The Coaching Effect Blog

The Coaching Effect Blog

    How Leaders Can Play Their Position During Crisis [Podcast Interview]

    by Bill Eckstrom / April 14, 2020

    Photo by Hattie Kingsley Photography

    I recently had the honor of speaking with Mary Lou Kayser on the “Play Your Position” podcast where we talked about how the playing field has changed in our professional and personal lives in such a short amount of time. You’ll find some of my (condensed) answers to Mary Lou’s questions below as well as links to listen to the full interview and podcast at your convenience. Enjoy.

    Mary Lou Kayser: So give us a deeper sense of what is your current position? And how are you playing it to the best of your ability?

    Bill Eckstrom: Number one is to help others understand how their role has to continue to evolve and adapt now that the environment has changed. As leaders, our ability to thrive is dependent upon our ability to adapt to whatever environment that faces us right now, quite frankly, we're in a chaotic environment.

    So my role is I'm trying to help leaders, coaches, and managers understand the impact this is having on them as well as their team. We've also developed a free survey to help people understand the impact Coronavirus is having on the way their teams feel and are behaving. So there's just a lot of things I'm passionate about right now.

    Mary Lou Kayser: How can we be effective for others during this time?

    Bill Eckstrom: We refer to the term "coach" versus "leader" because it always denotes you have a team of people. And as coaches we have to be healthy in order for our teams to be healthy. We dictate that and have the most influence over that. So the healthier we are, the more calm we are, and the more healthy and more calm our teams will be. It begins with us.

    Mary Lou Kayser: I would love for you to go a little bit deeper into this concept of The Growth Rings and tie it into the challenge that we're all facing right now.

    Bill Eckstrom: This came from the TEDx Talk that I did in January of 2017.


    I can't even begin to say how many people have reached out to me to comment or want to visit about The Growth Rings, which really is a model for showing the different environments in our world and how they impact growth in those environments. It's also in the first chapter of our book, The Coaching Effect. We go into detail on how leaders can have an impact in times of order, complexity, and chaos like we’re seeing now.

    The Growth Rings Indicator

    And what defines chaos is the inability to understand inputs or outcomes. The need is to not go into complexity right now, but move to order, and order is about understanding inputs. So we know what inputs are, and we understand and know what the outcomes will be. Outcomes are predictable and breeds comfort.

    That means as coaches and leaders our job more than ever before has to be involved with assuming that we're taking care of ourselves first. Next, we have to look to our team, and we have to maintain relationships. We have to create trust. We can't let people guess whether or not we care about them. 

    Mary Lou Kayser: What do you see the new normal looking like?

    Bill Eckstrom: If I were to guess, I think there will be a greater emphasis on relationships. People will understand that trust is going to count more than ever. And psychological safety, which we're putting a lot of resources against and have already proven to be one of the leading indicators of team success/performance/team growth, will become even stronger as well.

    It’s a coach's ability to understand their impact on those areas. What I think the outcome will be is instead of just putting people in management roles, they're going to want to measure their effectiveness. And right now, that doesn't happen.

    I do believe there's going to be a shift and an emphasis to measuring manager effectiveness  and understanding the impact our coaches and leaders are having on their respective teams, because if they're not doing the things they should do or having a positive impact, then they need to find another role.

    Mary Lou Kayser: How do you create psychological safety as a coach or leader? What's one way of making sure there's psychological safety with your team?

    Bill Eckstrom: My response may surprise you because it is so simple, yet so few people do this, and that is asking questions.

    As a coach, one of the most powerful things you can do is to ask questions. It lets people know that their opinion matters and allows them to come up with answers themselves which helps with self-discovery and self-correction. So questions are one of the things we're seeing that creates psychological safety, number one.


    Number two is a big one we’re seeing across our research which is how leaders respond under times of stress. So right now, the way coaches and leaders are behaving really is going to play a role into the psychological safety of their teams.

    Mary Lou Kayser: There seems to be two camps are people who are moving forward and saying, “Yeah, there's tons of opportunity.” And then there are people that are literally burying their heads in the sand and saying, “Can you wake me when this is over? I don't want to deal with it." What are your thoughts on this?

    Bill Eckstrom: A colleague and I were just talking about this yesterday and his comment was he thinks about 40% of people are just basically throwing their hands up and saying, “I give up.” Then there are about 60% having a proper attitude and realizing that, “Hey, this too will pass.” Now its passing will create different environments, but it will pass.

    Mary Lou Kayser: I want to put you in the red zone with less than 30 seconds left on the clock. You are down by four points and it is now or never for you and your team to win this game. Tell us a story about a time when you ran the metaphorical ball into the end zone for that game winning touchdown.

    Bill Eckstrom: The red zone today looks different than the red zone did a month ago, which looks different than a week ago, and certainly way different than a year or two ago.

    So it's really how I am proud of the way our team is responding today. We're not talking about how to go make another sale. We're not talking about what are we going to do to survive through this? Of course I'm not naive, I look at financials. I have a plan in place and our president has a plan in place, so we’re good there.

    What we're talking about is what the people need. That's moving the ball forward. And that's what we're doing as an organization. We're helping people understand those things that we've talked about in this podcast so far and how does my team feel. Don't just think you know how they feel, get some information on them. We've developed a survey that we will do it for free which is really helping people understand the impact COVID-19 is having on leaders, teams, and companies.

    Mary Lou Kayser: So where can people get that survey?

    Bill Eckstrom: (Click here) Leave your information and we'll run it for free.

    - - - - - - - - - 

    I'd love to hear what you think after listening to the full podcast found on Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Stitcher, or Spotify. What were your takeaways? What would you like me to elaborate on more? Use the comment section below to share.

    Again, I want to reiterate that this chaos will give way to order, then complexity which is the environment where growth occurs. Keep in mind as coaches and leaders that our job is to create growth, but to be human first. And the way to be human is by really creating that order for your people right now.

    All of us at EcSell are here to help you lead more effectively during this uncertain time. We are offering complimentary webinars, creating more white papers and articles focused on the time we're in, and offering the COVID-19 Insight Survey at no cost.


    Tags: Employee Engagement The Coaching Effect The Growth Rings Building Relationships Covid-19 Resources

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    Bill Eckstrom

    Bill Eckstrom

    William Eckstrom is the CEO and Founder of the Ecsell Institute. Bill has spent his entire career in the sales management and leadership arena. In 2008, he founded Ecsell Institute to fill a void he witnessed and personally experienced in the sales leadership profession. He's went on to present a viral TEDx Talk and co-authored the best-selling book, "The Coaching Effect."