Prioritize connection. Make time to connect with people on your team because uncertainty breeds doubt and fear. People will be dealing with the crisis on a human level. Ask them how they’re doing and feeling and what questions they have. This is how you protect the culture when feelings of uncertainty can pull a team apart. Leave space to truly listen to what your team is feeling and experiencing.
As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Todd Mosetter.
With a direct but caring style, Todd is a great communicator and a strategic thinker, with a gift for helping clients bring clarity to complex situations so they can create tangible plans to find long-term success and sustainable results.
Since joining Building Champions in 2010, Todd has been instrumental in designing all the content, tools and frameworks used in coaching, whether delivered in one-on-one settings, presentations, workshops or online. He is a key thought partner and collaborator to our team of coaches (including Founder & CEO, Daniel Harkavy) and brings immense knowledge and skill in helping clients apply their coaching to improve their leadership and results. In addition to coaching a select number of clients, Todd leads our content development, sales and marketing efforts here at Building Champions.
Prior to joining Building Champions, Todd spent more than a decade in leadership roles in the non-profit and agency world, with a focus on healthcare, strategic communications and cause marketing. He has a proven track record of leading high-performing teams and delivering exceptional results. Past employers and clients he has worked with include the American Heart Association, AstraZeneca, Cigna, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Todd earned his bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He lives just south of Portland, Oregon, with his wife, five children, dog and (reluctantly) cat. He spends his free time on the sidelines of a ton of soccer games, is active in both serving and teaching at his church and is always working on getting better at racquetball, pickleball and running.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My degree is in journalism — so I’ve always been curious to understand the story behind things, what was really going on, not just what people thought was happening. I started off my career in cause marketing and communications, mostly in the non-profit and healthcare sectors. Instead of focusing on “traditional” marketing activities, I focused on trying to connect people to purpose rather than products, trying to really understand what motivates us to do what we do. When I first joined Building Champions, that was my primary role, helping to tell the story of how we helped clients improve how they lead and live. During my time here, I was able to apply my curiosity and my past experience to better understand how to help our clients achieve long-term change and success. Over time, I moved from a more behind-the-scenes role to work more directly with clients, both through speaking and coaching.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
While I’ve made countless mistakes over my career, I can’t think of any that are particularly “funny.” The closest example that comes to mind was when I was participating in a media training session on camera. While I meant to say “work smarter, not harder,” I accidentally switched the order, encouraging folks to work harder rather than smarter. The reporter gave me a chance to correct myself, but instead I pushed ahead insisting that is what I meant. I hate to admit this but at the time I had a difficult time admitting when I was wrong — even if everyone else knew it. So rather than just demonstrating some humility, I just kept digging a deeper hole for myself to the amusement of others. Thankfully over time I’ve realized the power in admitting my mistakes and the freedom that comes with knowing I don’t need to have every answer.
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?
Leadership takes courage. Our CEO Daniel Harkavy, whom I consider a boss, friend and mentor, has a unique ability to speak truth to others, even when it is difficult or uncomfortable. He’s not afraid to tell you what you need to hear to help you be the best version of yourself — even if it could be hard for you in the moment. It works so well because he shares it in a way that shows you how much he cares, that he’s sharing it because he believes in you. So I still get nervous when he asks if I’m open to some coaching, but in the end I’m so thankful that he’s willing to press in to me that way. When I look back at how he’s poured in to me, it has had a profound effect on who I am as a teammate, leader, husband, father — and most importantly, as a human.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
Our purpose has stayed the same over the past 25 years: to use our gifts and talents to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of the people we coach, one person at a time. Our vision consists of our purpose (why we exist), convictions (what do we stand for), envisioned future (who we will become) and our compelling ambitions (what will we achieve).
That vision drives everything we do, all with a heart to help more leaders improve how they lead and live so they can have the greatest impact on those they love, lead and serve.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
During the recent pandemic, our CEO outlined three mandates that can be leveraged during any time of big uncertainty or change: preserve the business, protect the team, and wow the customer. Our number one priority is to protect the team, physically and emotionally. We don’t want to have the conversations where we say we don’t have money and will have to let people go. At the same time, we recognize that people are dealing with challenges at a personal and professional level. So we reach out as leaders to ensure that people are being taken care of personally and professionally.
You have to preserve the business. So how do you make the right decisions in the short-term to ensure you have working capital to stay open while making sure you don’t have to make those tough decisions. What are the key metrics that you need to monitor to stay on top of a shifting and volatile current reality. And finally, how can you “wow” your customer? Rather than just keeping your focus on yourself (naturally during these times), how can you reach out to engage and serve your customers? Think through how you can come alongside and offer them value and support during this season, knowing that it’s probably difficult for them as well. Keeping your customer front and center is always good business, even in times of crisis.
The foundation for all this is open and honest communication. You need to connect with your team at regular intervals to share what you know and, more importantly, what you don’t know. Too many leaders are afraid to admit they haven’t figured something out or don’t know what’s next. It’s important to know the questions your team has and how to answer them as authentically and openly as you can — now is not a time to hold back or be defensive.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
As a company and as individuals, I think everything needs to be rooted in purpose. Having a clear, strong purpose helped both me and our team stay focused and look past the challenges and frustrations. Knowing that what we did mattered and having a clear, compelling vision of where we were going as a company caused us to want to stretch. As a leader, if you’re grounded in why you exist and what you want to accomplish as a team, you’ll be energized even through hard times.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
Their most crucial role is providing direction and maintaining a semblance of calm. In challenging times, everyone’s limbic systems go into overdrive. You as a leader need to respond by setting direction — where you’re going, why it’s important, and why you’re doing it. You also need to address everyone’s doubts, insecurities, and catastrophe scenarios. So in addition to setting direction, you need to communicate how you’re all going to get through tough times together. You have to project calm, authenticity, and transparency to earn and retain your people’s trust and confidence. Some leaders, however, don’t have to say they’re freaking out in a crisis — they show it. It’s perfectly OK for leaders to say something like, “Guys, like you, I’m challenged by this” or “I’m struggling with this issue just like you are, but here’s where we’re going and why.”
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
- I’m going to sound like a broken record, but it’s true: The best way for a leader to inspire and motivate a team is with a magnetic vision. It comes down to two main qualities — clear and compelling. First your vision needs to be clear — it must be in writing and frequently shared left and right, up and down. It’s not something that stays in your head or is penciled on the back of a napkin. It needs to be written down so that it can be communicated and shared.
- Second, it needs to be compelling. It must engage both your head and your heart so that it causes you and others to want to stretch and sacrifice in order to make it a reality. It’s what we refer to as “pull power.”
- This type of vision serves as a strong foundation to build a dynamic culture that invites people to be part of something bigger than themselves. That sense of belonging and purpose that it creates is a powerful driver of inspiration, motivation and engagement.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Communicate with honesty and empathy. People want to be treated like adults. If you need to convey bad news, don’t sugarcoat or hide it. The best approach is to be upfront while showing empathy, knowing the news will likely have a negative impact on them. You’ll want to focus on their needs: explain what’s happened, how it might affect them, and what you’ll do about it. Leading with empathy is key.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
The key is to hold them loosely and commit to a process to continually evaluate and adjust. It starts with current reality — where are you today — and vision — where do you want to be. With those as your anchors, you can then address strategy — how do I close the gap? That’s a great framework to build your plans from. Then, you assess and adjust to ensure your strategy is meeting the current needs of the business while driving you closer to your envisioned future.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Stay true to your vision. How you do business may change, even who you serve. But your purpose, why you do what you do, is a constant. When people are reacting to external circumstances, things feel a lot more turbulent. If you know what you do as a company, what differentiates you, and what you do to serve people, the external world’s ups and downs won’t be as disruptive. You’ll focus less on circumstances you can’t control and more on those you can. If you allow yourself to be tossed in the wave because you’re not anchored to your purpose, the storm will seem a lot worse.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
- One, letting short-term emotions dictate response. Recency bias will make things seem more grave than they are. You need to avoid making decisions based on emotion, not facts. Looking at the data will help you avoid letting emotions hijack your thinking.
- Playing too much defense, not enough offense. You need both. During turbulent times, building a fence to protect what you have is a temporary solution. Every challenge comes with an opportunity. The question is, do you have the mindset and ability to look and mine for the opportunity? The right mindset will ask: what does this change make possible? What wasn’t possible before this change?
- Too many leaders slide into fear and defense mode and they don’t look for the offense — where they can innovate to better serve clients and grow. Fear quashes creativity and innovation.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
No matter what happens, keep your customer front and center. Make sure you’re meeting them where they are and meeting their needs, so you don’t lose traction. If you’re solving their problems, adding value to the future, they will realize they need you and be grateful to work with you. If you’re worried about losing traction, keep them front and center, and revisit the strategies that will get you to your vision.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Understand current reality. In times of uncertainty and crisis, your current reality can shift constantly and without notice. Set up the right systems to ensure you are getting the right information as quickly as possible. Establish clear lines of communication to stay in contact with those closest to the situation. Identify what key metrics are most crucial to your business and ensure you are staying on top of them. It is hard to make sound decisions if you don’t have a firm grasp on current reality.
- Prioritize connection. Make time to connect with people on your team because uncertainty breeds doubt and fear. People will be dealing with the crisis on a human level. Ask them how they’re doing and feeling and what questions they have. This is how you protect the culture when feelings of uncertainty can pull a team apart. Leave space to truly listen to what your team is feeling and experiencing.
- You can’t over-communicate. Your communications with teams and individuals are more important than ever in times of crisis and uncertainty. Your people will have a ton of questions, and without answers they tend to think the worst. Be open and honest about what you know — and don’t. Evaluate the frequency in how often you are sending updates out and meeting with your teams.
- Examine your strategies. Depending on the extent of the situation, your strategic plan may need to be updated to best meet the needs of the current challenges. So, re-examine your strategic priorities with the following filter: pause — which ones should we hold for now because of the current environment; pursue — which ones do we need to keep in play and even possibly accelerate; and pivot — are there any new strategies we should consider to take advantage of new opportunities? Rather than just playing defense, look for opportunities to move to the offense.
- The customer is king. In times of uncertainty and crisis, it’s easy to lower your gaze and shift your focus internally. But you can’t lose sight of your customer. This can be the perfect opportunity to lean into your customer relationships and show that you’re more than a product or service — that you’re a partner to them. Ask them what they are dealing with — and how you can help them. Be curious and look for ways to add more value to them — both today and in the future.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else” — Yogi Berra.
Too often in our life and leadership, we get caught in the drift, living our life more as a spectator than the author. Sometimes that shows up in missed opportunities and unmet expectations; too often it looks like pain and regret. Rather than running on autopilot, this quote always reminds me to be intentional about what I want in the areas of my life that are most important to me and ensure that I’m making them a priority.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!