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 Theresa Lambert. She is the Bestselling Author of Achieve with Grace: A guide to elegance and effectiveness in intense workplaces, a professional coach, business mentor , speaker and podcast co-host of Dissecting Success. She founded her coaching and consulting firm, Theresa Lambert Coaching & Consulting Inc. to support high-achieving women on their pursuit to succeed with more elegance + less struggle so they can create the career, business and lifestyle they desire.
Drawing from her nearly 20 years of experience in the hospitality Industry and most recently her 6 year tenure as the General Manager of Nita Lake Lodge she brings both a real world view and proven applicable tools to support her clients.
Theresa has been recognized as a business leader in Whistler’s Profiles of Excellence, featured in Hotelier Magazine , Fresh Magazine, Thrive Global and Authority Magazine and spoken at Women in Hospitality Leadership events, including Empower Her.
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?
Owning and running my own company has always been a dream of mine, but my path to get here was not a linear one. As a woman in business, I always felt incredible pressure to be ‘successful”. My drive to achieve came from the need to feel worthy, to show the world that I could do it. That I was capable of creating amazing results.
I totally believed that hard work, long hours, chronic stress and exhaustion were just the price I had to pay for the success I craved. I had bought into the myth that somehow, to succeed in life, we needed to make sacrifices in other areas of our lives. That having a fancy title and earning a really good salary would actually make me happy.
I set out on a path to achieve greatness in my career, and I wanted to get there fast… and I did, but I paid a price for it!
At age 29, I became the General Manager of a luxury Resort and in an effort to proof that I was capable, poured my heart and soul into this business; it became my greatest obsession. While I was incredible successful in this venture, the high intensity environment combined with the pressure to perform that I had placed on myself was enough to drive me to exhaustion. Hitting burnout only 3 years into this role, I knew I needed to find a way to achieve greatness but in a way that felt more graceful. I call it graceful because nothing elegant was ever accomplished in a rush.
My growth and success have always been very important to me. After deciding that I could not let the “roadblock” of burnout tear down everything I had worked so hard for, I started to study human performance and behaviour. Realizing that what I was experiencing was not an isolated problem, I combined my hospitality and leadership experience with a coaching framework that would help others achieve a state of balanced energy and elegant results. I founded my company as a side-hustle while still running the Hotel and after doing both for almost 3-years, I decided it was time to dedicate my time to my business full-time. In January 2020 I embarked on this new journey and haven’t looked back since. So far, this past year has been a wild ride, but it’s also opened up the time and space for me to fulfill another dream of mine which was to write and publish a book.
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?
I recall a time in my early Senior Management years. I was in charge of the Revenue Management for the Hotel, setting rates and managing inventory (guest room availability). I made a mistake when changing the rates and advertised the Hotel’s presidential suite at $13 for one night versus $ 1,300. The mistake was noticed when a guest made the booking through our website, and when I saw it, my heart dropped. I thought this must have been a mistake. In a panic, I went to see what had gone wrong, when I realized I had made a data entry error… I was terrified to tell the General Manager at the time, but he was very gracious about it and well, the guest was thrilled that one of their nights was essentially free. It was pretty funny. But this gets better! A few years later when I was the General Manager, a similar mistake happened. When the Revenue Manager at the time told me what had happened, I could not stop laughing. Sometimes mistakes just happen. This taught me to slow down, be humble and when things go wrong to remember that we are only human after all.
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?
This is such a difficult question to answer. There are some many wonderful human beings who have helped me get to where I am today. This past year I’ve definitely experienced an accelerated path to learning by trying the hundred things in the online business space that didn’t work, to find the ones that did. As a seasoned leader and business owner of a mortar and brick business, the online space as I understand it now, was very much a new sphere to me. My Coaches Jaclyn Shaw and Robyn Savage from Fem/ME have definitely had a significant impact to support me on my online entrepreneur journey. Through their coaching and mentorship, I really started to understand how to bring my personal brand alive and show up in my business in a way that is fun, uplifting and powerful.
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?
Running a business whether you are an entrepreneur or intrapreneur within an organization can be tiresome, stressful and demanding. Over my career I have seen too many leaders lose the passion, drive and love for their work, myself included. Along the way of aspiring to become a powerful businesswoman I had lost touch with myself- I felt like a walking rolodex of financials, deadlines, and emails that I’d forgotten to send. I was living proof that success doesn’t always lead to happiness. Yet, I kept hearing this intuitive whisper saying, “You can have it all, and it doesn’t need to feel like this. You can create success with elegance”. So today, here I am. Successful & Elegant.
How did I get here? To start, I walked away from my coveted corporate career to begin my journey as an entrepreneur. I set out on a mission to redefine success the elegant way. Today, I teach women all around the world how to have it all — the success and the elegance. It doesn’t have to be either or, it gets to be both. The six figures and the freedom. The successful business and the loving relationships. The title and the joy. The incredible impact and the radical self-care. We’ve been taught to sacrifice who we are in order to get what we want, but I’m here to teach you how to have it all. The world doesn’t need more burned out, tired and stressed leaders. The world needs more courageous, joyful, purpose-driven and emotionally intelligent Leaders that are willing to show us how to succeed in a new way, one that leaves us inspired, motivated and energized.
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?
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
I’ve had many moments where I wanted to give up. The weight of the responsibility, navigating change and uncertainty when leading an organization and team, resolving challenges and conflict, it can definitely take a tall. For a very long time in my General Manager role, it felt like all I was doing was firefighting, constantly reacting to what happened moment-to-moment. It seemed as though there was never enough time to catch your breath and actually refocus. I feel like since this pandemic started, this has become so many leaders and business owner’s life. Literally living life in “reacting mode”. This to me is the most frustrating and tiresome experience, but it is also an experience that offers us the greatest opportunity for growth both personally and professionally. I’ve always been a creative problem solver. My ability to see the bigger picture and relentlessly seek ways to resolve challenges is one of my greatest strengths. My motivation comes from my Vision and my Why. I desire to live an extraordinary live and to be a thought leader by role modeling a new way that allows us to succeed with elegance, navigating challenges with ease and releasing the struggle by mastering our mindset. What sustains this drive is being super intentional on how I go through my day, from the moment I wake up, to the time I go to sleep. I choose to respond, not react to what happens in my day, week, month and year. Flipping “What do I do now?”, to “How do I desire to respond to this?”.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
Staying calm and holding on to the Vision no matter what. What makes you become a rock for others in challenging times, is maintaining an unshakeable belief that it’s all going to work out, even if you can’t see results or any evidence that it will. And from that place, take aligned and intentional steps to move you towards this Vision, one inch at a time.
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?
Show up every day with intention, authenticity and become super present in everything you do. So often in challenging times, it’s easy to start focusing on all the things that aren’t working, instead of the ones that are. As humans we love to use external blaming as a self-protection mechanism. Rather than admitting we made a mistake or things are tough and we don’t know what to do, we look at outside factors we can blame to avoid responsibility. In order to boost morale in uncertain times, we got to shift the perspective from what’s not working, to what is working. From what we can’t control, to what we can control. From pointing out mistakes, to celebrating wins (even if they are tiny)!
Have open and honest conversations with the team. Take time to listen to them, ask questions and involve them in the process of navigating the uncertainty. Bring lightness and fun back. Encourage and support the team in living out or developing personal passions and skills. Our mental health plays a crucial role in how we are able to perform at work. An environment were people feel supported, heard and appreciated for their efforts as well as encouraged to try new things (even non-work-related ones) is an environment that allows people to thrive and expand. Whatever you do, focus people’s perspectives on the things that they can control and the things that are working. As Tony Robbins says, our energy flows where our attention goes. If you want an inspired, motivated and engaged team, focus on the things that help you get that outcome.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
First up, prepare yourself by getting clear on the desired outcome from the conversation. Start with appreciation, then state your desired outcome followed by the difficult news. And lastly, make an invitation to get support or buy-in from the team or customer; alternatively offer support. Go through the conversation by mentally rehearsing it, focus on how you desire to feel at the end of the conversation. And remember, you can’t control how others feel about what you have to say, but you can control how you show up. As a rule of thumb, lead the conversation with courage, kindness and compassion.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
Many businesses have been forced to pivot during this time to be able to meet company goals and move forward. Putting plans in place is critical, and the plans that work best are those that move us in the direction of the company Vision and Goals while at the same time remaining open and planning for change. If this past year has taught us anything, it is that nothing is certain and no matter how well laid out a plan is, we can’t predict the future. When we are open to take steps towards our goals and vision, while remaining open to timelines and tasks shifting in an environment such as this, we can alter our plans to support us at each stage we are at.
Leadership is about creating new path’s that nobody has walked upon yet. It’s about opening doors for others to walk through, but as a leader you have to be willing to go first. You have to be willing to be wrong and you have to be willing to take the first brave step. Making plans in this environment that’s unpredictable is no different. Create a plan and be prepared for the plan to change. Anticipate and get clarity on what changes could happen and how you would handle it if in fact this would happen. Open your perspective to each change offering an opportunity to make the plan even better.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Really anchor into your company’s values, vision and purpose and take aligned actions from this place.
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?
- Closing your business of to change. It’s scary to look at your business model and recognize that how you’ve been doing business is no longer a viable and sustainable option. If you didn’t operate online prior to the pandemic, this change we have experienced would have been a shock to your system. Instead of defaulting to “I can’t adapt to the change” open yourself up to think creatively and ask yourself “How can I make this change work for me?”. Involve your team, brainstorm options. The creativity that has come out of this pandemic from businesses that had no “virtual” business components has been remarkable. It may be scary to pivot, but unless you try, you never know what could be possible!
- Not communication effectively with your team. Often when times get tough and situations are difficult, communication comes to a standstill. Instead of involving teams in the process of navigating the challenges and communicating clearly, honestly and authentically with how they will address the difficult times, they say nothing. When the difficult time escalates and becomes public, or the business is forced to take action with things such as mass layoffs it comes to a shock to the team. This ultimately builds mistrust and can result in the company losing their top talents. Even when you don’t have all the answers, transparency and clear communication is vital.
- Making rush decisions: It’s easy to start firefighting and making rush decisions when your business is under the pump. But rushed decisions miss a critical piece, they most often do not consider the bigger picture. I often say scattered actions create scattered results. Making a rushed decision is a scattered action. Instead of rushing, as a business embracing the pause and reflecting is powerful. Nothing truly worthwhile was ever accomplished in a rush. Take a step back. Take your time and zoom out so you can get a helicopter view of your business. Then make a decision and take aligned action to navigate the challenging times.
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?
I have CEO meetings with myself and really reflect on it all. CEO meetings are critical to me both as a leader and business owner. It’s the time I take a pause, reflect, reset, strategize and get organized. What I’ve noticed over the years is that most of us get so focused on moving on to the next thing, we rarely make time to reflect these days, and there’s a good reason for that! Reflecting means we have to look at all of it…
The things that worked,
The things that didn’t work,
The things that hurt,
The things that broke us,
The things that made us,
The things that pushed us….
When we reflect, we see it all. And seeing it all can bring up a lot of big emotions that we’d rather just avoid all together. The past months, heck year, have been different not to say the least and presented peaks and valleys with many highs and lows. And from my own experience, it’s a lot easier to get stuck in a valley than it is to climb to the peak!!! So when we reflect, many of us fall into the depths of the valley and get submersed in the darkness — we can no longer see the light! We only see what didn’t work…and we forget everything that did.
We forget what wins there was, what opportunities came to be, what golden nuggets were born from the great unknown, the joy we experienced…And because we forget to see the light…and the dark feels so uncomfortable, we just avoid reflection all together! But when we don’t reflect, we can’t extract the lessons…And when we don’t extract the lessons, we keep making the same choices that lead to the same (often undesirable) result!
CEO meetings and days are part of my Strategy for both my business and life and my clients who’ve implemented them, reap massive rewards & notice the difference to how they approach their days both personally and professionally. It’s an opportunity each day, week, month, quarter and year to check-in, to cut ties with what isn’t working and build upon the things that are. It’s what drives the process of innovation, growth and maintain or create next level momentum.
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.
- Gain Clarity: Having clarity around how you desire to show up, your Vision and how you want to lead yourself and others through turbulent times is critical. There are a lot of things we can’t control as leaders, but the one thing we can control is how we show up day after day. My Vision is to create a new way in which we succeed, which includes navigating the dips and challenges of life and business, without stress and struggle and instead with elegance, power and grace. Each day I ask myself how I can role model this and what value I can add to the people in my life which includes myself, my clients, my community and my personal relationships. By creating new clarity each day, I can adapt to my actions to the changes of this environment.
- Create next level awareness: Especially in turbulent times, we have an opportunity to getting to know ourselves better than we ever have and from that place, create a solid foundation that we can stand on. Leading others through uncertainty and turbulent times effectively, starts by being able to lead yourself through it! Your team and business respond to your Energy. Encouraging words aren’t enough when not backed by your own actions. Start to pay attention to your thoughts, words and action each day. What are the stories you are focused on, the things that you can’t control or the ones you can? If you tell people to step back and take a breather, do you take your own advice? Are you panicked all day, yet pretending to be fine? If so, what do you need to do to return to your center point (go back to point 1)? What situations, people or news trigger you? What happens when you get triggered? Does that reaction serve you? When we are ultra-aware of how we experience these times and where we stumble, we can detect where we take action towards or away from the vision, we have set out for ourselves.
- Take Intentional Action: Once you have clarity and awareness, take Intentional actions each day that move you closer to your Vision and goals. Take a moment at the start of your day to set yourself up for success. I call this practice silent minutes. It’s a mindful check in with yourself: How you are feeling? How do you want to show up for your Vision and the team today? What needs to get done today (write a non-negotiable list)? How would you like to feel at the end of your day? What’s one thing you can do to help you feel that way today? I still practice this to this day. In early Covid days this resulted in me connecting with people in my network that I hadn’t spoken to in a while; some of which have turned into friendships, business partnerships, collaborations and generated business opportunities.
- Listen: If out of this list you only do one thing, then let it be learning to listen. Most people listen to respond. I invite you to listen to understand. The greatest gift you can give others is the gift of helping the feel heard, understood and appreciated. In an environment with this much change, uncertainty and challenges really listening and practicing compassion and empathy go a long way. You don’t need to have the answers to everything, trust me, I don’t, and I didn’t. But when you give people your time, when you listen, when you ask questions to learn to understand what’s happening for your team and how you can support them, magic happens. Listening is powerful beyond measure! Once you understand, you have the opportunity to make much better and more informed decisions that will help you move the business and team forward, regardless of uncertainty!
- Focus on small steps each day and celebrate them: In uncertain and turbulent times, it can be difficult to acknowledge the things that are working and the contributions that are being made. Here is the thing though. If an airplane changes its course by just 1%, it ends up in an entirely new place! Small consistent steps each day is what creates the quantum leaps. Celebrate and acknowledge each and every one of them and watch yourself, your team and business start to gain forward momentum in a way that feels fun and positive.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’ve got so many, but the one that really hit’s home to me when it comes to being a highly effective leader during turbulent times is this quote from Oprah “Your life isn’t about a big break. It’s about taking one significant life-transforming step at a time.”
When we focus on taking things one step at a time, taking small yet intentional actions towards our vision, we start to embrace the journey over the outcome. And when we do that, even during tough times, the journey starts to feel lighter, more joyful and more fun. And I don’t know about you, but life is short, and I desire to make the most out of the one I have!
How can our readers further follow your work?
If you’d like to continue to follow my work, I’d invite you to follow me on Instagram @theresalambertcoaching, subscribe to my online newsletter at https://www.theresalambertcoaching.com or starts listening to the Dissecting Success Podcast on your favorite podcast player.