A tough load to carry

The last few years have been difficult. People have struggled and persevered and faced tremendous challenges. Organizations and families have been divided. As leaders, we may have carried an extra burden to ensure our businesses continued to thrive and grow. It’s not easy when there’s hardship all around and you feel you have to be strong all the time.

How, as leaders, do we reconcile the need to be steadfast, confident, and strong with the reality of being human?

Here are three suggestions:

1. Be real. It takes courage to openly face your feelings and It will earn you respect. It’s also healthier for you and for the people you serve. Facing your emotions decreases your risk for developing PTSD symptoms in times of crisis and adversity.

2. Show up. Don’t put your emotions in the driver’s seat. Being emotional has nothing to do with being weak. Take a few moments to be human, then be a human that rolls up their sleeves and gets back to work. Openness and honesty about our own feelings opens the door to be there for others This is what builds a strong community.

3. Have a support system away from work. Don’t rely on your team to take care of you. That’s not their job. We all need a trusted confidant away from work to support us, provide perspective, and hold us accountable through the hard times.

Hayley Wickenheiser

I’ve had the honour of presenting with Hayley Wickenheiser at several events. She’s an incredible athlete, community leader, physician, and businesswoman who inspires audiences to give their best in everything they undertake. Regarded as one of the world’s best female hockey players, Hayley is a four-time Olympic gold medalist and has inspired young women and female athletes around the globe. Hayley stays connected to her humble Saskatchewan roots, and lives with integrity, clarity, and honesty – the making of a true leader.

Just prior to the pandemic, Hayley and I presented to the senior leadership team at Purolator. (Pictured below is Hayley playing table hockey against the CEO, John Ferguson.)

At the evening supper event, John asked Hayley a series of intriguing questions:
“How many women are invited to attend the Olympic tryouts, Hayley?”
“About 100,” Hayley responded.
“How many make the team?”
“About 30.”
“So…” John reflected, “What’s the difference between the 30 who make it and the 70 who don’t?”
“Little to do with talent,” Hayley quickly explained. “The difference was consistency and mental toughness.”

Hayley, in no way was being disrespectful to those who didn’t make the Olympic team. She has the utmost regard for every one of those incredible athletes.Her answer, however, get me thinking about the youth in my life and what I am doing to foster resilience in them.

As parents, coaches, teachers, caregivers, and leaders of young people, are we creating an environment that builds mental toughness or are we making it too easy for these kids? Are we helping them face the demands of life or teaching them to avoid the tough stuff? Are we supporting them through the challenges rather than rescuing them from the challenges?