Be More Like Phyllis


My wife and I have two children, Connor and Kelcie.  We are proud of both of them and the decisions they are making.  They are active with their school, athletics, and their communities.  Over the years, we have met some incredible family members and team-mates through their sport’s teams and schools who have helped us raise them and be a sounding board to Christy and I when we have questions regarding topics such as curfew, cell phone usage, college prep courses, among others.

One of the most remarkable people we have met is Phyllis.  She is the grandmother of a player my son has played club soccer with over the years.  Phyllis is the kind of person who is always smiling and displays an infectiously positive attitude.  Just being in her presence will lift your spirits, no matter how your day is going.  She videotapes every game her grandson plays, through rain, bitter cold, or ridiculously hot weather, and sends out game highlights to the families of the team.  When my son played in a pretty big high school game earlier this year, with a temperature of 40 degrees, wind, and pouring rain, there was Phyllis, cheering his team on.   She is the epitome of class and someone who I always look forward to seeing at the soccer field or around town.

Several years ago, when our team was driving back to NC from a game out of state, Phyllis was involved in a horrible automobile accident.  The result of this accident saw Phyllis lose her right leg.  Imagine being a grandmother who has always taken great care of herself, who now has to learn how to do everything differently in her life, resulting from a situation she had no control over.  So, how does an amazingly positive person like Phyllis handle the adversity of losing a limb?  Check out this 6-minute video below.

Phyllis’s story is a living example of how to deal with a challenging situation head-on with positivity and turn a negative condition into an opportunity to influence others.  Every single one of us has had to deal with adversity in our personal and business lives, but probably not to the extent of what Phyllis went through.  Being an effective leader requires leading teams through adverse events and recognizing that every setback sets the stage for a comeback.

4 Tips to Handling Adversity as a Leader:

  1. You cannot do it alone: When a challenging situation is presented to a leader, the quicker they involve the team in creating a solution, the better. Problems are almost always solved quicker and easier when multiple people are involved.  Effective teams are developed when each individual contributor is asked for their input…not when the project is half-way completed, but when the problem is first raised.  Accountable leaders will also take responsibility when something went wrong and work with his/her team to set plans in place to avoid the same mistakes again.
  2. Ask the right questions of your team: What caused this challenge to occur? Could we have avoided this setback?  What is the desired outcome we are now looking to accomplish?  Do we have the right resources to address this challenge?  If not, how do we address these gaps?  What type of accountability measures will we need during this project? What will we learn, and how will we grow from this?
  3. Strive to be Positive and Consistent: There are going to be ups and downs when dealing with hardships. There will be times where others will challenge your strength and conviction.  Set a goal to have as many positive days as possible.  This simple emotional intelligence concept sounds elementary but rarely do people self-evaluate their actions.  At the end of each day, take 10 minutes to recount the good and difficult.  With the hectic and crazy schedules we all manage, take some time to reflect on your accomplishments and create a “scorecard” to assess your endeavors.  I love the following quote “My belief is stronger than your doubt.”
  4. Trust in the process your team created: If you bought a ticket for a train and started through a 4-mile dark tunnel, you don’t throw the ticket off and look to hop off during the first ¼ mile of the darkness.  You trust that the train will get through.  The same thing goes through the process of overcoming adverse events.  You created a plan with your team, you asked all the right questions, and you are positively and consistently influencing the plan.  While agility and making changes may be warranted, make sure those modifications are still answering the same initial questions.

Hopefully, every person reading this has a Phyllis in their lives.  She hardly missed any games after the accident, and the emotions we all shared watching her share hugs with the team after her first game back was something we will never forget.  In addition to her stand-up comedy, Phyllis has become an inspirational humorist, performing at churches, clubs, and organizations.  This past November, she spoke at the Durham VA Amputee Support Group. She has also become a Handicapped Accessibility Warrior, working with local school systems and Parks & Recreation departments to ensure accessibility is present and enforced. She literally infuses happiness and laughter into others through the most challenging of circumstances.  We all could learn something from Phyllis and how to handle adversity with a “Healing with Humor” mindset.

Well Done > Well Said