Transforming Your Crisis Response with Workforce Wellness Expert, John Robertson

Transforming Your Crisis Response with Workforce Wellness Expert, John Robertson

In this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit Podcast, Jenn DeWall sat down with John Robertson to talk about how to transform your traditional crisis response. John Robertson is the founder and president of FORTLOG Services, and John built his services with a focus on an encouragement-based approach, resolving root causes as opposed to treating crisis and transition in the workplace. Symptomatically as is often the practice, a trusted thinking partner with 30-plus years of assisting individuals and organizations manage all forms of crisis and change. John leverages a values-anchored ethos as a leadership development specialist helping organizations and individuals to define the new norm and thrive. And I hope you enjoy the conversation, is John and I talk about how you can transform your traditional crisis response by running toward the roar.

Full Transcript Below

Jenn DeWall:  Hello. Hello, hello everyone. I am so excited to be here talking about how to transform your crisis response, which I’m sure if you’re listening to this, you could probably think of a crisis that your organization or team has today. And that’s why we brought John Robertson to have this conversation with us to understand what do we do if we’re us as leaders are faced in a crisis. So John, thank you so much for joining us on The Leadership Habit. We are so happy to have you. I’m excited to have this conversation because I feel like crisis is just a norm. Again.

John Robertson:  Yes it is. It sure is. And honestly, it’s my honor to be here and I truly appreciate some of the work that you and Leadership Habit are doing. So it been some great shows I’ve listened to and received blessings from. So look forward to being part of it.

Jenn DeWall:  Hey, I’m excited to hear we’re gonna be talking about your book Run Toward the Roar. So how to transform your crisis response. What? Run toward the roar? I think that if I think of my natural crisis response at work, of course if I’m out at home, I think I respond differently. I have a tendency to shut down, right? That’s when the stress and the anxiety takes in. And we’re gonna be going into your book and I’m so excited to talk about it again because we know if you’re a leader right now, you’re likely dealing with, and I hate to use this word, unprecedented changes events that you haven’t foresee. But before we dive into it, John, could you go ahead and just tell us a little bit about you? I love the good origin story. How did you come to be? How did you even come to write this book?

The Event is Never the Crisis – The Response is the Crisis

John Robertson:  Couple things. Stand out on the journey. First of all, one of the things that I know is my strength overused, sorry, our strength overused is our greatest weakness. And one of the things that’s always bothered me is the number of people who spend their lives reacting to things instead of, Okay, well rather than always reacting that circus or fair game called Whack-a-mole, rather than playing Whack-a-mole with your life, why don’t we decide what’s important and grow towards it? And so I ended up taking that approach in my first, I started out as a minister, a clergy pastor. Everybody’s got a different name for it. And one of the things that happens is when people are dealing with significant events and first thing to remember about crisis is the event is never the real crisis. And that’s one of the biggest problems that happens in our workplaces today. We react.

Jenn DeWall:  What do you mean? The event is never the crisis?

John Robertson:  It’s never the real crisis. So for example, if Billy Bob or Susie Q- pick a name out of the air- dies on their way to work, employee assistance programs and onsite intervention specialists may be called to meet with the workplace because that person died on the way to work. Well that might not be a crisis because as cold as it sounds, they might not be the most popular person in the workplace. Now it’s creating a whole other situation. On the other hand, and I’m being rude, but at the same time I’m gonna push you, Jenn, if you think back over your journey, I can personally guarantee you you’ve had an event that people may not be aware of and you’re shocked at how some people have treated you like you have a highly contagious disease. And other people who have said, Wow, what can I do? It’s never the event. Whatever has happened to you, you’re not the first person that’s had it happen. How people respond to its impact on you is more important than what it the event was.

So in the workplace, a beloved employee gets cancer and it’s a terminal diagnosis. Or a divorce. Think about some of the more commonplace things. And the one that we hear a lot about is people working from home while others have to go into the office or flip side, people leaving for a new employer and the gang that loved working with that person are now left behind. Okay. So people leave for new work all the time. That’s not a a spectacular event. However, the crisis, which is never the event, the crisis now is how is that organization going to deal with that super popular, you know, the torch bearer if you will, now that they’re gone, how, what are they gonna do to keep their people in alignment going forward? And so I was doing crisis interventions for some employee assistance programs are called EAPs.

And I realized they’re making huge coin out of reacting to events. But two to three months later, the organizations are no different. And leaders, majority of them, especially in that mid-senior level, want to help their people. They wanna help the organization, but they’re exhausting, burning themselves out, reacting to events. So Run Toward The Roar is a premise around human instinct is like you just said, many of us turtle or cocoon, when we’re greeted with conflict or fear. Yeah. And human instinct is fight, flight, freeze, appease.

Normal reactions to abnormal events by a normal person. And what happens is when we train and when we focus and when we realign, what’s a priority for us? What’s a value to us? What we are passionate about, then when those moments happen, instead of reacting like a normal human being, we, yeah, we get our walls up, our Charlie horses, but we stay focused on what’s of value so that we Run Toward the Roar. And the term out of that is called pati fidelis. Pati is the root word of passion. Fidelis is the root word of fidelity of faithfulness, of loyalty. And so let me, and I don’t wanna pry, but Jenn, have you ever been in a situation, and I’m asking you closed questions on purpose. Have you ever been in a situation where you got an emotional, spiritual, relational, moral, psychological charlie horse?

Jenn DeWall:  Yes, absolutely.

John Robertson:  Have you, did it happen around something that you cared deeply about?

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah, typically.

John Robertson:  Okay. Did you cocoon or did you find a way to get back in and grow forward that gap back in the game and keep going?

Jenn DeWall:  It’s hard to answer that as a yes or no. Okay. Because you know, sometimes it’s the cocoon. But sometimes going back to the stress response, it’s the, I find myself in the fight or appease ones of like, that’s, that’s typically where I land.

John Robertson:  And what happens?

Jenn DeWall:  Sometimes I’ll go like this if I’m like, Oh gosh. But like then my values get into play and I’m like bring it on

John Robertson:  <Laugh>. And which you just perfectly articulated is the premise behind Run Toward the Roar. And that means we have to address the relationships in our lives, the connections we have to address, identify what our values are, we have to identify what our mindset is, what we think, how we cognitively prepare ourselves. And then of course emotionally, physically, and so forth.

Jenn DeWall:  Yes. And so it’s really just, it’s the whole facet of like our foundational, I guess, understanding our emotions, treating the person, treating that first and what we’re going to do to respond. Is that a different way to say that or a little bit?

John Robertson:  No, absolutely. And emotions are definitely part of it. But sometimes we get, a friend of ours use the term stinky thinking and it’s not emotions, it’s just the rats in the attic is the old expression. But our thinking goes down the toilet bowl in a royal flush and, and telling ourselves to stop thinking that way is as effective as me saying, Don’t think about a pink pickup truck. That’s ridiculous. Don’t think about a pink pickup truck. Yeah. Now that’s really helpful. But those key relationships are vital because they can help us address that stinky thinking rather than telling ourselves.

Jenn DeWall:  I love that. Well, and it’s just the plan for how to approach it. So I know you touched on a few of this, like, so what are the obstacles or where do you think organizations get their crisis response wrong? I mean, one from what you just said is there they’re looking in the wrong place at what to address. Right?

John Robertson:  So I want you to, because I’m a child at heart, some see people say childish, some people say childlike, call it whatever you want. I’m a child at heart. Picture a teeter-totter.

Jenn DeWall:  Okay.

John Robertson:  The fulcrum of the teeter-totter is the traditional crisis response. How organizations or leadership respond to a critical event, whether it be perceived or real, doesn’t matter how people respond to that dictates which way the teeter-totter goes. It goes towards healthier or it goes towards unhealthier, goes towards safe or goes towards unsafe. You and I were talking about that event where you knew a person who was at it and they were talking about how that opening act or whatever you wanna call it, their scenario, get people interacting, was to say off center would be the understatement of the century.

Jenn DeWall:  Yes.

John Robertson:  <Laugh>. Ok. Yes. And you see how quickly the person that was telling you about that event, do you see how quickly it becomes unsafe in milliseconds?

Jenn DeWall:  Yes. Yeah, absolutely. That is a very, yeah, lived experience from three days ago that I’m still, I feel like emotionally processing

John Robertson:  And, and what happens is how the organizations or leaders respond to that will dictate, dictate kind of a whole snowball effect because it’ll become bigger. The visual is, and I know it’s another anecdote or analogy, but it becomes a stone in the shoe and what starts out as something that shouldn’t have happened, it’s a pebble in the shoe. But when it does not get addressed, it starts to feel like we have a boulder in our shoe.

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah.

John Robertson:  And how that starts is a little thing that’s called values-anchored culture or accountability culture. And I call the accountability culture, the P culture, because it’s about policy, procedures, protocol, performance, productivity, promotion. And let’s not forget that beloved paperwork,

Better Crisis Response Starts with a Values-Anchored Culture

Jenn DeWall:  <Laugh>

John Robertson:  Values-anchored culture is a culture where values are named, defined and people can describe the behavior of that value being lived and practiced. Those values are encouraged. So people are responsible and they take the initiative. What happens and what’s organizations are doing is they’re trying to get people to be accountable. Look at this whole hybrid discussion. It’s really about the P’s– productivity, protocol, performance, paperwork and so forth. When the real issue is ask people why should somebody work in your organization? I had, and just to show you, I’m the little boy in the emperors new clothes. I have a problem of naming the elephant in the room, whatever you want me to say. I was working with one organization and they were having this and they were talking about people, paycheck players, the ones who were staying were not your best performers. But the other thing that was starting to happen was they could not recruit the best people.

John Robertson:  They were recruiting people but not exactly a lineup of other employers wanting to hire them kinda people. Yeah. And so we got talking about focus and so on and so forth and, and I said, Okay, I’m just gonna be a stick in the spokes here. And without pulling out your phones and looking them, what are your core values here? Why would somebody want to work here? And, and Jenn, I don’t know if you’ve ever done that moment, but you know, when you name something and the room just goes like a funeral home, it’s deathly silent. It’s like, I don’t know how to describe that sensation, but it’s like inside my voice, Inside my head, my voice is saying way to go Robertson, it looks like this is gonna be a short employment. They’re gonna walk you out of the premises <laugh>. And, and, and at the end of the day we have to decide how to handle crisis properly. The traditional crisis is an ask or answer. Do you want a healthier organization or do you wanna try and minimize unhealth?

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah.

John Robertson:  And cause most people treat sick, we’re not growing healthy, we’re just trying to stop unhealthy or stop sick. Well you can’t.

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah. And I like, it’s even as I’m thinking about what are the consequence of not addressing the crisis or going back to the example you and I had talked about offline, which I’ll say in a different way. It’s just, you know, in a meeting someone said something that one group population was very offended by and one group very normalized didn’t think that. And, and I think that’s probably a you know, a response situation many leaders can find themselves in is not understanding which one you know you should listen to. I happen to be on the one end that I was very offended by it. And you know, there are people that weren’t, but like from my perspective it was really inappropriate. And so what would you do in that case of like what does a crisis response even look like if you feel like it’s difficult to discern whether or not it’s something that should be addressed.

John Robertson:  It’s what you just described is textbook why the event is never the real crisis.

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah.

Name It Don’t Blame It

John Robertson:  It’s the reactions of the individuals. And so putting your finger on that scenario you just named, is somebody having enough backbone to say- name it, but don’t blame it- is key. I have to be willing to name it without using the best fight words in the English vocabulary. <Laugh> you, always, and never, there are no better fight words in the English vocabulary than those three You always and never. So name it but don’t blame it. And just simply say, okay, hold it. The temperature just changed in this relationship.

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah.

John Robertson:  What happened, what did I miss?

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah.

John Robertson:  And, and when people have core values that are real, because there’s always two sets, right? There’s the ones on the website, there’s the ones that people actually operate by. This is your defining moment. And, and that’s your, in science it’s called a litmus paper. This is the litmus test to determine which way the organization is going to move. That fulcrum. They are going to tilt towards values on the website that nobody practices or values that are practiced because they’re known and lived. There is no middle ground. Yeah. And so in your scenario, a leadership simply saying Hold it, what just shifted? What did I miss? And then when somebody says, Well when John said yada yada yada, what some of us heard was blah blah blah.

John Robertson:  Oh, wow. I’m sorry, how can we correct what just happened? Cause that’s shouldn’t happened, but it has. So I’m sorry, but now what can we do? And now immediately we’re moving into values being practiced.

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah. I mean and it’s, so I, I love that because it’s, it really is the values being practiced because in this instance it might seem like a really small to-do. Yes. Maybe something that like, you know, wouldn’t have that big of an impact. But as me as an individual, I would be thinking, do I really wanna work with an organization that does this? Do I really want to support this person? What does my trust look like? How do they see me? These are all of the messages that I am now reflecting on is like, do I really wanna move forward and jump into this ship if I feel like this is appropriate when I think it’s absolutely not. And so if you’re not addressing the crisis, you’re not, you potentially could lose people

John Robertson:  Not potentially. Delete. You can delete that word because Jenn, what happens is people, I heard a great expression, they’re talking about quiet quitting. But they were talking about “RIP” and the old acronym is “ROD”, retired on duty. But that RIP is retired in position. And what happens is people may not leave because they like to pay or they like the benefits or they like whatever, but they are no longer contributing because they’ve checked out, I’m just a paycheck player now I’m no longer a motivated employee. Which means the accountability. So the p policies, procedures, protocols, all those things just became more work and the real issue how that crisis got handled.

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah.

John Robertson:  And there is one point when it is too late and we can never go back and it’s called death Short of that it can be remedied. That doesn’t mean trust is gonna be restored. Trust takes years to grow, seconds to lose.

Jenn DeWall:  Right.

John Robertson:  But trust can be rebuilt. But it takes a lot of effort. And so therefore everybody’s writing books on trust or people are writing books on leadership. But nobody’s talking about the art of, I shouldn’t say nobody. Very few are talking about the art of Kajon. When you’re trying to be a leader and you walk on toes accidentally, what do you do? Well the advantage I have of 35 years of marriage is you learn very quickly that to remedy a bad situation, the first thing is, I’m sorry,

Jenn DeWall:  Right.

Crisis Response and Accountability

John Robertson:  Second thing is, I was wrong. Third thing is, forgive me. And you know, the perfect illustration of this, and it was the American Medical Association who did the survey or study or whatever it was, it was years ago and they did investigation into what’s causing the number of lawsuits against doctors. And do you know what the number one reason was?

Jenn DeWall:  Don’t know. Feeling like you don’t get adequate level of care.

John Robertson:  Actually that’s what most of them were thinking. It actually came back to what’s clinically is called bedside manner. It actually came back to how the person was treated.

Jenn DeWall:  I mean I, I feel like I can relate to that in so many ways.

John Robertson:  We all can. Yeah. Yeah.

Jenn DeWall:  Even if I think about what I, and I mean, and they know on our guests, like I’m going through a relapse with my multiple sclerosis and this has been going on for eight weeks and I still do not have steroids. Which is a very common prescribed medicine that they’ll give you to help minimize the symptoms and the control, the inflammation. And it took me finally, and this is like, and I pointed out to my neurologist over the weekend and I was like, I just went to the pharmacy to get this again after you said it was there and it’s not there. And I’m like, how am I supposed to trust you as a partner? Yeah. If in these moments like you don’t have MS so you don’t understand what it’s like to experience these symptoms. Right. To my neurologist. So like you don’t have the urgency but message I get from you is that you don’t care.

Jenn DeWall:  And she just responded and there was no apology. It was, Oh I thought that I sent this on Wednesday after your appointment. I sent it today, which was Monday, you know, five days later. Yeah. And I’m now gonna leave that neurologist because I feel like trust is completely broken. There’s no level of accountability or like, I’m sorry that this is not turned out like, you know, it’s hard to be empathetic when you feel like there’s like eight weeks going on here. I don’t know what to say anymore. Like empathy definitely like gets washed off and then it’s time to leave

John Robertson:  A hundred percent. And so apply that exact same scenario in the workplace. And this doesn’t mean that you and I, if we’re working together, this doesn’t mean that you and I have to sit down and join hands and sing Kumbaya and all. That’s not empathy. Empathy is, you know what Jenn, I might be the wrong person to help you with this, but lets, you and I talk about the best kind of help that you need to get through this storm and I wanna help you get that support. Yeah. Even if I’m not the right person, that’s empathy, not sympathy, which is pity. And and part of what happens is, and my heart aches for those mid-level B suite leaders, because they get shot at from two sides. They get shot at from one side saying, who do you think you are coming here? And you know, we’ve been kings and queens of our own castles.

This is what we have decided. The people behind them following are shooting at them saying, Yeah, no, I don’t wanna go there. I don’t wanna change. We’ve done it this way for 20 years. Why do we need to change? And so those people in the middle are getting shot at from two sides and then we ask them to be vulnerable or transparent or authentic. Yeah, no, that’s not happening. And therefore they need their own, for lack of better words, peer support, which is not actually the visual that I use is in North American football, it’s called huddle.

And it’s where the team gets together and they consider the play they’re going to run. And the rest of the world sees their bums because their heads are together preparing their play. Mid senior leaders have to have a huddle time, they have to have a values-anchored huddle where they can talk about what it’s really like to be on the field. What it’s really like to get hit. What it’s really like to be blindsided with to like you just illustrated, I thought you were my advocate, I thought you were rolling up your sleeves to help, and now you don’t even have the courage or backbone to say, I’m sorry, miscommunication, I’m wrong. Or as my kids would say, my bad.

Jenn DeWall:  <Laugh>. I mean it’s you, I wonder there are just so many, so much resistance for some people to actually going there. And I mean, and in a second I’m gonna ask you like how, you know, how do we start, how do you start to transform your crisis? But we had talked about on the pre-call too, like, you know, where organizations might be addressing mental health wrong and I, I, I mean I agree with you, I see it as like they kind of are are they’re creating these beautiful things such as mental health days. Love it. Yeah. Mental health programs, but no one’s talking about how to navigate these conversations and so they’re still not being had because people are like, I don’t know, maybe the mental health day will take care of it and that’s not going to be the fix.

So from your perspective, what would you even get, what advice would you offer for someone that wanted to have those conversations to ask? Like how does it feel to play on the field? Like how does it feel when you have, you know, if you’re a consultant and you have an angry customer that you know doesn’t treat you like an equitable business partner and is constantly railing you and saying you’re not enough, you’re not doing this, you’re not doing this and that, that’s an example I know many people deal with when they work with consultants.

John Robertson:  This, let illustrate this Jenn, in a very real situation, I was working with a midlevel B suite, mid-senior level leader. There’s an employee that’s been off work for, I’m gonna say three months, it might be longer, it might be less, doesn’t matter. The employees in that department were saying it’s been best in whatever years this workplace has the best it’s since this person was off. Long story short, this leader ended up meeting with this person said some stuff, not negative stuff, just calling a spade a shovel and saying, hold it. The behavior isn’t what we want in this department. All of a sudden a grievance gets filed, it gets escalated right up to the director of hr. And now this mid senior leader is getting their knuckles wrapped, their hand slapped and it’s been a problem employee for years. There’s your values choice.

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah.

John Robertson:  Who are you wanting to keep? Now this leader has already written his resignation. He hasn’t put it on paper, but he’s already written his resignation. He’s already started looking for other work. Now how much money did that organization invest in that leader getting the skills, competence, et cetera, et cetera. And they’re losing that person over non-work related issues because nobody wanted to deal with the problem behavior. Now you’ve got the problem behavior and you’re losing the leader who wanted to grow change.

It’s not a complicated fix. And what one of the first things that I would tell your listeners is, is our definition of mental health a positive proactive dish definition or is it a definition that’s based on in North America it’s actually called a healthcare system. We don’t have a healthcare system, we have a sick care system. If you want to be healthy, that’s your own time, your own dime. And therefore in the workplace is our mental health definition based on not being sick? Or is it based on here’s what we define healthy as looking like here’s why health matters and therefore we’re rowing in that direction.

Jenn DeWall:  I love that. Well and that conversation opens up like we don’t want it to be something that you just deal with on your own time with your own dime. We don’t, no longer are we saying personal problems exist of a personal time. Like we’ll talk about it. But it like, I love that perspective of like, no, we take the accountability here that we know that what we create, what happens, how we respond, the tools that we give you are going to impact your quality of life. And they’re obviously going to impact your productivity, your ability to focus and concentrate or make decisions. I, I really appreciate that definition. So thank you for segueing a little bit into that.

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Jenn DeWall:  Now we’ll bring it back into play of like the crisis. So how do you transform your traditional crisis response?

To Transform Your Crisis Response, Clarify Your Purpose

John Robertson:  So first, clarify what your focus is. What does success look like non physically? And the definition that I always used, question rather I always use for the definitions is how would you define this non physically? Tell me about your culture. When I’m working with leadership, first question I always ask is, so how do you want people to describe you non-physically? That’s just a value statement. And therefore clarify that focus as a leader or as an organization. The second question becomes–

Jenn DeWall:  I want to go into that, what are some common words that you’ve heard? Actually, is it fun? Like fuzzy? Like what? What are some of

John Robertson:  The words that 90% of the time they’re fuzzy and so therefore, you know, part of my strength is I’m not asking because I have in my mind what I think your answer should be. I have in my mind that I don’t understand your answer so therefore I will keep asking. Okay, help me to understand that. When you say respectable, okay, what does that mean for you? Well it means to be respected. Okay, great. I go back to my elementary school teacher who said, you’re not allowed to define a word by using the word.

So therefore, apart from using the word respect, what does respectable mean for you? And and what always comes out of that will be a person’s definitions around their values. So for example, I want people to know me as trustable, respectable followable even when I’m not likable. Cause I would rather you trust me know that when I say I’m going to do something, you don’t need 15 pages of legal documents to say it my handshake or whatever we do these days.

The fist bump, my handshake is as valuable as all those pages trustable, respectable, when you meet me at the hockey rink or soccer field, sorry, soccer pitch football field or at church or at work. Where at grocery store you meet the exact same person but different vantage points. So respectable means I am going to be who I am, I am going to be focused on my values and yes I can name them and therefore I want you to say, see that same reflection and followable I have a purpose for my life that I’m pursuing. And therefore part of that purpose is I want you to know the plans for your life. I want you to Run Toward the Roar. I want you to help discern what’s your pasio fidelis, what are you passionately faithful for? And I get to help with that. And there will be days that I know you may not like me and I can live with that.

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah, well that’s the reality. I think acceptance rule number one for leaders is that we’re not gonna be liked every single day by all people and all the things that we say. But yet we somehow created this expectation that it exists and it doesn’t

John Robertson:  <Laugh>. But if I don’t know as a leader, and this is the key, if I don’t know what I’m for, then we try and be defined by what we’re against. That’s poor leadership because that’s reactive. Yeah. Great leaders know their values and therefore we know what we are for. So if I’m for good health doesn’t mean I’m against smoking. It just, I have more things to focus on than just not certain behaviors.

Jenn DeWall:  Sure. So first part, you have to know your values and I love that taking a deep drive. What do they look like in action? How do they, how do you define them? How do they feel? What’s the second piece to transform your traditional crisis response?

John Robertson:  So the focus, the values. And the third piece is you got to build the team. Because you’re not gonna be able to move things forward if I’m trying to think of the person’s name. He wrote Good to Great Jim Collins.

Jenn DeWall:  Mm-Hmm <affirmative>,

Get the Right People on the Bus

John Robertson:  He, he has an expression you got to get the right people on the bus. Many people focus on that quoting that cliché, right. People on the bus but they forget the other part. And in his book he says people either fit and flourish or they get expunged like a virus. Who are the people in your boat rowing with you? Who are the people on the field with you that will help you move things forward? That does not happen without a commitment and decision. Don’t ask for volunteers.

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah. I love that. Well I think a lot of people don’t think about that or they think the fastest way to fill the bosses to get people that are most like me. Because I know where they hang out and what they look like and realizing that that’s not it. You can have people that aren’t like you, that can still, you know, gravitate towards the same mission and vision with the same conviction and passion that you do. They just approach it in a different way.

John Robertson:  And because I’m Canadian, I’ll use the hockey example. It, what happens is that kind of thinking is like saying I’m gonna have a hockey team with all goalies. Well I don’t need to be an NHL coach to know that that hockey team is not going anywhere with only goalies.

Jenn DeWall:  Right. <laugh>

John Robertson:  Just let’s say just saying.

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah. But I think there’s still that resistance that I think we have to overcome and when we get, you know, especially in a crisis like thinking about oh my gosh, what do we do? Who can I turn to? Who can I trust that you might miss out on looking at other people that can guide you or at least provide a better perspective. Cause I think a lot of organizations find themselves in further crisis because they didn’t have the right dang people in the room to begin with

John Robertson:  Or they are values were not clear enough. So the people in the room did not have the unwritten permission to share what they were seeing. You know, I don’t know what you’re like, Jenn, and I’m not asking, but one of the most precious people that we can have in our lives are the older people who have nothing to prove.

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah.

John Robertson:  Cause they just name what everybody else sees and they’re not doing it to be malicious. They’re doing it because, hey John. And just as an observation and the advantage that life gives is they have a wisdom that I haven’t been in school called life long enough to learn.

Jenn DeWall:  I mean that is, so you hit my grandpa, he passed away this year. He was one of my, probably one of my strongest figures in my life. But he always said to me all the time, Jenny, I have a million dollars worth of advice, but she’s you, it means nothing. Yeah. And I know that’s a more common expression, but that’s what it is. Right. Like, and he, they, they could also find him and my great aunt could find joy in whatever anyone did. There was no jealousy, there was no, oh my gosh. They were always just happy. Oh, you’re doing this in your life. That’s fantastic. Good for you. Like, there’s no ego to say like, I did that in mind. They’re just genuinely happy for what people do. I, I loved their examples, but then I’m also like, you know, it’s like I know my own ego that of being like, gosh, I wish I had grandpa to ask that too.

John Robertson:  <Laugh>. Well, and and that’s the reality of leadership today. Sometimes it feels like we are parenting.

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah.

John Robertson:  And, and you know what, that’s fine because if, if they’re open to learning from who we are as an individual, as a person, then then invest in them. You know, one of the lines that I remind people of, usually it comes out around a significant crisis involving a death is those kinds of moments define success. What does it really mean? Because there is no greater failure in life than to succeed in a way that does not matter in the long run. No greater failure.

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah. John, what else? Like, I mean I feel like we covered a lot in terms of talking about crisis. You know, we have to focus, we have to understand our values. What else would you give? Like what, what other advice or insights would you share? Okay, in terms of someone facing this.

John Robertson:  So there’s first of all, get those right people around you and then reach out and please reach out to me. I’m by all means, and I’ll give you the link at the end, but it reach out. I’d love to have the conversation because don’t pretend that things are, you know, let’s see. Don’t hope, wish, pray, dream that tomorrow’s gonna be a better day. It can be if the decision and commitment’s made. But the probability of hope wish, praying dream alone isn’t gonna change a lot. So what’s the intervention? What’s the focus? What’s the values? Who’s the team with you?

And then the shepherds are the leadership. Who are the people that you are investing in to follow? Who are the people that we want to grow towards? And whether you call ’em mentors, I call them shepherds because they’re in front of people, they’re walking the talk. They’re not ranchers behind people, driving them in some direction. And who are those people that you as an individual wanna follow? What are you reading? That’s the easiest barometer.

Jenn DeWall:  Right?

John Robertson:  And we tend to become the people, like the people we hang out with. So I can hang out with whomever– Winston Churchill by a book or I can get caught up and binging in a some TV series, which could be great, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not becoming the person that I’m called to be.

Jenn DeWall:  Yeah. And it’s, there’s so many people to learn from and even I’ve always sad to hear that people don’t read as much as maybe they used to. Or even hearing stats about how many people won’t read a book after a certain level and then another book. And because it is that great way like reading is the fastest way. And maybe that’s because I didn’t grow up with a ton of money so I couldn’t travel. But like reading was always the piece that I could just learn more about different places. I, you know, it’s, it’s always the piece that makes me have different considerations. Even heck, we talked about this in the pre-call. Learning about rowing this story, I just learned more about the, you know, the sport of rowing, there’s so, so many.

Don’t Just Learn, Do Something with Your Knowledge

John Robertson:  Give credit to the people listening to this podcast. Don’t waste whatever time it ends up being in length. If you don’t do anything from this podcast, you just wasted whatever minutes. What’s your next steps? What’s one thing you can do from this podcast? And if you’re stuck, reach out to me. I’d love to help. I’d love to encourage you. Reach out to Jenn, love to help, love to encourage. But don’t waste your time listening to podcasts and not do anything afterwards. I mean that might be my Scottish ancestry of being frugal. Or it might, some people call it cheap, but I like to call it frugal. Frugal.

But, but don’t waste time taking courses and doing things and not doing anything with it right after. Because a term called memory fade in 48 hours, 72 hours, it’ll all be gone. You will have just wasted this time. And I don’t want you to do that. I want you to thrive. I don’t want you just to be resilient, nevermind survive or succumb. I want you to thrive. And that will not happen by sitting on our bums, hoping, wishing, praying, dream dreaming things get better.

Jenn DeWall:  Yes, I have one maybe final question. When it comes down to addressing the crisis, you know, if you know your values and you understand like what you want that to look like, how do you address the crisis?

John Robertson:  So first thing that happens in those moments to say, okay, so picture the scene of any crisis. So can you help me to understand getting the person to talk about the crisis? So therefore the second part of that is what are normal things that you do normally for self care? And now I’m gonna force you to think differently. Most people think unplugging when they think of stress management. That’s not actually helpful. Unplugging is like putting our cell phones on airplane mode thinking that will recharge them. <Laugh>.

John Robertson:  So unplugging doesn’t work. What do we plug into to recharge? Some people do jigs up puzzles, some people do music, some people do sports, some people do reading. It’s not things that we naturally just drift into. It’s things that require discipline to do it, to recharge. So what was the crisis? Help me to understand it. What things do you normally do to recharge and what’s one or two things you can do in the next 24 to 48 hours? And use the acronym SMART goals. And I’m not gonna go through that, but most people know smart goals and then be specific, measurable and so forth on the things we’re gonna do. And then the last piece and who will you give permission to to hold you accountable to do those things.

And, and just to illustrate this, there was a situation where this woman was hugely tsunami-ed with work pressures and her battery would’ve been about 5%, 10%. So she was just at the break point of going offline and, and she said, well one of the things I really enjoy doing is walking. I said okay. So we started walking through SMART and I said, So what time are you gonna go for a walk? I’m gonna go at 6;30. Oh, didn’t you say you have young children? Yes. Is 6:30 a reasonable time, achievable time for you to go walking? Well, no, not really. Okay, so what’s reasonable? Anyways, long story short, we walked through it and I said, So do you mind if I follow you up? No, no, that’d be great.

So she was gonna walk from 7:15 to 7 45. I put it in my calendar to text her at 7:46. I texted her at 7:46 and she called me and she was laughing when she called me and she said, you know, I knew Robertson, you were gonna do this. I just knew it and I did not go for a walk because I felt like it. I knew I went for a walk because I knew you were gonna harass me if I didn’t go. So we had a great laugh about it and I’ve also had those stories where they didn’t go, and okay, so let’s not flog you, let’s, what can we do to get back in the game?

Jenn DeWall:  Right? To not stick there, not

John Robertson:  Stick. And so for example, what you just illustrated is when we have a four-legged companion who comes in who needs perfection, <laugh> and just curious, is it a male?

Jenn DeWall:  This is Zoe. For those that cannot see the video, my dog just popped up on the screen, very excited to get attention

John Robertson:  <Laugh>. And, and so therefore there’s a perfect example. You know, when they come into our life rather than pretending they’re not important. Prioritize them, go for a walk, pet them. If you, if the person feels the need, apologize. Yeah, but not really say sorry you’re apologizing because it can come across as whatever they can misperceive it at. And the real issue is your Zoe is a value to you. So therefore you must recognize Zoe.

Jenn DeWall:  I know I love her. No, and I love that. We have our, I mean that’s what our team, right? That they, whether it’s our team, it’s the people that work with us that want the same, you know, for a line. Like that’s what they want. And we should turn our attention toward that as well.

John Robertson:  Okay, What you just perfectly illustrated, I go back to the question you asked me, What can we do to transform that traditional crisis response? Take the Zoe of the other person’s life and help them draw strength and encouragement from you encouraging them. Perfect illustration.

Jenn DeWall:  I love that. I wonder what our workplaces would look like if we all actually encouraged each other with kindness like all the time.

John Robertson:  And please don’t, please don’t, listeners, please don’t misinterpret encouragement as praise. They are not <laugh>. Praise is patting them on the head, telling them what a wonderful boy or wonderful girl on my encouragement prefix means to instill. So therefore to encourage, means to instill courage. That’s not praise.

Where to Find More from John Robertson

Jenn DeWall:  I love that differentiator, John. How I’ve loved our conversation. I feel like there’s so many one liners that I’m gonna stick with to so many perspectives. Where can someone, you offered up the help? Where can someone get in touch with you?

John Robertson:  Simplest way is go to the website and my website is, there’s two of them. There’s one with the book Run toward the Roar, one word dot on online. And there’s place to book or connect with me there. But the main one is FORTLOG. So fort Safe place in the frontier, you gotta know where you’re going. And a log is a journal to help others sail the sea because there’s no point going there alone – – And it’s the easiest way to connect with me. And I would really value, if your listeners wanted to, well, to go with our theme. If they wanted less praise and more encouragement, I’d love to have a conversation.

Jenn DeWall:  I love that. Reach out to John. John, thank you so much for being on the show. Again, I just appreciate you giving us your time, your experience and your expertise to help make our audience and myself better. So thank you very much for being here.

John Robertson:  My pleasure. And you know what, I really appreciate the opportunity to support you, your listeners, and thank you for that Leadership Habit. Because it, it needs to be a habit, not a one time deal.

Jenn DeWall:  Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit podcast. I hope, I mean like myself, there’s so many different one liners that I got from John, so many different perspectives of what to consider. I also love his encouragement based approach. But if you wanted to connect more, if you wanted to reach out and get to know a little bit more about John, you can head over to There. You can connect with him, have access to his resources and purchase his book, Run Toward the Roar. And of course, if you enjoyed this podcast episode, share with your friends. Maybe you have a friend that feels bogged down by a crisis and they just need some encouragement to think, how can I go forward, share this episode with them. And finally, if you have or are looking for someone to develop your leaders needs, head on over to We would love to have a conversation with you to talk about our 12 month leadership development program that’s all designed on creating the best leaders that we can be. Thank you so much for joining. Until next time.