It’s 1:30pm on a Monday and I’m on my feet, veins protruding from my forehead as I scream furiously at the Zoom Call on my computer screen. Why, you might wonder? A hotly contested meeting with my colleagues that went the wrong way? No. Had I gotten news that our company was closing up shop due to the challenges presented by Covid-19? Not in a million years. In truth, my furious, red-faced grimace was matched by the dozen other Abs Company employees in the same Zoom Call. The answer, as it turns out, is fairly simple. We were putting on our warrior faces.
If you can’t acknowledge that we’ve hit hard times in the fitness industry (and all industries for that matter), then you’re either delusional or a few cards short of a full deck. While we had early warning signs, in the grand scheme of things Covid-19 took most of us by complete surprise. How on earth do we sell fitness equipment to gyms that are closed? How could we possibly inspire people stuck at home to upgrade their home gyms when being shipwrecked on the couch would be so much easier? How could we find the determination and discipline to be leaders in the industry when the challenges are stacked up against us? The answers to all of these complicated, uncomfortable questions could only be found by seeking counsel from someone who deals with far greater challenges and consequences than we at The Abs Company could even fathom.
On Monday, November 9th, The Abs Company team was honored to attend a presentation by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Gagnon, an officer with twenty-five years of experience in the United States Army. From the start of the presentation, it was easy to see why so many young people would place their trust in the Lieutenant Colonel. He’s friendly, confident, personable, and genuinely excited to share his beliefs about leadership. The presentation was riveting, but I couldn’t help but think with his energy and his way of speaking that he seemed like a man who belonged on his feet. After leading us through some slightly awkward yet super effective self-affirmations, Lt. Col. Gagnon sprang into the Army’s 6 Words Of Leadership: MISSION FIRST. PEOPLE ALWAYS. WINNING MATTERS. It almost seems too simple; six simple words that define the Army’s belief of how a true leader should operate. But as Lt. Col. Gagnon addressed each two-word phrase in turn, it became clear that the simplicity is what makes these tenets so powerful.
Most people (myself included), would initially think that PEOPLE would come before the importance of the mission. You ain’t getting where you’re going without the people on your team. But after witnessing Lt. Col. Gagnon’s presentation, it’s easy to see that this isn’t the case. Whether you’re securing a hilltop position in enemy territory or selling innovative fitness equipment, the execution of your mission is the reason your people are involved. If the mission is not executed to perfection and accomplished, you’d better believe the people will be affected negatively.
The other striking revelation the Lt. Col. provided was the immense importance of Operational Orders in the execution of your team’s mission. No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, you must have a firm definition of the Who, What, Where, When and Why. If any of these aspects are missing from your mission, you’re probably on a sure course for disaster.
The biggest take away for me in this section of the presentation was that making sure your team members are ready is the greatest service you can provide for them! By instilling discipline and sound training, you are setting your people up for success. Are there growing pains? Sure. But by providing your people with fair discipline and honest criticism, you’ll be saving them from failure in the future.
Lt. Col. Gagnon also underlined the importance of identifying and cultivating additional skills and talents in your teammates outside of what they’d usually be expected to do. You never know which of your teammates might have some previously unexplored skill that might help you to achieve the mission.
Perhaps the most visceral part of the presentation was when the Lt. Col. asked us all to stand up, square our shoulders, and give each other the meanest, craziest grimace we could, all while screaming at the top of our lungs. This, he explained, was our ‘warrior face’. Leaders, at the end of the day, must show that they WANT TO WIN. You need to be willing to get uncomfortable, to dig down deep, and to show the world (and your team) how badly you want success in your mission.
While each and every ‘win’ might not accomplish our mission, it’s imperative that all meaningful wins are acknowledged and celebrated. While we mustn’t get complacent, it’s important that we show each other that winning matters. Clap each other on the back. Send out that celebratory email. Perhaps most importantly, celebrate YOUR wins, especially when no one else is. In the end, I don’t think I’ll be showing any customers my ‘warrior face’ on our Zoom calls, but Lt. Col. Gagnon’s point is well taken. We need to want to win, and we need to share this spirit with our teammates.
So, around two-o’clock PM, our presentation ended and we logged off our Zoom call. I threw back in my AirPods and continued with my sales calls while Lt. Col. Gagnon returned to preparing our brave men and women to protect my freedom to do so. There’s a massive gulf in the importance and gravity of what we’re doing, but I returned to my task with a new understanding of how I should be approaching it. The mission comes above everything else. The people—my teammates and even my customers—are essential to making that mission a success. And both the mission and those people rely on my hunger and determination to win. If I ever forget it, it might be time to bust out my warrior face.