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 Nina Kalmund.
Nina Kalmund passionately believes that joy, gratitude, grit, a strong willingness to grow and the awareness that life is not a burden but a blessing are the true secrets to success and fulfillment.
Nina continuously challenges today’s leaders, top executives and high-ranking athletes whom she works with, to become bolder, more innovative and future-oriented and to put values at the forefront of their decision-making process.
Nina works with government bodies and institutions to advocate and enable global structural changes and has received the Award “Iconic Woman — creating a better World for All“ by the Women Economic Forum in 2019 and 2020.
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 pleasure! I have a completely different background, even though High Performance as such has probably always been part of my DNA. I have had a career for over 20 years as an award-winning international Architect before transitioning into coaching and speaking about 6 years ago. At the time I had felt that something was “off” in the world as such, and I wanted to find out more about how to align success and fulfillment. What had begun as a personal quest has brought me here. And as I like to say: It is just the beginning!
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?
Probably less funny than maybe a bit tragic: I had a tough time forging my new identity as a coach and completely forgot that my strengths and my general competence did not vanish just because I chose a new path for myself. This is something that many people struggle with: we tend to forget that starting anew in a certain field, doesn’t mean that we lose our general competence, our strengths, our knowledge, our experience.
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?
I am definitely very grateful to my own coaches. I always say that what makes a great coach is someone who kicks you in the buttocks and someone who strokes your head, always depending on what is needed in the moment. A lot of kicking and stroking from my coaches has brought me to where I am today.
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?
I believe that there is a clear distinction between “very good” and “excellent”. Bringing out that difference, that edge in Top Executives as well as in Athletes is our passion and driving force. Our mission is to ensure that human potential is not being lost.
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?
I foster a culture where we learn to love challenges, knowing that challenges bring out the best of who we are.
I like to play something called “war and peace thinking”: How would we act if this were a battle, a war? What troops would we bring in? How would we advance? What could trip us up? And on the other hand — how can we emanate more calm, more peace? Which energy do we want to bring into the room? Where do we need to be more open, more mindful, more empathetic? Being a master of your own thoughts and emotions is the goal, instead of letting your negative emotions take the reign.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
Giving up is simply not an option for me. I have a strong sense of responsibility and this allows me to push through the good days and the bad days. I’ve also learned that joy, gratitude, grit, the willingness to grow and the awareness that life is not a burden but a blessing is what makes the difference. It is this attitude, which sustains my drive.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
The most critical role of a leader is to actually lead: with unwavering strength, calm, clarity, courage and faith.
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?
It is important for leaders to realize that the question of “what to do?” is much less important than the question of “who to be?”. To ensure that your team follows your lead, you need to become a person of vision and not be a person of circumstances.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
The best way to communicate difficult news is with something that I like to call “gentle clarity”: Be very gentle in how you communicate (emotion), be extremely clear and unwavering with what you communicate (content/information/direction). People have a right to the truth, but the truth doesn’t have to be brought across in a harsh way. Clarity and empathy are not contradictory. Integrating more of both is a master level skill we should all focus on more.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
The future has always been unpredictable and will always remain so. The only way we can predict the future is by creating it with every step that we take. This is why we need strong leaders who are not afraid to take a step into the unknown.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
The number one principle is to actually have principles, principles of success that guide you through the good times and the bad times alike; principles that ensure that you show up as a role-model every single day. One of my guiding principles is a clear “no excuses”-attitude.
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?
The most common mistake is a combination of being complacent in good times and giving in to fears during challenging times. That is a very dangerous mixture. You have to strengthen your mind in order to learn to persevere no matter what: learn to breathe, to calm your nervous system, to look at things from a higher perspective, learn to be strategic not tactical, to think long-term and I mean really long-term — far beyond yourself, to learn to generate energy, to constantly muster courage, to always hold on to the vision by concentrating on the progress, and of course to breathe some more. All of these are habits that you build in good times so that you have a system in place for more challenging times. Preparation is key.
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?
When you start seeing things from a higher perspective, you begin to understand that momentary turbulences might be hurdles, which may sometimes slow you down for a while, but which will never keep you from walking towards your vision. Better even, you start anticipating those hurdles and actually train for them, just as an athlete. Again, being prepared is key. Once you are in the turmoil, you keep on walking, adjusting, staying calm, being super alert, broadening your awareness and holding on to your vision with courage and perseverance.
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.
Number 1: Ask the right question!
The most important question as a leader is never “What do I need to do?” but always “Who do I need to be?”.
When you ask yourself who you need to be to lead effectively during uncertain times, the answer becomes instantly clear, and it certainly is not “agitated, erratic, fearful, ego-driven, ruthless”.
The only possible answer to the question “Who do I need to be to lead successfully during difficult times?” is:
“I need to be a strong, calm, clear-headed, courageous, truthful, trustworthy, responsible, faithful, future-oriented person.”
Number 2: Breathe!
I’ve mentioned this before and I can’t mention it often enough. Learning to master your breath is what will give you the edge between “very good” and “excellent”. We know from Navy Seals and Shaolin monks alike, that learning to control your breath is the road to true mastery. Learning to master my breath is what allows me to speak in front of audiences of many thousands, even though my instincts still tell me to run and hide.
Number 3: Level up!
There are three levels we operate on.
The lowest level is the level of thought. On this level of operation, thoughts come and go, emotions come and go. Mostly these are non-empowering thoughts, questions like “Why is this so difficult?” or “Why me?”.
The next level is your rational mind. But even though many people believe that this is the highest level, your reason is very limited. It relies on experience and proof.
The highest level is the level of consciousness. This is where real change happens. This is where you learn to see all the opportunities that are there all along.
Number 4: Embrace the challenge!
Yes, embrace the challenge. Honor the struggle. Learn to love the difficulties. Remember: Tougher times are forging you for greater things to come.
Number 5: Be joyful!
Just because times are challenging, doesn’t mean that your days need to be gloomy. Be grateful for all the good things in your life. Enjoy your blessings. Don’t forget: Being joyful boils down to a choice.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Challenge the way we think. Change the way we live.” is my personal motto.
The ability to think deep and critically is a superpower which too few people use.
There are so many things we take for granted instead of questioning things on a deeper level. I love the power of questions that have no immediate answer; questions that force you to halt.
Questions that have the power to make you reconsider your unconscious choices, to make you reconsider who you’d like to be, how you’d like to live, how you’d to like to lead.
How can our readers further follow your work?
The best way to follow me is on Instagram. I would love to start a conversation there.