In Difficult Times, Show Up

Gerwig 2016-05-30

Do you love watching or playing sports? I do. And there’s a lot going on this weekend. Stanley Cup Finals, Indianapolis 500, UEFA Champions League Final, NBA Conference Finals, NASCAR Coca-Cola 600, and an MLS match between Orlando City SC and New York City FC. And while this last sporting event may not be on the scale of the others listed, it happens to be the one I’m attending.

One of my sons and a friend of his drove up from Charlotte for the weekend to watch the match. Yesterday we grilled wings and little smokies for lunch prior to watching the Champions League Final and then we grilled some NY strips and cowboy-cut, bone-in ribeyes for dinner while watching more soccer and some basketball. To be completely transparent, we also ate watermelon, corn, salad, hummus, and fresh-cut veggies. But somehow it seems more “manly” to focus on meat when talking about sports.

It was a special event. That’s why we feasted all day long. It’s not often one of my sons is in town. They both live in the Carolinas and I live in southern New England. So when they come to town, I yell out, “kill the fattened calf and let’s feast!” I fired up the grill, paid a premium for some excellent beef, and feasted with the family. It was a great time. Fellowship, food, and sports.

While not a sports junkie, I do like sports. Rarely do I watch TV, unless it’s a major sporting event. Yesterday was an exception. It was like watching college football bowl games back-to-back right after New Year’s. But it was fun. And relaxing. And thought-provoking.

How so? Well, you get to see human drama played out on a small scale right in front of your eyes. After a heart-breaking loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League Final, you had an opportunity to see how Atlético Madrid’s coach and players would react. And this same opportunity occurs over and over again in every big match, game, and race whether cricket, soccer, baseball, swimming, football, or tennis. When the stakes are high and the world has you or your team under the spotlight, how will you respond to the loss when the media sticks a microphone in your face and asks how you “feel?”

You may want to walk away, hide in the locker-room to tell them to leave you alone. But the media, good or bad, is largely why world-class athletes and coaches make millions of dollars in the first place. You may not like to talk with the media after a loss, but you can’t exactly walk away. Well, some do but it’s considered poor form, bad manners, and might even be a breach of contract for which you’ll be fined.

The same is true in the corporate world, the family world, the academic world, and the military world. Though you may want to walk away during difficult times, true leaders show up. Great leaders don’t shirk their responsibilities and take the easy way out. World-class leaders know that they are needed and expected to show up and field the questions. They’re expected to push through and persevere. Others are watching. Others are always watching. Sometimes the leader is on a local stage, others times a regional stage, and sometimes a global stage, but always there are watchers. Family. Employees. Community leaders. Suppliers. Customers. Competitors. Shareholders.

When someone accepts a position of formal leadership, they accept formal and informal responsibilities. Being a new parent brings responsibilities as does being a new VP of Sales as does being a public school teacher as does being a soccer coach as does being a professional tennis player. One of these responsibilities is that you realize and accept the importance of showing up during difficult times. You need to be there. Your presence is expected. And valuable to the organization.

Whether a loss in a critical game, a fire in your facility, a low score on a key audit, a poor outcome on an important business metric or a gut-wrenching medical test result, show up. Show up and face it. There are endless ways you can face it, but you must first show up. There are many approaches to mitigate the pain, but you must first show up. There are many corrective action steps you can take, but you must first show up.

In a perfect world, you’d never have to show up in difficult times because you wouldn’t have to experience difficult times. But in a fallen world that isn’t perfect, you’ll have difficult times. And you’ll need to show up.

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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