What are your top 5 lessons from 2020?
By Craig Johns
I was asked the question the other day – what would I leave behind in 2020? It stopped me in my tracks, as I tried really hard to think of anything that I didn’t want to take into 2021. In the end I said “the Fridge”, yes, like many I have worn a nice track between my home office and the kitchen during 2020.
Otherwise, there is absolutely nothing I would leave behind. Everyone responds differently in crisis, uncertainty and change. For me I thrive on it and in fact, it is right in my element. Did everything in my life go perfect in 2020? Far from it! However, I was quickly able to draw on my natural intuition to learn from every mistake, uncertainty and crisis to make a number of effective decisions.
Here are my top 5 lessons from 2020 for the future…
- Resourceful before resources
- Collaboration wins
- Serve others first
- Be the calming influence
- Simplification is sophistication
#1 RESOURCEFUL BEFORE RESOURCES
My parents naturally displayed the importance of being resourceful before resources when I grew up on the farm in New Zealand. Be more effective with what you have before you get anything else. My parents had to work extremely hard to weather the highs and lows of building a farming business from scratch and it was a great lesson to see first hand.
When catastrophic bushfires, poor water quality and COVID-19 restrictions caused event cancellations from January through to March, my natural instinct was to look at what we had with Triathlon ACT and use what we had available and conserve our financial resources. Losing half of our season was challenging enough on our financial reserves, but the prospect of losing the next 1-2 seasons was cause for deep concern. We had experienced financial uncertainty in 2014-15 and the measures we put in place then, ensure that our low risk, but agile model could cope with the toughest challenges sport could face. We looked at what human resources we had available and used our skills and talents to keep our members engaged, active and optimistic for the future. In fact rather than losing resources we had increased our financial reserves by 32% by the time I resigned in September 2020.
Within 2 weeks of restrictions being implemented by governments around the world, Ben Gathercole , James Thorp , Debbie Dionysius, my wife Julie and I knew that sport coaching was going to be one of the most heavily affected professions. We called on a few friends and some new ones to create the world’s 1st online endurance coaching business summit, called COACH 2020 VISION. With 12 weeks preparation we delivered an 8hr event of 20 speakers 20min each on areas such as; own your own coach brand, become a high performing coach, your coach business essentials and future of coach businesses. Among the 20 speakers were 13 people who were either an Olympian, World Champion, or had coached or worked with at least one.
Producing online content was something I was used to, so it made sense to produce 40 videos in 40 days that focused on different ways to lead during uncertainty and crisis. Using the content I was also able to support initiatives with ASCTA (Australian Swim Coaches and Teachers Association), Canberra Business Chamber, Mass Participation World and the Institute of Civil Infrastructure.
#2 COLLABORATION WINS
As a very determined individual I was always keen to develop my own ideas, lead my own company and create new projects. I remember a couple of friends always saying that you will produce you best work and have more success when you learn to collaborate and partner with other people. Over the past couple of years I started to realize this potential and in 2020, I gained the confidence to bring collaboration to the forefront of everything that I was doing.
One of my active CEO Coaching clients Sasa Sestic is an incredibly talented individual representing Australia in Handball at the 2000 Olympics, winning the 2015 World Barista Championships, leading the most high performing team I have ever seen inside a company, and manage to open a new specialty coffee café in Melbourne during lockdown. As I worked closely to support him during huge uncertainty, as a business owner in hospitality, we partnered up to co-host The Coffee Man Podcast, where we blend a world in coffee with a world beyond coffee. The first four episodes are some of the most rewarding interviews I have ever done as Sasa gave us an insight into how he successfully rode the rollercoaster of emotions in 2020.
If I wasn’t busy enough as CEO of Triathlon ACT, running my own business NRG2Perform and setting up World Sport Coach in April, a friend of mine, Sam Cawthorn, reached out in April to see if I could help him with the corporate section of Speakers Institute, in May. I was working 80 + hours a week at this point, but I knew there was something special that we could do, so offered 1-2hours per week until July and then we could regroup. Within 3 weeks we had locked in two Fortune 100 companies, IBM and EY global as clients. It all felt so natural and we could see that each other’s strengths were complimenting each other effortlessly. At the beginning of July we commenced discussions about creating a new company Speakers Institute Corporate and going into business partnership. On October 1st 2020 we launched the new company and now have more than 30 people, from four different countries working for us. The growth has been quite staggering and going into 2021 we are developing a team that speaks Portuguese to work in Latin America and we continue to expand our client base.
Its important to me to give back and serve the communities that have supported me so well. As Vice-Chair of Speakers Tribe Global, I didn’t hesitate when I was asked to contribute a chapter to a co-authored book Make A Difference. The book became an Amazon #1 Best Selling Book. Asootosh Kkant and the team at Speakers Tribe India have produced three Amazon #1 best selling books in 2020, helping 62 people become best selling authors for the first time. They did it all without pay and all proceeds going to charities around the world. They are in the middle of producing two more books with the target of having more than 100 Speakers Tribe members reach Amazon Best Selling Author status.
#3 SERVE OTHERS FIRST
My mum is like Mother Theresa to me. She has always served as a Nurse and been a huge contributor to non-for-profit community groups. She has always put everyone else’s interests first and I love my mum for that. Like Simon Sinek says, Leaders Eat Last, my mum serves other people first.
I put my own book Break The CEO Code on hold during 2020 to serve and support others who needed a helping hand. As someone who has always been a natural coach and thrives in environments where I am teaching and mentoring people, I spent a lot of time in 2020 on phone calls and zoom meetings checking in to see if people were ok and to help them find clarity, when their vision was blurred. It is extremely rewarding when you see people find their space, confidence and thrive rather than survive when the going gets tough.
I was initially due to finish working at Triathlon ACT in April, but for me, I knew it was important to ensure that the organization could sustain the next 2-3 years of restrictions and uncertainty before I finally finished in September. I sleep well at night, know that the sport is in safe hands.
I love facilitating and have had an amazing opportunity to facilitate and coach with Speakers Institute both online and on stage in 2020. During one of the programs in September I met Erwin Diaz from Qantas. He was speaking about Rage and Resolution. When he shared the challenges that he was facing along with 30,000 employees at Qantas Airlines, I felt it was my duty to support an industry that had supported me and my industries as an athlete and speaker for many years. Conversation with Sam Cawthorn led to offered our services being offered to support Qantas with 2 keynote speeches for all staff. What transpired was shutting down an airport and a museum, moving a Qantas airplane and arranging Sam to do the keynote in front of a Boeing 747-400.
#4 Be The Calming Influence
The feedback I receive from the people I work with, guests I interview on the active CEO Podcast and people I coach is that I make them feel comfortable and relaxed through my calming influence. I have had some great mentors in my life, but this trait definitely comes from my late Granddad Richards. Through your body language, tone and presence with people, you can make a profound shift in the emotions people feel.
Before we initiated the COACH 2020 VISION summit I commenced an 8-week free online webinar series called Endurance Coach Connect, providing a place for sport coaches around the world to stay connected, support each other and learn. The coaches opened up with me and shared their vulnerabilities. They felt comfortable in my presence to let go of the tension created by an uncertain world and a life they have always known.
For some reason, I knew it was important to reach out to people who were relatively quiet, when COVID hit, to ask the simple question, are you ok? For me I felt calm, comfortable and in my element when COVID hit, but many people where in a state of overwhelm, stress and bewilderment. Reaching out and saying hi was enough to help people find some clarity and focus their attention on things they could control.
Since I was 12 years old I have had opportunities to coach people in a sporting, business and other areas of life. I have always been good with problem solving, puzzles and seeing patterns when other people see a mess. What I have enjoyed most is through strategic questioning and providing belief, I have been able to help a number of people find clarity in 2020. Whether they are an Olympic coach, world Barista Champion, successful businessperson, sort after sports physio, super mum or CEO, I know my job as a High Performance Leadership Expert is to help talent become world class at what they do. My calming influence creates a safe psychological space where people can be vulnerable, allowing them to explore what they are 100% passionate about and really want in life.
#5 SIMPLIFICATION IS SOPHISTICATION
Every year I watch people set New Years Resolutions, which many are in fact every day resolutions, and fail to fulfill them. My business partner, Sam and his wife Kate Cawthorn introduced me to “what is your word for the year?”. By focusing on one thing, it is much easier to stay connected to it and ensure that you make a positive behavioral change.
My word for 2020 was FOCUS. I have had a photo of an eye on my phone, which reminded me every day to focus my energy. What we know in the world is that we don’t have an ideas problem, we have a focus problem. What is the one intention of where you will focus your attention? Some people may look at my year and say where was your focus with so much happening? For me it’s absolutely clear, as I narrowed my focus to high performance leadership and ensuring every decision I made was based on whether it was high performance leadership or not. The interesting thing is that when you find clarity and focus on your vision, you begin to say NO rather than YES. It is what I was extremely good at as an athlete and I now have it embedded in my life purpose. My word for 2021 – PARTNERSHIPS – As you may have already seen, I got a head start on this one in 2020.
The easiest thing in the world to do is make something complex, the hardest thing in the world is to simplify something. Being selected to speak on the TENx stage in February gave me 150 hours of dedicated and specific focus on simplifying Break The CEO Code. When you can make something simple in life it removes the barriers from the consumers mind and therefore they understand it. The simpler something is, the more sophisticated it becomes in their minds. Simplification is Sophistication. This will be my next book and is a key focus of what I do in High Performance Leadership.
Having a supportive wife, best friend for life and calming influence in Julie, is what makes this all happen.
What are the top 5 lessons you learnt in 2020 that you can take forward into 2021 and beyond?