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Lead With That: What the Suez Canal Can Teach Us About Accountability and Resilience

image with microphone and lead with that podcast episode title, what the suez canal can teach us about accountability and resilience

In this episode of Lead With That, Ren and Allison explore what we can learn about accountability and resilience from the Suez Canal.

Roughly 90% of the world’s goods are transported by sea. As March came to a close, the Ever Given, a container ship almost as long as the Empire State building is tall, ran aground in the Suez Canal. The Suez Canal is the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe and about 30% of the world’s container shipping volume transits through the canal. 

This issue, which piqued the interest of Maritime buffs, quickly became a global concern. At one point, some 400+ ships were stuck waiting to pass through the canal from either side, costing an estimated $9.6 billion a day. That translates to $400 million an hour, or $6.7 million a minute. But now that the ship is free, the problem is over, right?  

What happened with the Ever Given can be chalked up to basic physics, the massive size of the actual ship, potential human error, and maybe even climate change. But at CCL, we don’t only look at the circumstances or the symptoms of a problem, we want to find out the source and the root of issues. So where was leadership during all of this? How did leaders make a difference or contribute to this accident in the first place? How did leadership find the fix?

Let’s take a look at the lessons in accountability and resilience that we can learn from the Suez Canal and lead with that. 

Listen now or read the full transcript below. 

Listen to the Podcast

In this episode, Ren and Allison explore what we can learn about accountability and resilience from the Suez Canal.

Interview Transcript:

INTRO:

Welcome back to CCL’s podcast Lead With That, where we talk current events and pop culture to look at where leadership is happening and what’s happening with leadership.

Ren Washington:

As you log on and listen in and settle down into your favorite chair, there’s a good chance most of the things around you made it to you by crossing the big blue sea.

Something like 90% of the world’s goods are transported by sea. And about 60% of that includes basically all of your imported fruits, your gadgets and your appliances.

So take a sip of your fresh fruit smoothie, adjust your earbuds and say thanks because if something like the Ever Given running aground happens again, we could be in for an ocean of hurt.

And there’s a good chance something like this will happen again. As March came to a close the Ever Given, a container ship almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall, ran aground in the Suez Canal.

The Suez Canal is the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe, and about 30% of the world’s container shipping volume transits through the canal. So this issue which peaked the interest of maritime buffs quickly became a global concern.

At one point, some 400 plus ships were stuck waiting to pass through the canal from either side, costing an estimated $9.6 billion a day. That’s $6.7 million a minute.

But now that the ship is free, the problem’s over. Well, what happened with the Ever Given can be chalked up to basic physics, the massive size of the actual ship and even potential human error, and maybe even climate change.

But at CCL, we don’t only look for the circumstances or the symptoms of a problem, we want to find out the source and the root of the issues. So where was leadership during all of this?

How did leaders make a difference or contribute to this accident in the first place? And how did leadership find the fix? And really from canal bank to captain’s deck, how can leadership help avoid something like this in the future?

I’m Ren Washington, one of the trainers here at the center. And as usual I’m joined with my cohost and one of my training colleagues, Allison Barr. Allison, quick, what’s your favorite fruit? Go.

Allison Barr:

Favorite fruit? Mango, hands down. Hands down.

Ren Washington:

Mango. All right. Well, see. Then you’re that 60% of fruit I was talking about earlier, mango.

Allison Barr:

I would have been without mango.

Ren Washington:

You would have been without mango. Well, did you know much about the Ever Given before we decided to talk about it?

Allison Barr:

No.

Ren Washington:

No?

Allison Barr:

I was trying to think back to when I learned about the Suez Canal, generally speaking. And I think it was probably in fifth grade, and I don’t know that I’ve given it much thought since then.

Ren Washington:

Right. I don’t think you’re alone there. And I know we were joking once. I was looking at the news, as my wife can attest I often do when we’re just hanging out together and I should be paying attention.

But I just saw this thing, “Oh, there’s interesting. This ship here.” And I was thinking to myself, “It’s going to be a huge story. It’s going to be a huge story.” And then for a moment, it was a big story.

And I think it was a big story because the data is crazy about how much volume of goods goes through the canal or just sea trade in general. 90% of the world’s trade by ocean is no joke. So do you care more about oceanic trade now? I guess that’s the good one.

Allison Barr:

I feel more informed. I certainly feel more informed. I don’t know that people… I’ll speak for myself. I don’t know that I generally give that much thought to how my goods, my consumer goods arrive to where I am in Colorado and how much it takes for that to happen. It definitely put me in a state of not only gratitude, but wonder, right? We just don’t talk about the ocean and trade by ocean very much.

Ren Washington:

No, we don’t. Something that you said there, I was reading the stats of the Ever Given, one of the biggest ships out there, or it’s in this new class of really large ships. And they said the amount of containers that are on that one vessel is tantamount to a train that’s 44 miles long.

Allison Barr:

Wow.

Ren Washington:

Imagine being stopped at that railroad crossing. Yeah, it’s crazy. And like you said, mango is your favorite fruit, or we’re talking together with our mikes in front of us, or the computer.

And so much of these things that we take for granted, I think come from this trade in the oceans. And I think that’s why I was so excited to talk about this because the human element of this whole story is nothing to be ignored.

And when we think about how much we rely on ocean trade or places like the Suez Canal, the one real viable passageway between Asia and Europe by ship, it really brings to the forefront this level of importance about how it’s important for us to be more informed and see how we could stop this stuff in the future.

Allison Barr:

Right. Absolutely. Yeah. As I was catching up on articles knowing that every day, it seemed things were being updated, of course. I had a conversation with a client yesterday and she said, “Do you know who the real hero is in this story?”

Ren Washington:

Who?

Allison Barr:

I said, “Do you know Ren?”

Ren Washington:

No. Yeah. Who?

Allison Barr:

And she sent me an article about this later. And she said, “It was the moon. The moon was the real hero in this story because the moon shifting tides is what caused some movement to get things moving.”

Ren Washington:

Well, one of the first things I I’m most curious about is all of the finger pointing going on. And as my family knows, I often blame physics and gravity when something falls out of my hands and breaks. So if anything, I’m like your client, I agree, there are plenty of reasons.

And I alluded to some of them, and there’s a lot of things that happened. I think some people might argue it was the size of the ship and how it displaces water in a shallow canal or the sand storm that was happening the night of.

But my first question is how the hell does something like this happen? And not just the ship getting stuck, but the world relying on a single passage for what equals to something like 30% of the world’s shipping volume.

30% of the world shipping volume goes the Suez Canal. And ships like the Ever Given, these massive cargo ships, are becoming more and more the norm of how we get our goods transported around the world. So from all of that you read, what do you think went down? Help me make sense of this.

Allison Barr:

That’s a loaded question. I think, to your point, the conditions, not meaning just the weather, but all of the conditions were a perfect storm for it to happen and were likely, probably so rare that most people didn’t think they would all happen at the same time.

And what I do know is that they’re still investigating and still looking into other causes. Today is the seventh. So by the time this podcast goes live, there might be new information as they investigate it.

And what I found to be very interesting, I don’t know if you saw this, was that last week while they were looking into causes, they found weather conditions, the sandstorm, authorities saying there’s likely other causes.

There was initially an Egyptian woman, an Egyptian captain, who was incorrectly blamed. So she was scapegoated. and she was something like 600 miles away from the location, and read… Was very surprised to read the news that she was the one to blame, which I thought was funny and not funny.

And it got me thinking more along the lines of, “Okay, what does accountability look like when this kind of thing happens when there are several conditions at play?” Generally, when there’s a mistake that happens, there are various factors involved. It’s almost never one person’s fault. What do you think?

Ren Washington:

Well, I love it because I know exactly who you’re talking about. Her name is Marwa Elselehdar. And yes, Egypt’s first female captain. I was reading that and I thought, “Well, goodness, how much does this fit into the world that we talk about around…?”

Well, some misinformation or disinformation story puts her front and center, but it is interesting how quickly people look to blame, or how there’s so many things that could be culpable.

I was reading that a representative of the canal is trying to sue the Ever Given parent holding for a billion US because of what happened. And when I think, “Okay, that’s reasonable…” There was a decent amount of goods stuck there. We ran the numbers up top.

And so in a moment like this, everyone’s pointing outward. And I’m always thinking of, “Well, when you’re pointing at something, you got three fingers pointing back at you.” I never bring in the thumb, because how do you do that?

Allison Barr:

I don’t know.

Ren Washington:

But when we talk accountability in the workspace, what are some of the things that leaders or leadership have to manage, in your experience with your clients, about how to really foster accountability in a world that’s so quick to say, “Well, I didn’t do it”?

Allison Barr:

That’s a loaded question. That depends on the environment and the culture of the company. And I think that if you are in a leadership role, a traditional leadership role, you need to consider those things before going into that role.

You need to consider things are going to go wrong because that’s life. And it might not be some massive impact like we’re talking about right now, the impact might be smaller when mistakes happen, or they might have a serious financial loss, a serious outcome to your client.

You need to consider that you are going to have to be the one to not only investigate, but also to take personal accountability because you were the leader of that project, the leader of that team, the leader of that organization. It’s par for the course, it goes with the title.

Another thing I want to say, however, is that leadership is social. You and I have talked about that. It’s a social process. So John Smith can be a leader at X organization when he’s not traditionally in that title. And I think a good leader looks at themselves first to say, “Was there something that I could have done to prevent that?” What do you think?

Ren Washington:

I love that because at the center, we talk about this idea that if you want to build a culture of accountability, you’ve got to start with building a culture of ownership and that mentality that I have my pride in my work.

And so from the social aspects, if you get people looking around and saying, “Well, what was my role in this?” I think that’s what you’re talking around this idea of social process.

Accountability comes from everywhere. When calamity happens, instead of pointing fingers, maybe the first thing to do is say, “Well, where did I contribute?” And that’s a risky proposition.

Allison Barr:

It is.

Ren Washington:

Because in a lot of organizations, if I willingly admit my contribution to a failure, then they’re going to call me in the office. They’re going to say, “Hey, Ren, thanks for your service. And here’s the door.”

And so when we sit with that idea of culture, we talk about this five components to creating accountability or a culture of accountability. And one of them is… I love the first and second, is this idea of giving support, and then providing freedom.

When I think about the learning curve that we all experience of this thing, think about that one thing that you were really good at before, or that you’re good at right now that you weren’t good at when you were younger. What’s one thing right now, as in that you’re super good at, that you weren’t good at five years ago or longer?

Allison Barr:

Are we talking about a workplace skill?

Ren Washington:

Oh, you choose.

Allison Barr:

It could be anything?

Ren Washington:

Yeah.

Allison Barr:

In the workplace and a non-tangible, but patience. Slowing down, being willing to coach the problem. I think even four years ago, I was just a go, go, go, like, “Let’s just get the machine going. Let’s just go.” That’s when mistakes happen. That’s when mistakes happen. So I learned that the hard way.

Ren Washington:

Yeah. And so when I think about your growth from four years ago to now, you’re even better than you were then about that slowing down, about patience, about working the problem, as opposed to just jumping right into the solution.

And a big part of that growth is your willingness to keep on trying to get to a point where… I bet you’re a really great problem solver. And one day you’re going to be as great, a quick to jump to process, as quick to think about processor. And you’re going to be better for it.

And that’s what I think we talk about in our programs at CCL, this idea of the anatomy of the learning experience, which is really just a learning curve that when you try something new, you’re going to have a different performance.

You stick with it, you’re going to benefit from it. You’re going to be better for it. So the way this ties back to accountability or the social process, when I think about an environment even as big as the world’s trade via the ocean, if I want people to make decisions without pointing the finger at other people, it starts with the, “How can I give them the support to have freedom, to help them cultivate their own appetite for loss?”

Because I imagine, Allison, sometimes you may not find them the same level of success and you say, “Well, I don’t want to do this. I’m going to go back to what I was doing before.”

And in that sense, give people the freedom. And then for the leaders, cultivate your own appetite that, “Yes, these people are going to drop the ball, but when they do, I can’t come down on them.”

Allison Barr:

Right.

Ren Washington:

Because then maybe they’ll be able to look around at each other and say, “Okay. Well, this is how I contributed to this reality.”

Allison Barr:

Right. And so when you make a mistake at work, the general you, I mean, again, it’s going to depend on the organization and how the culture of that organization behaves when mistakes are made, and how they foster, exactly what you just said, the ability to learn and grow.

There are some organizations likely who don’t tolerate mistakes because they view it as, “We don’t have time for this. It is too costly,” X, Y, Z. And there are others that probably take it to the other extreme where somebody has gross misconduct, which that’s not a mistake.

Gross misconduct is not a mistake. And so how do you find that middle ground? And it’s very nuanced and it’s very complicated. How does an existing organization begin to change their culture? It’s probably going to be in small baby steps.

This whole thing got me thinking about when organizations go awry, as they often do with mistakes, how common is it to find a scapegoat? Where does that come from?

Generally in an organization, it comes from a lack of trust. And what’s the solution? Well, it depends. We love to say that here. It depends. It depends. It depends.

So while a company’s not going to have frequently the same gravity of this type of Suez Canal incident, hopefully, we can probably agree that mistakes and errors are common at the workplace all the time. All the time. Ren, when’s the last time you made a mistake at work? And what was the outcome?

Ren Washington:

I’m sorry. I don’t know what you’re asking.

Allison Barr:

That’s right, you don’t make mistakes. I forgot.

Ren Washington:

No. Of course not. When was the last mistake I made, and what was the outcome? I tried to do too much and not all of it landed, and that detracted from the really good parts being that much more impactful.

Allison Barr:

And so how did you know? How did you know?

Ren Washington:

I was told.

Allison Barr:

Okay. And what was that learning curve like for you?

Ren Washington:

I’m glad you bring that up because it’s an interesting experience for me too. There are certain things that I am really good at and really comfortable with.

And it’s cozy. It’s like a lovely pair of my favorite sweat pants or a cozy blanket. And there was part of me that said to even get through the negative self-talk which listeners, could be its own episode. Stay tuned. Who knows?

But at that own part where it’s like, “Well, Ren, I told you so. Go back to what you’re comfortable with. Don’t push these edges.” Instead, though, I looked at the opportunity to not quit the dip, as we might say.

And say, “Okay, well, what can I learn from this? And how can I change it next time?” And I think I already have, and have tried to apply new things that I’m finding success that I only got from that failure.

Allison Barr:

Yeah. So what you’re saying reminds me so much of… Do you know what Russian nesting dolls are?

Ren Washington:

I do.

Allison Barr:

So Russian nesting dolls, in case anyone listening doesn’t know, are those dolls within a doll. And you open the doll, and there’s another smaller doll, and so on and so forth. And great leaders, when mistakes happen, much like you, go to the source. They try to find that source.

And so I think oftentimes what happens at the workplace is by investigating the cause, some people might feel that they are being scapegoated because the root cause is trying to be found.

So with the Suez Canal, my guess is they’re going to dig in to all kinds of different areas of what happened there, which is not uncommon at the workplace.

And so this type of problem solving reminded me of a framework, that fun fact I used to teach to college students back in the day, and it’s called the MIYC framework. Have you heard of this? Do you know what it is?

Ren Washington:

I don’t think I have.

Allison Barr:

So MECE is spelled, all caps, M-E-C-E. And it was made popular by McKinsey as a way of organizing data when you’re looking to find the root cause. It’s often used for profit loss at companies, but you can use it for anything.

And it stands for mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. So it’s looking at every… You’ve got to look at everything to make sure that you avoid that scapegoating, but you also need to find the root cause so it doesn’t happen again. You ensure prevention.

And so the reason Ever Given is still left unsolved is likely because they’re looking at all possibilities. However, when I think about that in the workplace, if there was an error that caused our organization some sort of major impact, I wonder what that would look like.

I wonder what that would feel like for people to feel, rather, investigated. And is there a way to do that in a productive way so that people don’t feel like they’re about to lose their jobs? Because that’s generally what people feel like. So how do you investigate without interrogating?

Ren Washington:

Right. I think a big part of not only building a culture of accountability but building any kind of culture that’s willing to look at itself intensely is creating the psychological safety that we often talk about, and then actually following up with it.

Allison Barr:

Yeah.

Ren Washington:

Having in your company’s DNA that you really believe in investigating problems and not necessarily punishing the person, but punishing the instance or fixing the instance.

And I think, man, the reason that’s so hard is there so much out of people’s control. When you have a billion dollar lawsuit coming down the pipes, or you have a shortfall of $6.7 million a minute, it sounds fun in principle to talk about someone saying, “Okay, my bad.”

It sounds a lot harder when people are looking at stakeholders and stakeholders are crying about, “We want to be made whole. This can’t stand, someone’s got to be put on the block.” And so I think that is the hardest thing to do.

And how do you build accountability in the face of a billion dollars? And how do you take that theory into practice? And so I think maybe legitimately, we don’t start today, but we think about, “Well, how can we help build a culture or history that’s going to address those things moving forward?”

Allison Barr:

Yeah. And so when I think about the workplace, and I want to be clear, I’m dialing down the scale of the error from what you just said…

Ren Washington:

No, sure. Yeah. Of course.

Allison Barr:

I’m talking about maybe you have a product launch that completely fails, a misstep in marketing. That happens all the time. People make errors in marketing where somebody’s very much offended by a marketing strategy.

Smaller and maybe even medium scale disasters that do have an impact, but maybe not a billion dollar impact. What does that look like? And how do you start to create that culture?

And I’m often digging into words and the meaning of words, and I believe that language matters. So do you think there’s a difference between responsibility and accountability?

Ren Washington:

I do think there’s a difference, and I think it was… Responsibility can be shared, accountability can’t be. Or it’s the other way around.

Allison Barr:

I hadn’t heard it described that way.

Ren Washington:

Yeah. You’re right. I think words matter and I would… The reason I joke is could it be the other way around is that I know there’s a lot of tension around the semantic exploration of responsibility and accountability.

I think whatever the definitions people choose, the paradigm is typified in, “The buck stops here.” That person is accountable. Other people can be responsible for parts of that, but the person who’s accountable is the last person in the line who I look for and say, “Why did this happen?” And so, yes, I think there’s a difference between responsibility and accountability. Do you?

Allison Barr:

I hadn’t given it much thought until I read a research article around this. And what I read was that when you have accountability in a workplace, you don’t have to hold people responsible, which I thought was interesting because they feel an accountability to the organization or accountability to the vision, the product, whatever it may be.

And when that happens, you don’t have to hold people responsible to their jobs, to their responsibilities and et cetera, so that when these types of errors happen, the solution and the progression forward from that becomes a lot easier.

So developing a culture of accountability looks different than it does to develop a culture of what they would call responsibility. And it starts with trust, which I thought was interesting too.

Ren Washington:

I’m really latching onto this idea that if you have accountability, you don’t have to hold people responsible. Because when I think about how do you cultivate? We talk about in our work building discretionary effort or in our programs, this idea of…

I talk with many leaders who say, can you teach a sense of urgency or pride in one’s work? And I think maybe if you can create that real accountability where people are looking at themselves first, then yeah, you can teach that pride in work.

And for me, it starts with a circle of control. There’s this video on Twitter of the tug boat that’s being heralded for getting the Ever Given loose. And there was a fleet of tug boats. And then there was a Drudge or two that was out there working. And then, as we know, the moon helped.

So there’s a lot of things that helped free the Ever Given. But there’s this video of these guys and they’re chanting the ship’s name and they’re saying, “We’re number one.”

And part of the accountability conversation that inevitably has to transfer is as we build these systems of accountability, are we talking about responsibility or accountability? We also just need to get to work.

And with a million, a billion dollars a day on the line, or $7 million a minute cooking away out there in the Suez, there’s no time to look around at who did what, we got to just get it moving. And I love the idea of, as I look for pride in work, I’ve got to identify what I can actually affect.

Allison Barr:

Right.

Ren Washington:

And so in this instance, when people feel handcuffed or paralyzed by the impending responsibility that they have, whether it’s freeing a ship that’s as tall as the Empire State Building, or whether it’s owning a marketing mistake, I try to empower people by thinking of what they can control. Do you know the circle of control or circle of influence from Covey? That’s been many times…

Allison Barr:

I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it.

Ren Washington:

It’s like a layer of three concentric circles, and in the middle circle is the control. And those are things that you can actually control. And it really boils down to, you can only control your choices, your responses to behavior, and the things that you’re going to do in response to your environment.

And then there’s other things that you can’t really control with your own choices, but there’s things you can influence. That’s the second circle. And then there’s things on the outside that you just kind of have to accept, and accept by…

I accept that I can’t control them. And a lot of times, people stay in that outside circle and they get washed away with, “Well, what do we do?” And then there’s people on their tugboats who are in the circle of control saying, “Well, I know that I can do this. I know that I can make an impact here.”

And so maybe that’s the thing when you say, “Okay, how do we build a culture of accountability?” Well, maybe we talk about building some personal responsibility and pride with work. And that all starts with what people can actually control, and then let them be empowered by that so then they can impact it.

Allison Barr:

Yeah. You’ve got me thinking here too. And again, it’s going to depend on the organization. I also wonder how that plays into team dynamics. And I always think there’s got to be one person, at least, in any organization who probably saw it coming guaranteed. Guaranteed.

There’s always that person who was like, “I told you so. I told you that,” or didn’t say it because they didn’t feel like they could or were afraid to or whatever, or just didn’t think to. I always wonder, how can we get ahead of that?

So when I think about what you just mentioned, trust seems to be the additive there for me, it’s like people have to be free to speak about what their perception is and what their ideas are, knowing that mistakes are going to happen.

So here’s our marketing strategy. And Susie, in her head, knows that this is a very big risk and it might fail because of X, Y, Z, but she doesn’t say it. Well, why didn’t she say it? What’s that about? That plays into accountability too.

If it’s a culture of accountability, then she would be accountable to say it, but you can’t have accountability without trust. They’re like the perfect marriage, along with what you just mentioned too. So I wonder how we could merge those together in a perfect storm.

Ren Washington:

Yeah. I think maybe even in a squall. All of you sailing fans, you’re welcome. We talk a lot about this idea of slow down to power up, and there’s a couple of frames that we use in the center for it.

One of them being the processing, the teaming that we can do in the beginning before we dive into culture building, or before we dive into a project where we get on the same page with everyone and talk about those ideas of trust.

Talk about this idea of, what does everyone want out of the work? I think when we work with leaders, or I see this in organizations a lot, and they’re trying to be more effective together, it’s…

A lot of times, the question could be answered if they just had the conversation earlier. And so that slowed down. Sometimes people are looking around and they’re saying, “Well, Ren, we don’t have time to answer these questions. The boat is stuck and there’s 400 ships on either side. We’ve got to move it.”

And I would say, “Sure. Well, maybe we don’t pause all operations, but this is the impetus for us to say, ‘Okay, well, how do we make sure this doesn’t happen again? Let’s get on the same page. Let’s look forward into, should we be relying on this single passageway for 30% of trade? Is there a better option?'”

And these are questions that I’d love to ask one another earlier. And I think you called it. I’m only going to get real answers to those questions if I trust that I’m not going to get punished for them.

If when being asked to hold people accountable, I’m seeing people being held accountable. I think that’s a big thing in organizations. Build a culture of accountability. “We’re going to go golfing.” That seems a little bit of some cognitive dissonance. Help me understand.

So I think just tactically getting on the same page around that trust and accountability is just slow down a bit, get aligned, talk about what do we want to get out of this thing? And then two, future tripping, what’s the end game? What are the things that we haven’t thought of that are going to be our Ever Given?

Allison Barr:

Right. Right. And you bring up an interesting point. Do I have an alternative to the Suez Canal? No, I don’t. However, you get the right people in the room and surely there might not be an immediate solution.

And that is the beauty of getting multiple brains in the room who are free to share ideas. And so, unfortunately, it’s in response to a crisis in which a lot of people and a lot of businesses were impacted.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if six months down the road, somebody is launching this new mode of delivery / transportation of goods that looks a little bit different. I’ll be curious to revisit that because I guarantee you that’s going to happen.

Another thing that came to mind for me that I got curious about is what does it look like to have an organization in which people are cross-trained, for lack of a better term?

What happens when there’s only one person who knows how to do a particular job, and then any sort of crisis occurs? That person could fall ill and be out of the office indefinitely. Then what? And what does that look like at a workplace? Do you support an environment like that?

Ren Washington:

Right. I was joking with some clients the other day. We were saying, I think the idea is, “What happens if that person get hit by a bus?” But they were trying to put a nice swing on it, “What happens when you get promoted?”

And then I was like, “That’s funny.” Okay. Yeah. The idea being, what happens when your information just kept with you? Am I promoting it personally? Not really. That’s one of my growth edges.

I know that I could probably share more about how I do the work and why I find the successes I do, where I do and the challenges I’ve overcome. But again, to the negative self-talk, maybe it’s just I don’t think it’s that much of value, and therefore I hold it tight.

But I love the idea of that information sharing for preparation’s sake and how do we cultivate the willingness to say, “Okay, here’s what I’m doing. And here’s why it works. And here’s where you can find it,” in the event that I fall ill or get promoted or pulled out of the loop.

And that’s some of the other… When I think too about the slow down to power up, yeah, it’s a processing. It’s getting on the same page. But some of it too is our resilience point of view.

And when we talk resilience, a big part of our resilience is about recovery, and that’s some of the slow down. Often, I hear this idea of quit every day or peak performing athletes. What they do is they work hard and they break.

They take a break, they give themselves recovery, and then they get back to it. And I think people in the workspace are the same idea. How do I work hard, and then slow down, recover to get back going?

And some of that resilience, I think for me too, is that resilient people or resilient organizations often prepare for prepare for crisis. And they have the information spread around the organization to when crisis happened, whether it be one person in the system or the system falling down, that they can quickly pivot and find an answer or a solution.

So I bet if another ship gets locked in the Suez, the freeing will be faster. Or maybe it won’t because the ships are enormous. And then it’s just a matter of it’s going to happen again and there’s nothing to be done. But I think it’s an interesting idea that I… How do I get that information out of me and into what we’re doing?

Allison Barr:

Yeah. I think about resilience too, and how there have been times in my own life where I’ll make a mistake and I just have felt crushed. In my early 20s, have felt like this is the worst disaster ever, and how it’s held me back, looking back in retrospect.

So as a leader, by the way, everyone can be a leader in an organization. I know we already mentioned that. So resilience is relevant to everybody in an organization.

Knowing that things are going to happen. Nobody could have predicted COVID to what it did to our economy. Nobody could have created a formula ahead of time for us to immediately bounce back from that.

And so great leaders now are having to tap into that resiliency piece a thousand percent to be able to move their companies forward. And something you and I talk about a lot is the step before that, which is being self-aware and knowing, “Okay. There are some things I might need to do differently here.” And having the wherewithal to do that is a skill within itself, 100%.

Ren Washington:

Well, and the self-awareness is a matter of like the accountability conversation that we’re having. I look at what happened with the Ever Given. And if there’s not everyone or some team in every part of that organization, whether it be the tugboat operators, whether it be the canal operators, whether it be any big container ship, not in some room somewhere white boarding what happens when this happens again and making plans to move against it, then they’re not doing their due diligence.

Allison Barr:

Right.

Ren Washington:

And so maybe they don’t have a culture of responsibility where they see, “Well, how can I fix this again? And maybe they’re afraid to say, “Well, what was my role in this?” And then maybe too, they can chalk it up to natural disasters. It was a sandstorm and the moon was in Aquarius [crosstalk 00:32:34].

Allison Barr:

Hey, I am an Aquarius. Back off.

Ren Washington:

Well, then you know about the power that you have and your sway with gravity. If they’re not doing that part, then what are they doing? The first question that I had was, “Gosh, are we being crazy to rely on a single passage for 30% of this [inaudible 00:32:59] environment?” Yeah. But maybe that’s a different conversation about geopolitics that we can get into.

Allison Barr:

Well, it’s also another conversation. If it ain’t broke, why are we trying to fix it? It wasn’t broken until now. We didn’t know.

Ren Washington:

Maybe it’s been broken though.

Allison Barr:

Right.

Ren Washington:

I think often if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is really, “The thing has been broken, but it’s not making any noise so don’t worry about it.” You can think about cars that you know need service, but the engine light’s not on. The car is not making any weird noises.

You’re saying, “I don’t have time to get the oil changed.” And then one day, the pistons fall out of the engine and hit the road and you’re like, “Oh, I don’t know what happened.” And so I wonder. Maybe it was broken and we were finally… A light shown on it. And we said, “Oh gosh, this is weird.”

Allison Barr:

Right. So I think we can round out this conversation then by thinking about, if we know that things are going to become broken, we know that’s going to happen.

There’s no way around mistakes happening in a workplace. There’s no way around that, it’s going to happen. What would be your suggestion for our listeners to lead with, knowing that that’s a reality?

Ren Washington:

Yeah. If I’m in an organization or I’m a leader in an organization, I have to first not rest on my laurels. There’s so many times we look at what’s working and we say, “It ain’t broken,” or we’re doing so well that we say, “It can’t possibly go wrong.”

And you have to prepare for the inevitable crash. So many people live just on the precipice of disaster. And the real resilient companies, the real organizations with a culture of accountability and growth and innovation, those are the ones who stand on the precipice of disaster, but have a plan A, B, C, and D if the disaster comes.

And even some of them are even further away from the precipice. So it’s got to be in any team, big or small. If things are going well, are you planning for when they don’t?

And if things aren’t going so well, be planning for what happens if they get worse. Because I think all that’s going to do is inform how to make things better when you pivot from the emergency response to the active response.

So just preparing for the worst to quickly adjust and get back on track. And make sure that you have the people who can highlight where they played in the mess ups so they can get to work on being a solution.

Allison Barr:

Yeah. I second that. And you make me think of when I was little, my mom used to say to me, “Allison, I have eyes all over my head.”

Ren Washington:

Not even in the back? Just all over?

Allison Barr:

All over my head. It’s understanding, looking at what’s beside you, looking at what’s behind you as well, and learning from… Even learning from your competitors, learning from things that happen in your industry.

So I would second what you would say or what you have said, excuse me, and add… I would lead with trust and lead with accountability. And you have to be able to model that in your organization for people to even remotely begin to feel safe to do the same thing.

And so what that means is, asking people their opinions, asking people to contribute and showing your organization and your team, how you are accountable to that organization. Because again, we’re going to have problems. We’re going to have obstacles. These types of things are going to happen.

So how can you get ahead of it? And what can you bring to your organization to nourish the conversations, to create those plan, A, B, C, and Ds that you just mentioned.

So as always, I think, Ren, you and I could talk about this for days.

And I appreciate the conversation, and also want to thank our listeners for tuning in. And as always, would be remiss if we didn’t also thank our behind the scenes here, Ryan, `for all the work he does to make our podcast happen.

So don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast, leave a review while you’re there. And you can find a link to the resilience article and some of our research that Ren mentioned in our show notes. And we’ll look forward to seeing you again next time, folks.

Ren Washington:

Thanks a bunch. Catch you next time.

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