When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.
Victoria Roos Olsson is a senior leadership consultant, keynote speaker and author working with FranklinCovey. She is an expert in leadership development and has trained and coached leaders around the world for more than twenty years. Passionate about movement, she balances her corporate life with being a certified yoga instructor and a running coach. Together with her sister she hosts the podcast Roos&Shine, with listeners from over 70 different countries across the globe.
TG: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
VRO: I love mornings. And in particular I love morning routines. Which means I have experienced a lot and have thought deeply about how to find the perfect balance for me. Right now, it looks like this: I make myself a hot drink (usually a strong cup of coffee) and then turn to my journal for some morning reflections. I have kept a journal since I was a child, but it’s only in the past two years that I’ve started with writing a morning section, as well. I answer three questions: 1) What are my three most important actions today? 2) What are my three wishes for today? 3) What are three things I’m grateful for this morning. After that I do yoga. On a perfect-working-from-home-I’m-in-balance-day, it will be a lovely 30-60 minutes session. More often, it’s a 10-minute session or even just a few sun salutations. I always bring my yoga travel mat on travels.
TG: What gives you energy?
VRO: Physical activity, such as running and yoga always give me energy! I also feed my ‘extroverted me’ with energy by working together with other people, for example when coaching and developing leaders or cooperating on a creative project with brilliant minds. A dinner with friends and family, full of laughter, deep talk and a bit crazy is the best energy boost of all. My ‘introverted me’ also gets energy by reading or by spending time in nature, reflecting, writing and meditating. The trick is to figure out which part I need to refuel my energy.
TG: What’s your secret life hack?
VRO: I have a personal mission statement. Every new year I revisit it and set the tone for the year to come. I think about my most important roles in life and what I want to put first in the year to come. I put all of this at the start of my new journal and keep it as a compass for the year. When summer comes, I find time to properly revisit my mission statement and fine-tune, sometimes adjust, and make necessary changes in my life. It’s like taking a new deep breath.
TG: Name a book that changed your life.
I LOVE books, so the fact that they exist is a great bonus in my life. However, if I have to pick one it must be “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey. I read it for the first time when I was 24 and I still use the habits as a guiding light. After all, that’s why I started to work at FranklinCovey in the first place. I guess another book that is changing my life is “Everyone Deserve A Great Manager”, because it’s the first book I’ve ever written, together with my two co-authors, Scott Miller and Todd Davis. It made The Wall Street Journal best seller list at #3. But more than that, I hope it will truly make a difference to all managers out there who are really trying to make it all happen. If they follow the 6 Critical Practices in the book, it will help them to become great managers.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
VRO: Like so many others I have a love/hate relationship with my phone. I’ve read a lot on what a phone does to your brain and I even had my teenage daughters read what I’ve read (yes, admittedly after first threatening them with not paying their phone bills unless they read it). After doing so, we all aim to turn off the phones at 9 pm and keep them far away from our bed (either outside the room or far enough away that we have to take a few steps to get to them), because they can be truly addictive. And why? Let’s be honest; there are so many great things on the phone. It combines your entire communication platform, it’s your quickest connection to the workplace, the gym, the news, and your friends and entire network, all collected into one place! It’s amazing, if you think about where we have come and where we are going with technology.
TG: How do you deal with email?
VRO: Here are a few things I do to survive the flood of emails. First, when I open my Microsoft® Outlook®, I make sure I have the calendar showing up first, (you can set this up in ‘settings’) which means that when I start my workday and review my calendar, I’m reminded of all the important things going on in my life today, rather than immediately getting stuck in some seemingly urgent issue that has landed in my inbox. I don’t have email notifications on (if you do, you may want to remove them, as it kills your productivity!). I send all my ‘cc’ emails to a special folder that I only check once or twice a day. A word of warning though, I shared this with my cousin who is a C-level leader at a large bank. He loved the idea and implemented it immediately. However, he forgot to tell his CEO, who loved to ‘cc’ people but still required people to act on those emails immediately. Which leads me to the next point: try to work well with the people you are emailing with the most, to set up your email culture together. For example, whom you should copy and why, when should you send emails, and how do you best use the subject line, etc.
TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
VRO: I go for a walk and I call someone I love. Or I just walk.
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
VRO: It’s interesting, because my immediate response to this question (in my head!) was: “What, fail, Moi?” But, of course, I’ve failed millions of times. But I am a very positive (some think annoyingly so) person and I really try to see it more like “opportunities for learning”. My sister and I wanted to start a global network for women a few years back. We spent so much time putting it together and launching it that it could perhaps be considered a failure, as it did not take off. But we simultaneously created a podcast called Roos&Shine, to support the network. Well, the podcast ended up a success, as we LOVE recording it together. She lives in Bogota, Columbia, working for the UN and I live in Atlanta in the US, so it’s definitely special “us” time, and we now have listeners from 70 different countries. So, we skipped the network but stayed with the podcast. Did we fail? Well certainly, as our big idea was not an excellent idea, (at least not managed by us) but it gave birth to something else. I’m a firm believer in that many things happen for a reason, and that failures are really moments of learning.
TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?
VRO: I hope to be sharing a lot more of this in my posts to come. It’s difficult to prioritize as many of us don’t’ have the challenge with too few great ideas. But rather which ones to focus on.
TG: What’s your personal warning sign that you’re depleted?
VRO: I lose my routines. I get into bad eating habits. I lose my voice. Literally and figuratively. It’s like someone is sending me a VERY clear sign.
TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve the way you connect with others. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how you sustain this habit?
VRO: A few years back my husband and I really sat down and talked about our relationships with our friends and how some people gave us so much energy, while others made us leave a dinner/weekend/event feeling so drained. We made the conscious decision to not spend time with those who drained us from energy. We had found ourselves in a pattern where we would meet up with people out of habit. We stopped doing that and it was such a relief. Having said that, I do think we should appreciate that life has it ups and downs and your friends will, just like yourself, not always be positive, so of course you need to take that into consideration. Look at it from a more long-term perspective.
TG: What was the biggest turning point in your life?
VRO: I believe there are some “moments of truth” when I dared to be completely honest with my self that lead to some true turning points in my life. One recent and very important turning point was a few years back. I was in the midst of a hectic career and keeping up with all of my roles when it became clear to me that one of my daughters (then in her pre-teens) really needed me more than ever. I decided to resign from my high profile (and demanding!) job and instead work as a freelancer to be able to work from home. It’s interesting to see, that apart from helping my daughter, this break gave me new insights and eventually grew my career even further. The power of taking a break, of spending your time differently and learning new things is enormous. It’s also something I will be sharing in my articles with you.
TG: What’s your evening routine that helps you unwind and go to sleep?
VRO: Just as I love my morning routines, I do love my evening routines. We aim to turn off our phones at 9pm. On a perfect evening I do some calming yoga (again, even 10 minutes will make a difference), have a cup of herbal tea, read (and evening time is winding down time, so no management literature or anything similar that will make my head spin) and then finally I sum up my day in my journal, reflecting on and absorbing all the things that happened!