“Communication is paramount, openness, and honesty in every relationship makes the difference” — Leslie Taylor
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of dealing with crisis and how to adapt and overcome. The context of this series is the physical and financial fallout that resulted from the COVID 19 pandemic. Crisis management is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Leslie Taylor.
Leslie, Trainer and Curriculum Coordinator for Momentum Education’s Teen Possibility Workshop, is a multifaceted facilitator who has a stellar reputation as an advocate on behalf of youth and young adults.
He has more than a decade of experience as a personal development coach and has supported countless men, women, youth, and families in overcoming their own limiting beliefs and breaking through to new levels of engagement.
A gifted poet, actor, director, and playwright, Leslie is known in the entertainment world as ‘ButtaFlySoul’. To the teens and young adults whose lives he has helped transform, Leslie is known as “Uncle Butta,” the teacher who imparts important life lessons through unvarnished truth and healing humor. Leslie focuses on the social and emotional growth of those he serves, and Leslie’s students say that his edgy, authentic, funny, and compassionate style is unique and engaging.
Leslie describes himself as a “citizen of the world” who currently resides in the great City of Chicago.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
I was born and raised in Chicago IL. I am the youngest of five. We were raised by a single Mom. I had a bonus Mom and three bonus Dads. My siblings were my other parents.
We were raised in a housing tenement in Chicago for years. My Mom would eventually move out as I was entering High School.
I have always wanted to live in New York the year of my 30th Birthday I moved to the Big Apple in 2001. My life from then on would never be the same. “A New Normal” as it were.
And what are you doing today? Can you share a story that exemplifies the unique work that you are doing?
Today, I currently live in Chicago where I am an Academic Case Manager for La Casa Norte, I am also one of the trainers with Momentum Education. I support homeless youth or youth who were formerly homeless with accessing housing, employment, and education. Homeless youth are often forgotten because they do not always look like what society perceives as homeless or a person would need some kind of support.
If you notice. I don’t say “help.” As a Personal Development Trainer with Momentum Education, I have had the opportunity to speak to thousands of people about accessing their personal toolbox. It is important to know that you have what you need inside, nothing missing. We sometimes need a reminder or an awakening. My life’s work is to support people in accessing their awakening.
Can you tell us a bit about your military background?
I entered the Army National Guard in 1988. I was in my Junior Year of High School. I continued my service through 1996. I was an Infantry Soldier.
Can you share the most interesting story that you experienced during your military career? What “take away” did you learn from that story?
We were doing some field exercises. I was on the back of a Deuce and a half removing the supplies from the back the truck. I had just assisted with setting the howitzer before we were about to fire it. The truck jerked forward, and I lost balance and landed on my back. I could not move and lost partial feeling in my legs. The entire Platoon rallied almost immediately.
It was at night and dark and we were not near roads. I remember without a thought, it appeared that they all began to move like a well-oiled machine. There was something about the teamwork, swift action, and the communication that stayed with me. No one missed a step; it was like one unified movement.
I remember clearly thinking this is why they are training us. It was second nature. The unison was astounding. It made me trust that, not only that I could be on a team, but it made me acutely aware that if I am on any team, that my role on that team is invaluable and that it is critical to be ready at all times.
We are interested in fleshing out what a hero is. Did you experience or hear about a story of heroism, during your military experience? Can you share that story with us? Feel free to be as elaborate as you’d like.
I cannot think of just one story, what I do remember is the countless number of friends who went through Desert Storm. Their families were impacted. Many of my friends wanted to be Active Duty.
I remember always being ready at any minute waiting to receive papers stating that our battalion would be the next to be activated.
I remember the many men and women that died and how I was honored to know them and be part of men and women responsible for protecting the country’s stateside.
Based on that story, how would you define what a “hero” is? Can you explain?
In the military, you are taught to not be a hero. I think the heroes are not just the men and women that went to war, but the families as well that they left.
Many returned with PTSD and were not properly acclimated to return to their everyday lives. Some would return and get the support that they needed because of the love and guidance of their families. Others would not be so successful even though they were heroes for their commitment to the protection of the United States. Some returned to no jobs and some were even homeless.
So, when I think of the heroes in the military, it would be the men and women that returned from the war to “normal” versions of society, with minimal resources and still have a love for this country.
Do you think your experience in the military helped prepare you for business or leadership? Can you explain?
My experience in the military has absolutely helped prepare me for business and leadership.
It taught me several things. From days in the BASIC, from the importance of details for the team and especially for myself. To be willing to take the lead when others will not, also to support and empower people on the team to access their leadership qualities and then look to apply them in excellence.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
What I can share is that I come from some of the most extraordinary people, my siblings. They are the ones who come to mind when I think about who I am today. My parents were people with some very unique circumstances, and they both told me on different occasions that they didn’t want me. I based so much of my identity on that until I got really present to the notion that my siblings loved me. They remind me constantly that they are proud of me.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out how to survive and thrive in crisis. How would you define a crisis?
Wow in answering these questions, I did not realize how desensitized I was to what would be considered a crisis. The training I’ve received from being in the military is all designed around thinking and action. Not always in that order.
I am defining a crisis as what we are currently experiencing right now with this COVID19 pandemic.
With this pandemic especially, it is important to understand that you are actually in a crisis, rather you believe it to be illegitimate or fabricated. Pay attention, do not take risks with your life. The way to thrive is to be purposeful about your survival.
Especially in times like now, one of the most important things is managing your mental health. Survivors’ guilt can leave one stagnant. Survivor’s grace will allow us access to gratitude as well as honor those who have died by living a full life.
Before a crisis strikes, what should business owners and leaders think about and how should they plan?
Before a crisis strikes, business owners and leaders should think about “impact.” How is this going to not only impact our bottom line, but also the impact of the lives of our employees? I think employers who have buy-in from their team(s) will often see that when people love what they do and are respected, the response in times of crisis will have people operating from an ‘us’ and ‘we’ mindset.
Communication is paramount, openness, and honesty in every relationship makes the difference. Along with that, looking to share industry knowledge and cross-train individuals, so no one person holds all the information for a particular task.
There are opportunities to make the best of every situation and it’s usually based on how you frame it. In your opinion or experience, what’s the first thing people should do when they first realize they are in a crisis situation? What should they do next?
What do you believe are the characteristics or traits needed to survive a crisis?
Characteristics and traits needed to survive a crisis in my opinion are:
- Team (Family, Colleagues, and Community)
- Resourcefulness (using all of your gifts and talents)
- Clarity. (Asking & clarify questions)
- Researching (educate yourself)
- Breathing (know what is inside of your control and what is not)
When you think of those traits, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Robinson Lynn, he is the Executive Director of Momentum Education. The work that we do is designed for a direct human interface. Robinson immediately rallied all of us. From the staff to the consultants as well. He spoke to us individually; he then got us together as a community and rolled a 5 tier plan to keep the community together while providing the opportunity to continue to grow. This plan impacts our teens as well as our elders and everyone in between. Red Door Membership continues one of the best things that have happened to the planet in my opinion. We do one-on-one coaching, small groups, family groups, teen training, and professional development, digitally. It really has been a breath of fresh air, in times like the ones we are facing as a planet right now.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
In one year, I lost two people I loved to suicide, my step-father died, my mother was admitted into the hospital by me, and I was at the end of a toxic relationship.
It was so much loss and I felt like I was going to lose it. Before that feeling came, I went on auto-pilot. I used to jokingly say, “I will cry later, I have to get this done.” At the time I was packing up my mom’s place while my siblings and I were trying to figure out how to move on with mom as it was evident that she would not be returning to the world she knew because of dementia. We were told she would have about 3–4 weeks to live.
One day I hit a wall while answering a simple question, “Are you okay?” and I remember answering but I wasn’t aware that tears were literally falling down my face.
My supervisor at the time gave me a hug and broke down. My colleagues Tiffany and Maddie were huge supports for me at that time. I chose to face everything after that. No matter how painful I had to face myself.
I was able to leave that unhealthy relationship, I allowed myself to grieve the loss of my two friends and my step-father, and also release any guilt. I released the idea that I am the reason that my mother who danced at her 82nd birthday at the beginning of the year would be going to a memory care facility.
Things began to turn around. My mom is still alive because of the love and leadership of my sister and the support of the family.
I am still facilitating workshops for both teens and adults and am extremely grateful. I say now, that if that time in my life couldn’t break me, nothing can.
Here is the main question of our discussion. Crises not only have the potential to jeopardize and infiltrate your work, but they also threaten your emotional stability and relationships. Based on your military experience, what are 5 steps that someone can take to survive and thrive in these situations? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Communicate: I am able to say to friends honestly that I am not okay or I am not feeling okay and I could really use a face to face call or I am feeling amazing and want to see how you are doing.
- Survivors Grace: Taking time to be true. If I’m able to read this, then I am doing better than I thought and I don’t have to feel guilty for living. Secondly, allowing myself to share my gifts and art to uplift others.
- Healthy Coping Skills: I enjoy food. I have had to change what I eat so that I don’t become as big as the house I am currently living in. I have even changed the type of music that I listen to so that I am not inviting a feeling of depression or sadness.
- Self-Care: Remembering to do something kind for yourself is important. It can be something as simple as preparing a bath the way I would for someone I love. I give myself permission to love on me. Another way I do that is by exercising. It makes me feel good when I’m done. It is such a great stress reliever.
- Repurpose your purpose: In times like these, we can get lost in who we used to be, or what we used to do. However, there are so many amazing things in our toolbox. Take a moment and look at the goals and dreams that you have been putting on the back burner. I am currently writing a book and looking forward to launching a YouTube channel.
I am using the things I’ve learned and sharing with the world and no longer awaiting a plane ticket to do it.
Ok. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The cool thing about this question, there are so many great movements that are happening already. Momentum Education is a movement to change the world by inspiring so many to live the life that they dream by engaging with the dreams like they are tangible, because we know they are. It is also a movement of theirs to make sure that everyone knows that they matter.
‘Better with Butta’ is also a movement designed to focus on transformational art and artistry. It’s an invitation to acknowledge that you have every flavor you need to spice up your life — through the lens of accessing your art. We all know that food tastes better with butter. I believe that lives get to be different too with a dash of Butta.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Tony Robbins, Whoopi Goldberg, John Leguizamo
I believe that it’s important to have mentors in the field of study that are important to you. I feel like Tony and Whoopi both are both living legends whose body of work inspires the living legend in all of us.
John Leguizamo has inspired me for years. He is one-man productions are unapologetically authentic, and he is unafraid to hold his own truth. The ugly and the beautiful. Some of his stories are all our stories if we listen carefully.
How can our readers follow you online?
Facebook Leslie Buttaflysoul Taylor
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was truly uplifting.