opted to let it ride.  I adopted an “it’s better to burn out than fade away” ethos. I convinced myself that sacrificing my body and mind for the game was a fair trade off with the football gods.  Almost heroic! My hips were misaligned, I had torn rib cartilage the season previous, broke a couple of transverse processes in my back, suffered concussions, recovered from a torn quad that was not diagnosed until an attempt to drain fluid in my knee revealed blood instead.  In addition, thanks to a helmet to the elbow earlier in the season, I had a bursa sac that when touched, would send lightning bolts through my arm. 

To this day, I kind of believe I touched the 3rd rail on the train tracks and roasted myself.  By playing host to the mere idea of preparing for life after football, I sub-consciously set myself up to fail.  I created a chink in my own armor. 

So, there I lay in the operating room desperate to feel safe in a game that was not safe.  I yearned for comfort in a game that used competition to keep players uncomfortable.  I wanted to feel a connection, an assurance that my devil could provide but I bought into a lie.  The not so funny thing is, as the anesthesiologist sent me to la-la land, simplicity ruled.  A new clarity entered from the fog.  For a brief moment I admitted to myself that I didn’t love the game anymore.  For a brief moment, I admitted that I hated the game. 

The procedure, like the previous three, did not succeed.  I registered for a computer programming diploma course.  Now, nothing about me screams computer programming.  It was a $17,000 mission failure.  Funny thing is they gave me a diploma for coding.  I think the instructor felt guilty and created it on his home computer using clip art.  I tried on a suit that fit so many others but did not fit me.  Not even close. 

At that time, a desperate Hamilton Tiger Cat team called a desperate Ken Evraire.  Can you run?  I sure can!  Can you help? I sure can!  I would have said anything to get my fix.  The devil asked me to dance again and my being a Ballroom Dancing World Champion, I could not wait to hit the dance floor. 

Why did I go back? Why did I not leave it all behind?  Like almost all long term, dramatic, emotional relationships, breaking up is tough.  Neil Sedaka was right when he sang, “breaking up is hard to do”!  So tough that we do all we can to avoid heartache. We try to work it out. We rationalize. We compromise all in a bid to stay in the same space or go back in time to when things were good. 

This approach stands in direct opposition with our DNA and our need to dance with many partners that make our life chapters. Dance without giving up ownership. Change roles and take the lead!  Fill your dance card.

Embrace opportunities…embrace learning.

The 1st stage in the 4 Stages of Learning is Unconscious Incompetence.  Essentially, we don’t even know that we don’t know.  At first blush, the term incompetence is negative in nature but if you look at it from a different perspective, a perspective of birth…of a new beginning, the term becomes our start line.  We do not magically master something overnight. 

We work our way from stage 1 to stage 2 (Conscious Incompetence) where we acknowledge that we don’t know, that it is okay and then begin the work of knowing. 

Then we make our way to Stage 3 (Conscious Competence) where we begin to hone our craft on our way to mastery.

Once we have mastered the skill we have made our way to Stage 4 (Unconscious Competence) where we can perform the skill without thinking.  Then we repeat the process with a new challenge in mind. 

Once you ascend a mountain you don’t stop climbing.  You look for a bigger, taller mountain! 

In the book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, William Bridges writes:

“Transition always starts with an ending. To become something else, you have to stop being what you are now; to start doing things a new way, you have to end the way you are doing them now; and to develop a new attitude or outlook, you have to let go of the old.”

Dancing with the same Devil over and over again forfeits your growth.  To give birth to something new…something must end. 

We are all going to dance. Find the right partner and when you do take the lead?  

 


 

Ken Evraire is a quintessential team player who loves coaching, team building and talking leadership!  He is grateful for the opportunity to work with a roster of fantastic clients ranging from the government sector, not for profit agencies, start ups, Fortune 500 companies and elite sports teams.

He is father to 3 precocious children, has the best ex-wife in the world, is a former professional football player that has since donated his brain. He has run 3x marathons (Honolulu 2x + Barcelona), done stand up comedy and believes the old school coach was wrong…there is indeed an “i” in Team! 

Check Ken out on the following social media pages… LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/ken-evraire-leadership/ Twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17    Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/   

Is anyone really uncoachable?

Whenever I am told someone is uncoachable, I always wonder who the coach was. Not to disparage any coaches out there but there are a never ending number of avenues available when it comes to coaching people up for success. Patience, fortitude and a willingness to know who you are coaching up is key. 

A failure to coach is usually connected to a “my way or the highway” coaching approach that is limiting to say the least. Fact is, the “my way” approach is now about the coach and not the person being coached. The “my way” approach is lazy. Your way offers a high risk – low reward scenario. Its like winning the lottery once and hoping the exact same numbers will come up again. The odds of that occurring are 1 in 20,358,520. It is not going to happen so you better look at a different combination of numbers…you had better look to a different approach to connecting. That is coaching! 

Now, I know coaching people up offers a greater rate of success but hoping the same plan works each and every time sets one up for inevitable failure. Reason being, when you factor in the human spirit, the perpetual motion attached to such an energy requires an ability to adapt. One must be agile. 

One must be willing to establish a buy in with each team member and the team member must establish a buy in with the coach. The ebb and flow between a coach and the team is constant. 

Coaching isn’t a straight line from point A to point B experience. It’s a meandering, take 2 steps forward, 1 step to the left, 2 back to the right and 3 forward dance. It’s imperfect, it’s fluid and it’s personal.

The silo approach to inter action is no longer of value. Contribution is key. Overlap and inter-play is crucial to a teams success. The transparent sharing of the strategic where, what, who, where and why creates an ownership that makes it easy to justify spending over 2000 hours per year at work.

The fact of the matter is times have changed.  The “I tell you to jump and you ask how high” approach to leadership and coaching has fallen to the wayside.

Any coach worth his or her salt, in whatever realm, be it in business, a not for profit agency,  leading an elite athletic team or perhaps a house league squad, must be agile, willing to adapt and proud to serve.

Robert K. Greenleaf wrote that a servant leader “begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions.”

He emphasized that servant leaders have five important qualities:

  • they are open to listening to others, and to their own intuition;
  • they know when to withdraw and refresh themselves;
  • they are able to persuade rather than just coerce;
  • they accept their followers’ imperfections and have empathy for them;
  • they can conceptualize a clear vision and follow it one step at a time.

Sounds like the servant leader is a fairly progressive coach. Someone who would stand ahead of the coaching curve today. So, its amazing to learn that he wrote it over 50 years ago and that it stands the test of time.

What I love about the list of important qualities is that they are instrumental in the greater search for fulfillment. Human interaction, the ability to connect, communicate, collaborate and conquer is part of our DNA! Our survival hinges on it. As technological advances arrive and as companies morph and mold in a bid to find success, the importance of the human element remains constant. As sure as the sun rises and sets, there is always an opportunity to coach up. A coach worth his or her salt looks relishes the chance to coach no matter the circumstances.

A great coach finds a way!

 

Coaching and leadership is all about finding a way. To serve others.

Ken Evraire is an outside of the box team builder, leadership and coaching consultant who now aspires to become a documentary producer! Stay tuned!

Ken can be reached at ken@kenevraire.com.

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/kenevraireleadership/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kevraire17

Find your lobster suit!

Sometimes wearing a lobster suit can change the entire game.
I know it did for me.

I booked career presentation number 500 today, or at least close to number 500! I admit it’s not a perfect science.

Not sure why it struck a sentimental cord with me but it did. Maybe it has to do with my being 53 years of age, the changing of seasons or watching my kids grow up faster than wheat in Melville, Saskatchewan. Worth noting, Melville was named for Charles Melville Hays, former General Manager of the Grand Trunk Railway which, if you know your 1970’s music, inspired the name of one of the greatest bands ever, Grand Funk Railroad. How is that for a water cooler fact!

Okay, lets get back my getting all sentimental! I believe it has to do with my sitting down and thinking back on the presentations that stuck with me through the years, presentations that stood out for a number of different reasons. Presentations that captured the audience on a level I did not necessarily anticipate. 

I always loved presenting and coaching people up. I didn’t think it would become a full time gig until the spring of 1989.

As a member of the Ottawa Rough Riders, I was often called on to host or attend events the organization

PIPSC Annual Retreat

would run or support. My boss at the time, Jo-Anne Polak, the only female GM in professional football and considered to be a marketing genius, decided the team should host a marquee fundraiser. With her roots in the East Coast, it made complete sense to host a lobster dinner. Great idea? To be honest, it was a good idea but to suggest it was great would have been a stretch. So, the team was going to host a lobster gala. The story doesn’t stop there. In addition to the team hosting the fundraiser, she suggested I serve as the event emcee and that I would work for free! Yep, no pay, which to be honest, I was okay with. Jo-Anne had become my official supplier of free game tickets so as gamblers say, her ticket supply and my working for free was a push. The wild card in all this was the very real possibility that, as my boss, she could have me traded to Winnipeg in a blink of an eye! Melville, SK I could kind of live with but Winterpeg? Umm…No. So, I really had no say in the matter so far. Then things took an interesting turn.

Remember the part about her being a marketing genius? This is where the genius comes into play. She suggests I emcee the event in a….wait for it….lobster suit!

At first, I irresponsibly and irrationally said, “Sure, what the hell.”. Then the reality began to set in along with the discomfort. I had no worry about serving as emcee but had some hesitation when it came to dressing as a crustacean. Now, I could have worn a suit and tie or a team sweater and pulled it off but I knew that wouldn’t work. The fact of the matter was, I had to wear the lobster suit. It was meant to be. I was meant to wear the suit the same way King Arthur was destined to bare the sword Excalibur after it was handed to him by the lady of the lake.

Many of you are likely thinking, “Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.” I agree and I admit that was borrowed from the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

It doesn’t change the fact that the lobster suit and I were meant to be.

On event day, I was piped into the Civic Center Assembly Hall by the Ottawa Fire Department Pipe and Drum, and it was then that I knew somehow, someway, I would dedicate my energy toward presenting.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Ken-Lobster-2-1-1024x819.png
Teammate Dean Dorsey and I at the Ottawa Rough Riders Lobster Gala!

Rather than embarrassingly make my way to the podium on stage, I opted to walk in like I was the heavyweight champion of the world. I chose to own the room before I even entered it. I walked selling the “I can’t believe I am the only crustacean in the room! How lucky am I?” Before I even said a word to the sold out audience, I knew I had won.

Initially, the suit was a tad uncomfortable but not from the perspective of fit but rather from the perspective of the experience being so new. Sure there were stares of astonishment from everyone in attendance, including teammates and my girlfriend at the time, followed by laughter. Yet, any concerns that I had were soon outweighed by what the moment brought me. Sometimes you need to stand up when everyone is sitting down. Sometimes, just sometimes, you need to be your own crustacean! Stepping out from the comfort zone and out of what we have worn in the past may be just what the doctor ordered.

Having Jo-Anne there with a smile of affirmation certainly helped as well. The power that comes with self determination is significant to say the least.

Today, when I am not introducing, “There is an “i” in Team” concepts or tailoring client specific strategies, I am doing my best to help my children find the courage to wear their lobster suits and discard them after they have learned what they needed from them.

We are all going to spend our time doing something, so make sure it is something worth spending your time on. By doing so, you will find your “right place and right time”.

Wearing that lobster suit opened doors to experiences that went beyond my ability to catch a football.

Find your lobster suit and head upstream like you were destined to wear it. 

——————————————

Ken Evraire is a quintessential team player who loves coaching, team building and talking leadership! He is father to 3 precocious children, a former professional football player that has since donated his brain and believes the old school coach was wrong…there is indeed an “i” in Team! 

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/kenevraireleadership/ or on twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17

 

 

Invest in self is a step in the right direction.

Well…a new year is upon us! The obvious blog would be to suggest the value of a life altering resolution that will either help you get past a tough 2018 or to build on a prosperous 2018.

Either option is far too easy. Rather than adopt and all or nothing approach that will likely set you up to fail, let me suggest another avenue of thought.

Take time out to recognize what will be the arrival of an abundance of momentum building portals that accompany all decisions that you make. No matter what turn comes your way, good bad or indifferent, consider it a momentum building opportunity. Every crossroad is a potential investment opportunity.

Get into the habit of investing, be it in yourself, those you care for or those you may lead. Now, the process is not perfect. There are no guarantees but the mere effort is a victory in and of itself. Swing the bat! Don’t let it sit on your shoulders. Should you strike out, don’t stop swinging the bat. If you do, you fall into the New Year’s Resolution trap. The all or nothing inevitably leads you to nothing. Casino’s stay open because they win. They always have and always will.

So, what are the next best steps? First and foremost, know that you are human and perfection is not the goal. Being perfectly imperfect is!

Here are 4 keys that can help you invest in yourself and in turn invest in others around you.

Key #1- BREATH. Breathing connects the physical to the mental and provides a great physiological and psychological balance that will allow you to slow things down and see the entire board. Slowing things down is the difference between a major league baseball player making 20 million dollars a season and a guy riding a bus in double A baseball wondering how he can get to the next level. The star slows down a 98 mph fastball, the minor leaguer see’s the 98 mph fastball as a 100 mph fastball!

Check out former Navy Seal Mark Divine and founder of Seal Fit training as he explains breathing techniques when facing stressful situations. If it works for a Navy Seal, it should work for us just fine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1sBsaDy0FQ

Key #2 – POSITIVITY.  Positivity will allow you to establish mental control when combined with healthy internal dialogue. I admit at times, It’s easier said than done, but positivity allows you to manage stress and the health benefits that accompany the positivity approach are invaluable. Our thought process highway can race on the edge of control. How we manage the hundreds to thousands of thoughts we have each day is key to our success.

Key #3 VISUALIZATION – now that you are slowing things down you can see the board with a new sense of clarity. You can now make decisions that ebb and flow rather than stand disjointed and disconnected. Elite athletes always talk about muscle memory. Now the brain is not a muscle but it certainly behaves like one. The brain can be trained to improve to improve cognitive functions like working memory or math skills. One can’t help but believe it can be trained to become a better decision making machine. We believe what we think we see. See the forest beyond the trees.

Key #4 MICRO-GOALS…breakdown your to-do list into pieces so you can enjoy smaller victories and in turn build the type of momentum that will take you in the direction you so desire.

Success begets success. NHL teams break down their regular seasons into 4-5 game segments. The idea of trying to win 50 of 82 games can feel daunting on so many levels and can lead to the all or nothing approach to failure. Asking your team to win 3 of 5 over period of 10 days is far more manageable. Rather than focus on one large victory, turn your energy toward 10-15 micro-goals.

Flying is a lot easier when you don’t have a piano on your back!

I wish you the best in 2019!

If you are thinking of hosting a leadership seminar, coach up clinic or a team building session, consider creating a tailor made opportunity with me. Simply email me at ken@kenevraire.com.

Best of the best,

Ken

Ken Evraire is a team building, leadership and coaching consultant. He combines over 20 years of experience from his work in the corporate sector and from over 10 years during his time as a professional athlete.

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, trendy thing in corporate culture today is the celebration of “the team”.  Truth is since the 70’s, business leaders have come to the realization 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

 

Theseus’ Paradox, Leadership and Team Building

 

 

Time to go back in time to my days at Laurier University circa 1986, for a little Philosophy 101 debate!

Professor Rocky Jacobsen stared out at a room full of first year freshman, similar to the way Donald Sutherland looked upon his class in the cult classic movie, Animal House. Like the class in Animal House, most of us were hungover.  A Friday morning Philosophy 101 session was considered a bird class. The only real challenge was waking up and getting to class. After that, your mere presence pretty well guaranteed you a passing grade.

How would Rocky connect with the class?  How would he engage us and capture our interest? He shared a story about Theseus.

Theseus is remembered in Greek mythology as the slayer of the Minotaur.  For years, the Athenians had been sending sacrifices to be given to the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull beast who inhabited the labyrinth of Knossos.  One year, Theseus braved the labyrinth, and killed the Minotaur.   The ship in which he returned was long preserved. As parts of the ship needed repair, it was rebuilt plank by plank.

“If Theseus sails his ship from port A to port B and has every piece of the ship replaced en route is it the same ship?”

This was all part of his introducing the ship of Theseus, also known as Theseus’ Paradox.  We would learn that it 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. 

Well, the classroom lit up and the healthy debate began.  Is it the same ship? Yes?  No?  Maybe so?  Why?  Professor Jacobsen played the role of traffic cop in the middle of a jammed roundabout as the back and forth picked up energy!

Some built an argument around the physics and how no two items are exactly the same.  Some went with it has to be based on the fact that the ship was named and therefore retains its identity.  Back and forth the argument would go like a tennis match being played at warp speed. 

I watched the energy rise from the periphery because I was both hungover and struck by the story but from a completely different angle.  A team building angle. I imagined the ship’s captain calling his crew together to explain their mission.

“Lads, listen up. Can I have your attention?   So, we are going to set sail and before we hit land, I want us to replace every piece of the ship.   The journey is perilous but I think we can do it! Are you with me?   Yes or no?”

Wow, what type of pregame speech did he have in his treasure chest to convince his crew to sign on for this adventure?  How prepared would he have to be when asked the inevitable what, when, where, who, why and how questions?

How did Theseus get his team to buy in?  There had to have been a history of trust, transparency, communication and collaboration for everyone to buy in.  There had to have been a record of success forged from previous challenging situations within the group.

When the captain declares that the entire ship needs to be replaced en route, is the response, “We can’t do that…I would rather drown in a tavern than at sea!” or is it “Okay, I am kind of digging your idea but I need more info?”. It may be, “Sure..whatever you say Captain!”, which is quite dangerous. 

Roles and expectations will change and trusting that everyone will strive to achieve a high degree of competency, no matter the role will be key.  Becoming adaptable in the face of crisis will be a requirement.

I didn’t care if it was the same boat or not.  I cared about what it would take to keep the boat afloat and I would have to trust everyone on the ship before I signed on. 

Which leads me to what I would do if I was the captain. My leadership approach would rest upon 4 elements.

Connect, Communicate, Collaborate, Compete to Conquer 

 

Connect is the first step in the process because it allows you to set the tone in terms of how the relationship will begin and what direction it will take. First impressions are everything.  Getting off on the right foot is key.  Be authentic. 

Communicate is step number two.  Let’s lay our cards on the table and begin a dialogue.  We may not like everything we hear but we need to hear it so you can build a convincing strategy that will answer everyone’s questions. By communicating, everyone can get a real sense of investment.

Collaborate is an opportunity for the team to address and hopefully answer some questions that the captain does not have an answer for.  This is the problem solving stage.  It the “I am okay with sailing with you but I think I can bring something to the plan that will help the entire group succeed.  Collaboration leads to consensus which is a pillar in team building.

Collaboration leads to the Compete phase.  A plan is in place.  The plan is not etched in stone because there are unpredictable variables that are in play.  What if it rains?  What if we get attacked by a pirate ship?  What if the crew suffers from scurvy?  The mission stays in place but the mapping is open to change.  If you anticipate a journey that takes you on a straight line from point A to point B…you are kidding yourself. 

The process of communicating and collaborating will continue until the goal is reached. Like the sea…there will be an ebb and flow to the journey.  It may mean going back to the drawing board and re-working the problems.  It may mean creating a plan B, C or D.  Being married to a plan has been the Achilles heel for so many teams. Don’t let ego get in the way of evolution!  Being married to the goal and willing to work the plan is the key to any teams success.

Share the what, when, where, who and why and I may sail with you! The Paradox isn’t would you sail with me. It is, what can I say to convince you to sail with me!


Ken Evraire is a quintessential team player who loves coaching, team building and talking leadership!  He is grateful for the opportunity to work with a roster of fantastic clients ranging from the government sector, not for profit agencies, start ups, Fortune 500 companies and elite sports teams.

He is father to 3 precocious children, a former professional football player that has since donated his brain. He has run 3x marathons (Honolulu 2x + Barcelona), done stand up comedy and believes the old school coach was wrong…there is indeed an “i” in Team! 

Check Ken out on the following social media pages…

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/ken-evraire-leadership/

Twitter https://twitter.com/kevraire17   

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/kenevrairedotcom/ 

 

 

 

 

 

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.