E16 – What is a Crisis? with Ross Hardy – Expert Interview

E16 – Interview With Crisis Negotiator, Ross Hardy

Ross Hardy spent a decade as a cliff-edge crisis negotiator at one of the world’s most notorious suicide spots. The team he founded and led there became the busiest search and rescue team in the UK and has rescued 1000’s of people to date. The leadership lessons that he learned in those years, he now teaches through Discovery Hope, a UK based leadership consultancy. His latest online course Smart Thinking For Times of Crisis is available on Udemy and teaches tools for self, team, and organisational leadership for times of crisis and high pressure.
What is a Crisis, Ross Hardy Interview

You Can Read the Transcript of Our Interview Below:

Nathan Simmonds:

Welcome to another Sticky Interview with MBM, Making Business Matter. It’s the home of, and soft skills provider to the retail and manufacturing industry of the UK. This podcast, the whole idea about this podcast is to be sharing great thinkers, and great concepts, and great ideas with you, to help you be the best version of yourself, especially in this time that we’re living in right now with the crisis that are happening.

Nathan Simmonds:

Today, sharing the interview space with Ross Hardy, someone who’s got phenomenal experience in crisis situations, in crisis negotiation, in crisis communication. And I’ll introduce him shortly with a little excerpt from his bio, which is astonishing reading, and it comes with astonishing experiences. Ross Hardy spent a decade as a cliff edge crisis negotiator in one of the worlds most notorious suicide spots. The team he founded and led there became the busiest search and rescue team in the UK, and has rescued thousands of people to date.

Nathan Simmonds:

Just to add a little note in there, I live just down the road from this spot, Ross and I know the areas very well, locality and geographically. And yeah, world famous. The leadership lessons that he learned in those years, he now teaches through Discovery Hope, a UK based leadership consultancy.

Nathan Simmonds:

His latest online course, Smart Thinking for Times of Crisis, is available on Udemy we’ll talk a bit more about that later, and teaches tools for self, team, and organizational leaders for times of crisis and high pressure. It’s not just about today, in the day and age of COVID-19, it’s about the crisis that was probably on people’s tables 12 weeks ago, it’s all about the crisis that will be on people’s tables 24 weeks from now. This may be unprecedented times, but these are not unprecedented circumstances, or ways of thinking. This is why it’s vital.

Nathan Simmonds:

Ross, massive thanks for being here, really appreciate you taking the time to have this conversation. Going to dive straight into this with some of the things. I want to find out why you do what you do. We’ve had a little bit of a conversation. I want to find out why you do what you do, and I want you to tell the world why you do what you do.

Ross Hardy:

Okay. Well firstly, as you mentioned, I spent 10 years as a crisis negotiator. I led a team of crisis negotiators on a cliff edge, dealing with people who were coming out to end their lives. Some actually from all over the world to that single spot. And in that time, I had an awful lot of experiences of people in crisis of course, learning how to manage people in crisis, throughout crisis negotiation techniques that we would use, and also learning how to lead myself, to lead a team, and to lead an organization that’s dealing with crisis on a daily basis.

The crisis of people who were coming to Beachy Head, that’s the place I was based, with the intention of ending their lives. But also, the kind of crisis that normal organizations come across, and crisis that were unique to that organization, the risks of the life of a team, the challenges in fund raising, and lots of different things that were associated around a kind of unusual workspace if you like.

Ross Hardy:

So that was my experience for 10 years. And as I stepped out of that, I realized that I’d began to realize that there were so many opportunities to share the skills, and the learning that I developed over that time with others, particularly in how we manage ourselves, our teams, and our organizations in preparation for, and during times of crisis.

Ross Hardy:

So that’s primarily why I do what I do, because I’m passionate about leaders, I’m passionate about leaders ability to influence the world, to influence their world, to transform their organizations, to actually build organizations that really make a difference. And so I’m very excited to help equip leaders to be better equipped to manage themselves, their teams, and their organizations during those challenging times that we face. And obviously, at the time of we’re doing this, of course, particularly challenging times with the pandemic, Coronavirus and all the lockdowns.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah. And I think the interesting crossover, you talked about that leadership of the self. So the skills that you learned going through that process, and then how you reapplied them to yourself, super important. One thing that I am a big proponent of is self-leadership first. You cannot give more to someone else than you have yourself, therefore, if you’re not able to take the lead on yourself, you cannot lead a situation.

Nathan Simmonds:

And no one managed their way out of a crisis. It takes leaders, internally, externally; full-works. So it’s interesting, when you’re looking at, say, a suicide hotspot like that, where people don’t know, and I’m aware of the sensitivity of this, they don’t know what the next step is, they can’t see the next future step, and they can’t lead themselves out of that situation. So the only course of action they have, is to complete in that exercise.

Nathan Simmonds:

And again, scale up, you transfer that over into business. Business people making themselves redundant, or taking actions which aren’t appropriate to the growth of that business in tricky situations. It’s the same kind of thinking that creates that detrimental outcome, I think is the closest I can get to that.

Ross Hardy:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

Super important. So how did you become a crisis negotiator? Because I mean, it’s not kind of the line of work you suddenly look for a job, “Oh, look, there’s a post in the Job Center, I think I’ll go and do that because it sounds interesting.” There’s a calling that comes with that for sure, Ross.

Ross Hardy:

Absolutely. I mean, I actually, I used to be a church leader. Led a couple of churches, spent a whole number of years leading churches. And I was actually just praying one Sunday morning, and then I got such an impression about … I live local to this suicide spot. And I knew the situations that were going on there, and they were in the paper week in, week out, the recoveries, and so on.

Ross Hardy:

And so it was very much something I’ve been aware of for many years. But I just suddenly really got such an impression about the importance of reaching these people. And I had, in my mind, this picture of these two people paroling Beachy Head, reaching out to the suicidal, actually going out, and interacting with people on the cliff edge, and actually hopefully interacting with them in such a way to deescalate crisis, and get them to choose life.

Ross Hardy:

And so it really started from there. I had started actually with very little clue of how to do it. We just started putting things together. And we learnt a lot from some materials we had from the FBI crisis negotiation units in Quantico. Also, we had bits and pieces from various different sources that we brought together to start to develop a training to actually implement crisis negotiation with these people at Beachy Head.

Ross Hardy:

So it took us about a year from that moment. I think it was a year and one week before we became operational. And we started with a little team of six. So yeah, so that was back in 2003, and we began in August 2004.

Nathan Simmonds:

I’ve got to ask you though, there is a level of sensitivity with what you were working in at this point. And I’m aware, working in middle management groups predominantly, that there is a reticence to ask questions, there is a hesitation to get involved with people where mental health is prevalent. So whether it’s an anxiety attack, PTSD, different whatever. A lot of leaders feel nervous about asking the right question, or asking any question, because they feel it may be right or wrong, it may be taken the wrong way, they have a fear it may make the situation worse.

Nathan Simmonds:

So in having that fear, they then therefore, they don’t take any action at all. How do you do about ratifying your content, your questions, and your approaches before you go out there on the edge, and actually go into the ‘real’ as it were?

Ross Hardy:

Well one of the things we actually realized quite quickly as we began to assess how best to negotiate a crisis, hopefully for someone to choose life. We realized actually, we couldn’t beat around the bush. We couldn’t actually, we couldn’t kind of side step the major questions. So we actually had to begin to face the crisis people were struggling with head on.

Ross Hardy:

Now, there were variations in this, but they would … And it’s extreme, it would be, the person that I was convinced was suicidal on a cliff edge, I would simply, one of my first questions after introducing myself would be, “So what’s brought you to the point of wanting to commit suicide?” I would get directly to the point that they, of why they’ve come there, and what was in their mind, and then we’d talk from there.

Ross Hardy:

Then we’ve … I’ve already said, “Actually, it’s safe to talk about this stuff. You’re not going to suddenly surprise me, you’re not going to suddenly overwhelm me with your response.” And I think that’s often what can happen in our communication. We’re so good at replying to, “How are you?” With, “Fine, how are you?” It’s our kind of very British way. And we can often side step the real issues that people are going through.

Ross Hardy:

And so, in the extreme, we would get directly to the point. Now, aside from that, I would actually stop, and I’d ask someone, “How are you? What’s going on?” I’d ask them some kind of open questions, and give them space to actually begin to talk, and then I’d listen. And then from that, I’d begin to pick up the signals, and the concerns.

Ross Hardy:

But one thing I would always say to someone, if they’re ever concerned about someone’s welfare, the best thing you can do is to actually be fairly direct, kind but direct, in asking someone actually, “How are you? What’s going on with this? Are you okay?” Or to the extreme obviously, if you’re concerned with someone’s welfare, and whether they might harm themselves, “Are you feeling suicidal?”

Nathan Simmonds:

I’ve learned that you can say absolutely anything to anybody, as long as you say it with absolute love and respect.

Ross Hardy:

Absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

If you genuinely have a concern about someone’s mental wellbeing, physical wellbeing, purely getting involved and asking the question, from a place of that love and respect, from genuine curiosity as a leader to support the people in your team, develop those people, you can ask them, “How are you?” And create the space where, actually, they’ve got time to think about that, and formulate a response.

Ross Hardy:

Yeah, absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

And I think the point you were raising is, people mincing the words, and they’re saying, “How are you?” I can’t remember where the quote comes from, I’ve heard it, and it’s about language being the tool for us to make excuses, and cover things up. So we say these pleasantries in passing, yet they don’t mean anything, and they’re hollow until we actually sit in that space and go, “I’ve observed this, I’m worried about this, I care about you in this form, I would like to know what’s happening here?” And going to the heart of the matter.

Ross Hardy:

Absolutely. And the key with all of this is, it’s not just about asking the questions, it’s about listening. And it’s not just listening with a number of techniques, because there are some active listening, or it’s active listening techniques are fantastic. But ultimately, if we’re not listening to understand someone, and we’re not listening in order to let them know that we’re understanding them, then actually, we’ve kind of missed the mark.

Ross Hardy:

But if we give people space, if we’re asking questions, and actually we’re stopping, and we’re giving people space to respond honestly, and we’re saying, “It’s okay, you can respond honestly, you can respond with challenging stuff, you don’t have to pretend to be all right.” Then actually, we begin to see people open up, and begin to share what’s really going on. And that in itself is the most powerful thing we can do for any individual person. The power of listening is an incredible tool, I can’t underestimate its importance, and it’s value.

Ross Hardy:

One of the things we used to find on a crisis negotiation, I mean, I once dealt with a person who had just murdered someone. They’d killed someone, and came to the clifftop with the intention of ending their life. That’s a pretty challenging negotiation. They know that actually, behind me, okay, 100 meters behind me, but behind me are the police. And those police are going to have to arrest that person, and she’s going to spend however long in prison from that moment on.

Ross Hardy:

And she knows that situation is going to happen. But I’m there, and I’m listening to her, thinking to myself, “My goodness, how am I going to help this person? She’s going to die, she wants to die. In one sense, there’s no reason for her to live at this precise moment in time. All she can see is a moment ahead, which is going to involve prison, and incarceration.”

Ross Hardy:

And I realized then, through some of the things, perhaps we’ll get onto in a little but, actually in managing our own smart thinking, that I actually had to change that way of thinking. I realized of course, listening is the best thing I can do. If I can just listen to this person, then in the greatest likelihood, she’s going to choose to live. And actually, she did. And it was an incredible story.

Ross Hardy:

But she chose to live. But it took simply listening to her. So that listening in itself deescalates internal crisis in people in a massive way, it’s a powerful, powerful tool. It’s the greatest tool we have for demonstrating empathy, for building rapport. And it really, it’s a significant tool for crisis, but actually for any situation where we’re dealing with other people.

Nathan Simmonds:

Agreed. And we teach that as part of the coaching courses that we run. And what you can learn about someone in less than seven minutes, when you actually pay attention, is mind blowing for some people. They may have worked with these people for seven years, and in seven minutes of focused listening just to that individual, they find out more than they ever knew in that seven year period. And the relationship completely changes, because they’re just listening, but they’re actually actively paying attention to that individual for the individual, not for themselves.

Ross Hardy:

Yup, absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

That’s amazing. Where does this then cross over? So I want to talk about how we bridge into this space in a little bit. So how does what you learned on the cliff edge, quite literally, how does that then kind of transfer into the business world that you’re now working?

Ross Hardy:

Well I think the first thing, and you mentioned this earlier on, the most important thing in leadership is how we lead ourselves first and foremost. Actually, if we can’t lead ourselves well, then everything else is going to be less than perfect from that moment onwards.

Ross Hardy:

And so, one of the skills that we had to learn within the crisis negotiation environment was actually how to manage ourselves when under anxiety. Because if you imagine, if you’re dealing with someone on a cliff edge, so for example, you’re dealing with an intoxicated teenager walking along on the edge of a cliff, and I mean, literally on the last inch or two of a cliff, can’t stand up straight, walking backwards and forwards, talking to you, highly agitated. They’re going through a major crisis, but that will certainly cause anxiety to the person doing the negotiation. Every moment, your kind of hearts in your mouth.

Ross Hardy:

And actually, you begin to realize, you have to manage that anxiety, because there’s a really significant thing about anxiety, it can have its plus points, it can spur us on, it can encourage us, it can cause us to act, it can cause us to move. But actually, any of us that have experienced a heavy level of anxiety will also recognize that feeling of not being able to make a decision, to feeling stuck, to feeling confused, to feeling unsure really which way to go.

Ross Hardy:

And sort of scientific kind of studies in the last few years have begun to discover more and more about why that is. And one of those studies discovered that the neurons in the prefrontal cortex, that executive part of our brain, are disrupted during times of anxiety response.

Ross Hardy:

So actually, when you think about it, that executive part of our brain, that’s the part we use for planning, and decision making, and problem solving, self-control, acting with long term goals in mind, controlling kind of reflexive behaviours that would be really short sighted. All the kind of things that we desperately need to be operating to 100% in, and controlling during a crisis. And yet, anxiety itself disrupts the neurons in that part of our brain.

Ross Hardy:

So it actually affects our ability to think smartly. So, there’s a real need in our self-leadership for deescalating anxiety, and reengaging smart thinking. And there’s some really simple tools that we would use for that. The first of those is emotion labelling. So, it’s part of our kind of emotional intelligence kind of armoury, it’s part of our knowing ourselves, and it’s about stopping and saying, “What is it I’m feeling?” And actually looking to label it, not just assuming it’s just some negative thought or emotion here, but actually, what is that feeling? What name would I give it? It might be anxiety, it might be dread, it might be terror, it might be, “I just feel down in the dumps.” Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter in one sense getting it exactly right, it’s a personal understanding of what you identify that emotion to be.

Ross Hardy:

But as part of the process of looking at it, and understanding it, there’s a de-escalation that actually goes on in that emotion. We begin to almost, it’s a little bit like, imagine being out at sea in a little boat. And there’s one thing being stuff in the middle of a fog bank, yeah, you can’t see which way is which, you don’t know which way to head. But if you were to move yourself 100 meters out from that fog bank, yes, you can see the fog bank, it’s still there, it still exists, but it’s a whole different thing. Now you’re in the sunlight, and you can see all the other environment around you, all the other options that are around you. You can see how to navigate around that fog bank.

Ross Hardy:

So in one sense, what happens is, we label our emotions, we begin to step out of the intensity, of the feelings of those emotions, and we begin to see them from a distance. So we’re actually looking at a kind of a bigger picture of it. We step out of the fog bank, we begin to see it for what it is. But actually, the process of trying to understand it, and label it has actually drawn us out from being within the midst of its negative expression, to a little bit removed. The fog bank is still there, we still might sense the coldness on the breeze, but we’re not actually immersed in it to the same degree.

Ross Hardy:

So that’s the first thing. The second thing then is identifying the thought that the emotion rode in on. So more often than not, say, take that example I was talking about in crisis negotiation a little while ago, my anxiety was, “I can’t help this lady, she’s going to die.” So that was the thought it was riding in on, “I can’t help this lady, she’s going to die.” But that thought carried anxiety. So I suddenly felt anxiety. And that anxiety starts to disrupt my smart thinking. All of a sudden, ah, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know which way to turn, I don’t know how to help her. I’m starting to get more caught up in what I’m doing, and what I’m thinking than her, and actually in helping her because I’m getting anxious about the lack of possibilities sin front of me.

Ross Hardy:

So in that moment of time, and it’s possible to do this even whilst you’re actively listening to someone, I caught hold of that emotion. I said, “I’m feeling anxious, this is why I’m feeling anxious.” I identified those two things immediately. It began to deescalate that negative emotion. And as it began to deescalate that negative emotion, it started to also reengage that prefrontal cortex, it started to reengage that smart executive thinking.

Ross Hardy:

So that was the first two stages. The next stage then is cognitive reappraisal. It’s taking a hold of that thought that that negative emotion was riding in on, and changing it to be more positive. Or if you can’t make it positive, at least more neutral than negative.

Ross Hardy:

So we’re changing that thought. So I’m taking that thought, “There’s nothing I can do to help this lady, she’s going to die.” I’m taking that thought, and I’m saying, “I don’t know … I know this lady is going to have a challenging future if she chooses to live. But I know, at this moment in time, I can at least listen to her, that’s the most powerful thing I can do. And I’d give her the greatest chance for survival.”

Ross Hardy:

So I’d begin to take hold of a different thought that, actually, I can listen to her, and that’s powerful. And in doing so, I start to, that more positive thought carries with it more positive emotions. Hope if rising up for me, expectation is rising up for me. In one sense, I’m taking another step back from the fog bank, I’m beginning to see more possibilities to navigate around this situation than I did do before. And it’s deescalating again those negative emotions even further, and reengaging that smart thinking. So I’m beginning to have more effective planning, decision making, problem solving skills. They’re being reengaged as my executive thinking is being reengaged.

Ross Hardy:

So those skills, for self-leadership are really significant, because if we don’t realize that smart thinking is disempowered by anxiety and negative emotions. But we don’t realize that our thinking is becoming more and more flawed the further we go into a deep and significant crisis.

Nathan Simmonds:

Huge value in all of that. And I know, from kind of a neurological point of view, what happens is, the primordial brain kicks in, your amygdala starts going absolutely crazy, the neocortex shut down as the blood starts getting squeezed out, and you’re thinking with your four F’s, your fight, flight, flock, and freeze. So your natural instincts are starting to kick in, but that logic, that data processing, that problem solving has gone out the window, which is completely normal because what your brain doesn’t want you to do is start counting how many teeth the tigers got when the tigers come to kill you, it wants you to move. I get it.

Nathan Simmonds:

But the problem with that is, is your brain cannot differentiate between a job interview and a tiger attack. And you talk about that anxiety kicking in is now, okay, where is what am I focusing on? Am I focusing on how good I think people think I am? All those things. So that time of crisis becomes a job interview for some people. For other people, it might be a murder situation. The brain shuts down, we go into this kind of this survival instinct, and all we can come up with is, is a solution that closes that off as quickly as possible in one way, shape, or form.

Nathan Simmonds:

Amazing points you added in there. Emotion labelling, where did the emotion ride in on? And cognitive reappraisal. The one thing that I picked up in your language, and I’ve shared part of this with other people, and we shared this with our daughter as well, is people saying, “I’m angry. I’m upset. I’m anxious.” When you’re not those things. And your language was as, “I’m feeling anxious. I’m feeling angry.” You’re, it’s not categorizing it, you’re kind of partitioning it to a, it’s a sensation you’re feeling. You are not the emotion. You are not lost in the emotion, you are Ross experiencing the emotion.

Nathan Simmonds:

And then, like I say, you do that cognitive reappraisal, “Oh, I’m feeling like this. Okay, what’s the reverse of that? Okay, where can I find value in that? What’s the positive opposite? Okay, how do I shift that up and move it forward?” So that we shift the mindset, we readjust kind of the focus and the importance, and then we go to that direction. Well actually, based on what I can see, now what can I do with this? What can I do differently?

Ross Hardy:

Yeah. Absolutely. I think so often, I mean, just take the example I just gave you with the fog bank. The boat in the fog bank isn’t the fog bank, it’s experiencing a moment in time, in the atmosphere that is actually affecting the people on that boat’s ability to see, and to act. It’s restricting them in certain ways.

Ross Hardy:

And actually, when we begin to realize that there is a way for us to step back … Now, we can deescalate anxiety. I’m not saying that we have a magic pill, and all of a sudden anxiety is gone and everything is fine. It’s not like that. But actually, we can deescalate it to the extent that we can kind of reverse course, and step out of that fog bank. And then we can beginning to manage things in a different way.

Ross Hardy:

We begin to see that, yeah, it isn’t us, it’s an experience we’re having, it’s a moment in time, it’s something that is happening to us, it is a response that is going on within us, but it isn’t us. It’s not our identity. And this is so important as well when we look to what we believe about ourselves, and many of those that find themselves in personal crisis have begun to believe things about themselves that aren’t true, their understanding is shaped on their experiences, and they’re starting, as you said, almost to identify themselves with the feelings that they’re feeling. And they are very different things, so.

Nathan Simmonds:

And that’s huge. Because what you’re thinking about in that crisis situation, you’re standing on the edge of the cliff and you’ve got that hopelessness potentially kicking in “This woman has got some serious stuff in front of her. Am I skilled enough? Am I capable of doing this? What will people think if she completes? What will people think of me.” All of that stuff starts to swim around. And it just starts to turn into this whirlwind, an absolute storm.

Ross Hardy:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

There’s certain elements I teach. One, when you’re talking to someone, and you’re giving feedback, or you’re coaching, whether it’s a crisis situation, whatever, is what you think of people is how you treat them. And I didn’t learn this till much later in my life. But the content of your head dictates the content of your mouth. So if you start thinking that this woman is going to complete, the content of your mouth is going to start projecting words, intonation, cadence, whatever, that’s actually going to encourage that to happen.

Ross Hardy:

Absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:        And then what you think of a situation is what it becomes. If you truly believe that you could not have done that, or could not have resolved, and got the best possible outcome out of that situation, you wouldn’t have been striving to make it happen. Your actions then would have betrayed you, and would have gone to actually what you were thinking about.

Ross Hardy:

That’s right.

Nathan Simmonds:

And that last stage that I share with people is, what you think of yourself is what you’ll achieve. So if actually, you are on the edge of the cliff, and you’re the person that’s looking to complete at that point in time, what you think of yourself is what you’ll achieve. If you’re the person doing the crisis negotiation again, if you think you’ve got the skills to actually overachieve, and over deliver that, then you’re more likely to actually succeed in that environment, in that space.

Ross Hardy:

Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. What you’re thinking is so key, because as you say, we’re going to betray what we’re thinking by what we begin to say, how we begin to act. We can all equally begin to … One of the interesting things I find very helpful is how I can change some of my thinking by what I declare with my mouth. So I’m very intentional to say certain things, to make certain statements about myself because I know that I have a tendency to think the opposite, to think some negative thing. So instead, I would start to make some declaration.

Ross Hardy:

It might be, for example, sharing … The information I have is valuable to other people, and that actually, they will value hearing it. So I might have a negative thought about that going, “Well no one wants to hear this, this isn’t of any interest to anybody.” That’s a lie, but it’s going to start to affect the way I communicate, it’s going to start to affect the kind of influence I have on other people, they’re going to start to feel there’s something not quite comfortable here. It becomes a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. We start to actually almost push people away by how we’re reacting to our thinking.

Ross Hardy:

So in a situation like that, I would start to say to myself, “Actually, I have valuable things to share, I have information that’s important for other people to hear. The things that I have to share actually can make a massive difference to people’s way of life, to people’s leadership, and so on.” So actually, I’m making an intentional kind of declaration. And in doing so, I’m kind of readjusting some of those thoughts. And I’m intentionally starting to replace that thought, and those words with the right words so I can begin to adjust course with my thinking.

Ross Hardy:

And I think, to use another kind of ship analogy, some of those thoughts, they’re quite significant. Maybe they’ve been going on for a long time. They’re a little bit more like the big old tankers. Sometimes they take a little bit of turning. We have to keep working, keep working. We’re not going to turn on a 6 pence, it may take a few miles of kind of turning the wheel, and speaking the right things.

But actually, if we’re consistent in those kind of decelerations, and consistent in taking hold of those thoughts, and that cognitive reappraisal I was talking about earlier, taking thought, and making it more positive. Then soon enough, it becomes a behaviour, it becomes something that’s part of us, it’s not something we’re having to do, it’s something that we are, it’s something that really is being expressed through us even in the challenging times. It’s our go to response even in a negative moment. But it sometimes takes a bit of work to establish that.

Nathan Simmonds:

And you’re right, it does. Something is journaling positive confirmation. So when you have these moments, when you’re working in a training room and delivering content, and someone in the room says something ah, penny dropped. “That’s amazing, I said the right thing, I approached it in the right way.”

Nathan Simmonds:

When I do the live trainings, when I’m doing that, okay, I’ve said the right thing, I’ve included the right part, how do I make sure I do that again? Because we’re capable of doing those things, it’s just, like you say, that voice of the critic kicks in, “Oh, yeah, but that was yesterday, you’re not as good today.” Well actually, I did it yesterday, so therefore, I can do it again today. I can go into this conversation with those skills, and the things that I learned from last time. And do you know what? Maybe last time wasn’t the best version of me. Maybe it was only 60%. I know it was 60%. So therefore, what can I do to adjust it to make it 70% today?

Nathan Simmonds:

And you just keep taking those steps to keep moving the mindset, and the capacity, and the ability, and just keep doing what you do so well, and layer it, because you know you can, and you know it has an impact, and you know it adds value.

Ross Hardy:

Absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

Huge, huge.

Ross Hardy:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

So let’s get into some definition pieces now then. From kind of a leadership, and a business point of view, what is a time of crisis?

Ross Hardy:

Well a crisis base is going to be any kind of place of intense difficulty or danger. So from a leadership point of view, it can be personal, it can be organization wide, it can be something that the nation is experiencing, or as we’re seeing at the moment, a fairly rare occurrence, but something we’re currently seeing at the time we’re recording this. We’re seeing a crisis that’s across the nations, it’s affecting the majority of the world at the moment because of this pandemic.

Ross Hardy:

And we’re seeing not just a health crisis, but we’re seeing the effects of lockdowns, we’re seeing the effects on business, we’re seeing the effects on individuals, we’re seeing the effects on mental health. When we really stop and consider it, there’s 1,000 different effects of this crisis.

Ross Hardy:

So a crisis can be different depending on the individual, the organization, the team. So some, let’s face it, as a team of crisis negotiators, dealing with someone who’s feeling suicidal was our bread and butter, it was a daily experience for us. If you were a team who suddenly had a member of your team, or someone that was visiting your office suddenly suicidal, and capable of going through with that act in your presence, then that becomes a crisis for your team. So those two events are the same, but for one, it’s sadly normal everyday life, and for another, it’s a crisis.

Ross Hardy:

So I think one of the things to say with crisis is that, what affects one person, or one team, or one organization doesn’t have to affect another person, team, or organization in the same way. It’s whatever we face that causes us, our team, or organization intense difficulty, or danger. Any kind of event leading up to that.

Ross Hardy:

So it could, with an organization, it could be obviously a major recession, it could be the loss of a key client, it could be the loss of a key employee, it could be some failure in the manufacturing process, it could be some kind of loss of our intellectual property. There’s a whole manner of things. It could be an individual’s negative experience, they make a mistake and it causes a kind of ripple through the company. So crisis is one of those words that can cover a multitude of things. All it really needs is that sense of intense difficulty or danger to it.

Nathan Simmonds:

As you were saying there, one man’s crisis, or one person’s crisis may be another person’s normal every day activity. Even boiling it down to the point of running out of company headed paper for an individual while they’re dealing with a complaint, could be the end of their day for them kind of mentally because it’s so frustrating.

Nathan Simmonds:

And like you say, for another person, dealing with those highly volatile situations, those key tipping points, as in Beachy Head and those moments, again, that’s almost every day work for some people, because they’re practiced. And the phrase that I’ve said countless times over the last four, five weeks or so is, “People don’t rise to the expectation, they fall back to the level of training.”

Nathan Simmonds:

So what it is we’re used to doing, what it is we’ve learned to do when we’ve curated that tension, and friction, and stress before the event happens, that’s the stuff that’s going to start to come out when we need to display those skills most. Super important.

Ross Hardy:

Yeah, absolutely.

Nathan Simmonds:

And I think you’ve answered some of it in part, and I’m keen to, if there’s anything to dive into, what causes a crisis?

Ross Hardy:

Well I think, again, that is so difficult, depending on the individual situation. It can be a whole manner of things. When we talk about crisis on an organizational level, which can then obviously spill over to a crisis for individual team members, and for leaders, then the reality with my kind of studying of things is that, is for the majority of it, the cause of the crisis is a lack of being prepared.

Ross Hardy:

So if you look at crisis kind of statistics from around the world, then there’s a massive percentage of crisis affecting organizations that are internal to the organization. So it works out something like, almost three quarters of crisis.

Ross Hardy:

So if you think about that, there is a potential, with the right thinking, the right actions, the right preparations, to avert three quarters of crisis. And but that takes a moment of planning, it takes actually takes a moment of planning, it takes kind of looking and considering the options. Now, earlier on you were asking me about, how do some of those skills that I learnt at Beachy Head, and leading a crisis team there, how they worked out into the business environment.

Ross Hardy:

And obviously we looked at the individual leadership, self-leadership. There’s also team leadership, and the organizational leadership. And if we take organizational leadership as an example, one of the most simple ways to begin to be more crisis proof is to stress test our organizations.

Ross Hardy:

Now, certain aspects of the organization may require more complexity to this. But in its simplest form, stress testing our organization is about taking a potential scenario, and kind of sitting with a few key kind of leaders, or our teams, or whatever, and actually thrashing out what would happen if we experienced this. What would happen if we experienced this?

Ross Hardy:

Now, I used to say, actually, sometimes take a wild one, take an unusual crisis, something you think, “Well, that’s never going to happen.” But take hold of some of these things. Sometimes you can almost have a laugh with those. But actually, you’ve just shown the organization, you realize that it starts to reveal places that are strong, that would perhaps operate very well, and then all of a sudden, glaring inadequacies, or weaknesses.

Ross Hardy:

And it gives us an opportunity then to build in strength. And we can’t necessarily prepare for every single eventuality we’re going face. But if we take a good variation, a good kind of spread of eventualities, and we kind of create scenarios out of those, and we test our organization with it, and think, “How would our organization react?”

Ross Hardy:

We’re going to start to see places that regularly come up as being weak, or needing improvement, or needing change. And if we can then say, “Well okay, let’s begin to create change in that area, let’s begin to build in strength. Or we see an area that’s consistently weak, but we can’t necessarily do anything about it. Well what we can do is build some strength around it that will help support that weak area in a time of crisis.

Ross Hardy:

If we begin to do that, then we know that we’ve suddenly made ourselves far more resilient to a whole load of different crisis. So crisis that we haven’t yet imagined. So at the moment, again, we’re dealing with a worldwide pandemic. It’s not our everyday occurrence, it’s not something that we necessarily even would have considered putting down as part of kind of stress testing, and crisis preparing, and crisis proofing organizations. But it goes to show that the more preparation we do in general, and kind of stress testing organizations, the stronger we can build them so that when we face crisis, we can better navigate them. And hopefully, they’ll be a number of crisis that we never ever going to experience, because we’ve actually prepared beforehand, and filled in those weak places.

Nathan Simmonds:

Yeah, exactly that. And I’ve been part of disaster recovery programs inside of businesses as well, and we’ve done kind of the, almost the stress testing with strange scenarios that you may not think ever happen, but they do happen on occasion, they’re the unexploded World War II bombs in car parks, and stuff that have shut down parks or cities. All that sort of stuff.

Nathan Simmonds:

And I think there’s a certain amount of pressure testing stuff that you have got on a physical level. Testing the fire alarms, you do it on a weekly basis. But even when you do your fire evacuation, actually locking several fire exits so they have to go in a different direction. You pressure test it to see what comes up.

Nathan Simmonds:

The other element is then looking at your curated tension. So potentially not pressure testing but holding a space where we go, “Okay, actually, what do we need to think about this? How do we need to approach this? Is this going to work? What are our competitors going to do? Is this product going to be outdated and obsolete in five years? How do we make that happen in three years so that we can actually bring a new service in that lasts another five years on top of that?”

Nathan Simmonds:

It’s creating those tensions, and those frictions necessarily and intentionally so that you can find the weak points, and you can find the strengths as well. And I think a lot of these things is … I’m trying to think of a good analogy, but it’s … It’s finding out whose got the thinking capacity. It’s an approach, it’s a way we think, it’s a way we communicate. How do we get the right information so that we can give the right tools to the people in our business?

Nathan Simmonds:

Because if I’m thinking, “Okay, the end is nigh.” And I’m running around thinking this is the end of the business, and I pull the drawbridge up, and I’m not communicating out, what message is that sending? How is that supporting the people in the business?

Ross Hardy:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

So it’s finding out whose got the right thinking, who’s got the most smart thinking that’s going to create the outcomes, that’s going to push people forward.

Ross Hardy:

Yeah, yeah. I think that leads to another part that obviously we’ve looked at how we can lead ourselves within a crisis in order to reengage smart thinking. But it then leads on to another part of what we learned on the clifftops was transferable into every day kind of leadership, into team leadership, and into businesses. And that’s actually how we lead our teams during times of crisis.

Ross Hardy:

And again, a lot of that relates to skills that would be at home on a cliff edge in crisis negotiation as they can be within the individual relationships going on within a work environment. And that’s very much based around listening and building empathy, letting people share where they’re at, who they’re … How they’re feeling, why they’re feeling that. Actually giving people opportunity to express what’s going on in the midst of a crisis.

Ross Hardy:

That’s really significant because that is, again, part of the process of deescalating negative emotions, and reengaging smart thinking and then. But if we also make that part of who we are, if we actually care and spare time for our teams, and we actually spend time to, in the midst of all our business, and all the important things that we need to communicate to them, and talk about, but actually, if we make sure that somewhere within those relationships, we’re building time to actually care about the individual, and listen to the individual, then we’re constantly developing empathy.

Ross Hardy:

One of the original kind of models we used at Beachy Head was a model called the behavioural influence stairway model, which the FBI used. And it’s basically about active listening over time. That active listening demonstrates empathy, which builds rapport, which then develops influence. And then we added on, once we got influence, then we could encourage behavioural change. So obviously, on a cliff edge scenario, the person chooses to come back, and chooses to live.

Ross Hardy:

So the reason I’m saying this about how we find the smart thinkers for how we stress test, and crisis proof, and crisis prepare organizations, is that actually, if we go through this with our team, then we can help them understand what they’re feeling, and why when they’re faced with a crisis scenario.

Ross Hardy:

So at the moment, we’ve got teams all over the place, many of them working from home, suddenly faced with lots of challenges, technological challenges that perhaps they’re not used to, and the stuff they’re having to do from home, they’re maybe worried about their jobs, they’re worried about the future, they’re worried about the economy, they’re worried about their families, they’re worried about their health. There’s so many things going on in people’s lives.

Ross Hardy:

And the great thing with kind of active listening is, it works as effectively over phone, or Zoom, or Skype as it does, or FaceTime, as it does face to face on a cliff edge. It’s just as powerful. But actually, there’s this place where, when we’re building and developing empathy, we’re actually letting people explore as you’re asking people open questions. So, “How are you feeling? What’s going on?” Actually giving people space. You’re listening, you’re giving spaces of silence. Letting people actually begin to consider, “What is it I’m really thinking at the moment? What is it I’m really feeling?”

Ross Hardy:

And as they begin to share that, then actually, what are they doing? They’re doing exactly what we did in our first stage of self-leadership. They’re labelling their emotions, and they’re identifying the thought that the emotion is riding in on. So by just talking about those things that you’re listening to them about, giving them space, and asking them to share about, you are actually helping them deescalate the negative emotions, which is reengaging smart thinking.

Ross Hardy:

And then you can use other tools. So we would use what is poshly called, problem solving using collaborative analysis. But ultimately, simply mean, me saying, “Have you thought about …” and offering them a thought to consider. I’m not telling them what to think, I’m not telling them, I’m not saying, “You should do this.” Like I’m their father or something. I’m actually giving them a thought, and I’m saying, “Have you thought about this? Have you considered this?”

Ross Hardy:

It gives someone an opportunity to take hold of that thought, to kind of look at it from every facet, to look at the pros and cons, to talk it through because you’re still listening to them. And actually, when they see that it’s valuable, they can take hold of it from themselves, they could embrace it. And then immediately, they’ve carried on with that process, the third stage of our self-leadership process, collaborative, oh, sorry, cognitive reappraisal. They’ve taken hold of that original negative thought, and they’ve gone, “Actually, this is a better thought. I’m going to think this instead.”

Ross Hardy:

So when we use those kind of skills with our team during a time of crisis, or even just in the general kind of way, in our everyday interactions, then we begin to reengage their smart thinking. And it enables them to think more clearly when we’re faced with crisis, whether it’s a real crisis such as all those things that people are currently experiencing, or whether it’s a crisis scenario.

Ross Hardy:

Because one of the problems we have when we look at crisis scenarios is that if you look at a fairly realistic crisis scenario, it can stir up all the negative emotions, it can stir up the anxiety. We could look and go, “Oh my goodness, the business could fail, I wouldn’t be able to pay my mortgage, I’d lose the house. All of a sudden, it’s blown out of from this one little scenario, to all these feelings connected with all these negative thoughts.

Ross Hardy:

And even though it’s still only a scenario, it’s affecting our smart thinking. We’re not thinking as clearly. So therefore, we can’t plan around it, we’re in the middle of the fog bank, even though it’s a theoretical one that we’re considering, and we don’t know which way to turn to go out, which way is the quickest way out of this fog bank.

Ross Hardy:

But when we’re actually listening to our team, and when we’re speaking to our team, and letting them share what they’re feeling, what they’re thinking, we’re perhaps offering them some thoughts that they can consider for themselves that would be better thoughts to have, we’re actually deescalating those negative emotions, we’re reengaging that smart thinking, they’re stepping out of the fog bank, so they’ll be able to think more effectively, more powerfully, using that executive thinking.

Ross Hardy:

Their planning ability is stronger, their decision-making ability is stronger, their problem solving ability is stronger, their self-control, and controlling any kind of reflexive behaviours, all of those things are stronger. Therefore, they’re going to be far more effective when they’re considering actually how we’re going to manage this potential crisis scenario, and how it would affect our business when we’re stress testing it.

Ross Hardy:

So when we apply that to our teams, then we have a team that are far more effective, they’re going to come up with far better solutions that are going to see problems that they wouldn’t otherwise perhaps have seen, would see solutions that they wouldn’t have otherwise have seen. And therefore, we’re going to be far more crisis proof, and crisis prepared afterwards.

Ross Hardy:

So it’s really a powerful thing just to be listening. So if we apply that on a kind of regular basis to the way we lead our teams, that actually, we care enough to sometimes put aside the busyness of the work that we’re at, to actually say, “This is about you, this is about me understanding you, and making you feel understood.” Then that is such a powerful tool, actually, it brings out of our team members their greatest abilities, their best abilities, it brings them to the top of their game.

Ross Hardy:

And that’s so important, because after all, people are on the team because presumably, they deserve to be there, they’re on the team because they have skills and abilities that actually, you really want as part of your organization. So you want those abilities working to their best. So when we do that in a kind of crisis preparedness way by before we’re stress testing, then we can actually stress test in a kind of deeper and more effective way, because as soon as someone’s dealing with the negative emotions, they know how to manage them. They’re starting to realize, “Yeah, okay, I’m feeling anxious at the moment. This is why. So I’m just replacing that thought.”

Ross Hardy:

And they can then think about something more clearly, because it kind of brings me on to one key thing that, the problem with negative emotions is they are of course unpleasant. They’re designed to make us react for our own, as you were saying earlier, for our own benefit, to survive some dangerous moment, to run away from a wild beast, to escape from the fire, from the dangerous moment.

Ross Hardy:

But actually, left to just keep affecting us over a longer period of time, they’re unpleasant, they have negative effects on our bodies, they actually, they damage us, they don’t help us. So we’ve got this kind of negative experience that comes with the negative emotions. So of course, our normal reaction to that, it’s actually, if we know something causes us anxiety, the biggest danger is from our most likely response, and that is, “That area causes anxiety, so therefore, I’m going to step away from that, I’m going to hide from it, I’m going to ignore it.”

Ross Hardy:

So we could say that the greatest danger for being crisis prepared, whether it be personal, team wide, or organization wide is denial, it’s actually the decision to put aside significant issues because they make us feel uncomfortable, so therefore, we won’t look at them, because then if I don’t look at them, they don’t exist, I won’t feel that way, that will make me feel better.

Ross Hardy:

But it’s not fixed anything. It’s actually made us feel better in that instance, but if there really is a risk involved in that thing we can’t, that crisis scenario we can’t look at, then we’re all right until the day that crisis happens, and then we’re in the midst of it, we’ve done nothing to prepare.

Ross Hardy:

So it’s really important that we’re making sure that our smart thinking is engaged, that we’re managing our emotions so that we can look a crisis in the face and say, “Actually, is this an issue? Is this dangerous? Is this a challenge? How do I need to manage this?” And recognize that, if we’re not consistently working with the emotions, working to deescalate those, that actually, our natural reaction would be to put aside important and serious information that warns us of crisis. Put it to one side so it doesn’t have a negative effect on us, and miss the information that could actually help us save our organization, or better manage a crisis that we’re facing.

Nathan Simmonds:

And it’s that denial that holds us back. I’ve dealt with the workplace anxiety and depression from a personal point of view as well as from a leadership point of view. And talking to a mentor of mine three, four years ago, and he said to me, “Anxiety is the emotion of growth.” It’s that anxiety that we feel, the increased heart rate, the sweaty palms, the discomfort, it means you’re actually at the edge of our comfort zones, it means actually, we’re going to take a step forward into something we have, into uncharted territory.

Nathan Simmonds:

And this is what leadership is truly about. It’s about going up front and being out there. The anxiety, from my personal perspective, the anxiety really turns into a kind of general anxiety … What’s the word I’m looking for? Kind of diagnosis. That’s when we are in that denial, and we never face up to it. Because it will always sit there in the back of our mind. And the next time we go for a job interview, “Oh, no, I won’t do it.” And that level of anxiety steadily builds up, and it compounds over time.

Nathan Simmonds:

So again, if you scale that up to people dealing with crisis situation in their businesses, I’m not going to deal with that situation because it feels uncomfortable, I’ll deny it, then something happens, then your business shuts down.

Ross Hardy:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

Because you haven’t faced into what it is it’s teaching you. There were so many things you covered in there. One of them also popped in there was you talk about kind of that future proofing, how we communicate to people. Okay, are we communicating in a way to people where they will follow our lead. Where they will support themselves, where we’re teaching them how to manage their own, and take the lead on their own feelings, etc?

Nathan Simmonds:

And again, something else I learned was, the future is just a made up version of what might happen with your imagination and your emotions escalating and deescalating bits that it thinks are most important at that point in time. But in truth, it is all just fantasy. Some of it may be right, some of it might be wrong. But your brain has no way to differentiate between what’s actually real, and what’s actually right now. So your brain starts going into overload. Your brain chemicals are all over the place.

Nathan Simmonds:

And again, it comes down to, what’s the next best action? Well if you haven’t engaged and invoked your smart thinking, that logical, some of that rational, a lot of some of the emotional content, you’re not going to make a decision that’s going to be supportive of the whole, of the organization, of the company. And it’s not just going to be a detriment to yourself, it’s going to be the people that are in your network, it’s going to be people that are next to you.

Nathan Simmonds:

Now, and the last point before we start getting into something that I was going to ask, and I think you covered in, how do you communicate in a crisis? You covered that eloquently. Communication in a crisis is about listening, it’s about the direct questions. And some of the key things you were talking about. We’ve designed a new model, a deck of coaching cue cards, per se, for the leader, for the mental health first aider.

Nathan Simmonds:

And we’ve designed it on a model called MIND.

M is all about mindset. And that is, where are you right now? How are you looking at it? Are you in the fog bank?

I is for important. So it’s actually, what are you putting the importance on? Where are you putting your focus of attention? And actually, is there a better place, or better angle to be putting that importance? So if you step out of the fog bank, okay, what’s important? Well actually, I need to get there. Okay, what have you got available to you that’s going to make that shift in that?

Nathan Simmonds:

And then the N, which for us in the MIND, is network. Who’s around you? In your crisis team? Your support mechanism? Who can you learn from? Who can help you in this moment of time? Based on the actions that you might take, or you’re going to take, who else does it impact? And how does it affect their lives? Those sorts of things.

And then that D part, you talked about from stress testing, it’s coming up with actions. D stands for direction. Actually, based on all that information, what do I want to do right now that helps me to move forward, and progress, and create that next positive steps?

Nathan Simmonds:

So I can start creating an action plan. And again, I can’t remember the quote, it was the singer, and she says, “Action is the antidote to despair.” It’s the inaction, it’s the stuck in the moment that causes the problem from a company point of view, personal point of view, leadership point of view. Inaction is going to cause us the biggest problem.

Ross Hardy:

Yeah.

Nathan Simmonds:

Shift the focus, come out of the fog bank, look to see what you got available, where you going. What am I putting the importance on? Is it on the fog bank, or is it getting home? Who is going to help me do this? Who is in my network. And then, okay, take action and move it. Like you talked about from those FBI models and those ideas. Phenomenal having those questioning skills of yourself to make it happen. Huge value in this. Huge value in what you do, and how you’re helping people, and what you’ve already done. How old are you now, Ross?

Ross Hardy:

Just coming up to 46.

Nathan Simmonds:

46. A life well lived with a lot more to bring yet to come. Phenomenal. From me, and from everyone else’s lives that you have touched, and all those people, thank you to you, appreciate everything that you’ve done so far. Crickey, there’s another at least 50, 55 years in both of us to create more huge impacts.

Nathan Simmonds:

Big question from me then. You’re doing this crisis, thinking, smart thinking, you’re supporting businesses that are going through stress testing, and curated tensions, and supporting training potentially of people that are still having these conversations. How do you make behavioural change stick?

Ross Hardy:

Well the reality is that people can do, and they can do training, and they can hear the right messages, with the right actions on them 100 times, but actually, until we start to internalize it, it’s of course going to have no effect. Lots of people go away from trainings, and go, “This is fantastic, this is really good stuff.” Never do anything about it after maybe a week, and it’s …

Ross Hardy:

So the key really is that there are a number of different things. I think ultimately, it always starts with thinking. And it starts with thinking, whether it’s in ourselves, or whether it’s with other people. When there’s a behavioural change, so for example, the whole issue of dealing with reengaging our smart thinking, of facing how anxiety is, of course a regular kind of enemy if you like for us dealing with crisis negotiation because of the risks to others, and ourselves, and all the things that are going on, sometimes many times a day.

Ross Hardy:

We realized that actually we had to be very intentional. It was kind of like within forced repetitions. We were really intentional to step in, and to practice these skills on a regular basis when we didn’t need them, so that when we did, as you kind of again mentioned earlier on, we step back to how we’ve been trained. And if we step back to our learning, we kind of fall back on those things we’ve been trained in.

Ross Hardy:

And so we know that actually that that’s not the place necessarily to learn. Now, for a lot of people, who are perhaps listening to this, who are already in a crisis, it doesn’t mean these things aren’t effective, they massively are to use there and then. But actually, for behavioural change, to see change within us, it’s about us practicing those important and effective things, particularly about how we know ourselves, how we understand ourselves. Actually taking time out of busy schedules to actually go, “What am I feeling? How am I doing? What are the thoughts that these feelings I’m having are connected with? Are these thoughts positive? Are they effective?” Actually beginning to change those thoughts.

Ross Hardy:

And again, as I said earlier on, part of my tool kit for changing thoughts is actually declaration. So thoughts, yes, will affect what comes out of my mouth. But I can also, if I have an intention to change a negative way of thinking, I can also intentionally make the right words come out of my mouth. I can actually start to make declaration, I can start to declare out of my life certain things, certain ways of thinking, and as I’m doing it, I’m hearing it, I’m receiving it, I’m thinking it, because I’m having to speak it. I’m actually building that in a deeper and deeper way into my way of living. And so therefore, I’m beginning to develop that behavioural change.

Ross Hardy:

And that can be true with our teams. But behavioural change when it comes to helping others, again, there’s a practice of actually how people are thinking. But sometimes, we need to actually share to understand how we’re thinking. So this is where listening is such a powerful tool in behavioural change. It seems almost counterintuitive sometimes. Someone who’s … People used to say to me quite regularly when I told them I was a crisis negotiator, “Oh, you must be brilliant at talking to people.”

Ross Hardy:

And I used to say to them, “Well actually, no, more often than not, I get my words muddled up.” I listen to myself sometimes when I’ve got a recording, and I think, “That made no sense whatsoever.” There’s a kind of babbling of words that sometimes fall out of my mouth. But actually, the key for crisis negotiation is listening. It’s not being an effective speaker, it’s about being an effective listener.

Ross Hardy:

And so behavioural change in others come so often from us listening to them. It’s about them hearing themselves, hearing their thoughts out loud. And they speak what they’re thinking. And often when they begin to speak out what they’re thinking, they begin to realize that. “That’s a good thought.” Or, “That’s a terrible thought. What on earth was I thinking that for?” It comes out into the cold light of day. And in a sense, we’re taking the fog bank again, we’re taking that thought from within the fog bank where it’s hidden away in all this emotion, and they’re drawing it out into the sunlight, and they’re seeing it for what it really is.

Ross Hardy:

And I say, “See it for what it really is.” Then actually gives them the best opportunity to either embrace that thought because it’s a good thought, or to reject that thought, and replace it because it’s a poor thought. And just one thing that came to my mind earlier when you were speaking, thinking about the future, it’s not made yet, it’s a kind of construct of our imagination at this moment in time.

Ross Hardy:

When we often look about taking a thought, and a cognitive reappraisal, we take a thought, and we take a negative thought, and make it more positive, or at least more neutral than it was. One of the comments I used to have quite regularly was, people would say, “Well surely we’re just, we’re making it up.” And I’m saying, “Well yes, that positive thought is a figment of your imagination. It’s not the facts in front of you, it’s your appraisal of what you feel those facts mean.”

Ross Hardy:

But if you think about it, the negative thought is exactly the same thing. It is a figment of our imagination, it is our opinion of the facts. So the fact is, this certain situation is happening, yes, it’s a crisis, it is a time of intense difficulty, or danger, but our opinion of it can vary widely from the very negative, to the very positive, depending on actually how we interpret the facts, and how we then apply them.

Ross Hardy:

So our thinking is central to behavioural change, we know that. But I just think it’s about being intentional. If we’re not intentional, we can dream about this great thing changing our lives for the better. But it remains a dream. We have to be intentional, we have to take hold of something, we have to keep coming back to it, we have to kind of keep embracing something, a way of thinking, a way of acting, a way of living, until actually it becomes part of who we are.

Nathan Simmonds:

Beautifully put. And I think there’s two elements in those. I think a lot of trainers do this. Is when we get to the beginning of a training course, we get people to write their goals down at the beginning of the session, what do you want to get from today? So we create that intention. And they put it up in their own handwriting.

Nathan Simmonds:

And that’s a categoric rule for me is, when you’re setting your intentions, they have to be written in your own handwriting, because you cannot delegate your goals to somebody else. Life rule right there. But it’s interesting when you talking about that declaration. The thing that popped into my head from what we do is actually, how do you want to learn? What experience do you want to have from today’s training session? What do you want to get from this course?

Nathan Simmonds:

And making that declaration out loud. How do you want to learn today? What is your expectation? What values are you going to bring to today to make today a success? And saying out loud, so you can hear it yourself, and kind of creating that feedback loop for the rest of the day, for the rest of that session that you’re sitting in.

Nathan Simmonds:

Huge, huge. Ross, huge value from today. Thank you, huge thanks, as I said earlier, for what you’ve already done, the impact that you’ve created in so many people’s lives, and the ripple effect of that. Thank you for the value that you’ve shared here for today. Last question from me. Where can people find you?

Ross Hardy:

So you can find me on my website, which is discoveryhope.com. So that’s discoveryhope.com. And I also have a, as part of my kind of crisis proofing, crisis preparing, I thought it would be really valuable to put some of this stuff onto an online course. Little did I know what was about to happen. It wasn’t through intention, it was by accident, but two weeks before this big crisis happened that we’re currently facing, I put some of my workshop that I’ve been doing regularly, called Smart Thinking for Times of Crisis into a course on Udemy. And that’s called, Crisis Leadership Skills: Smart Thinking for Times of Crisis. So you can find that on Udemy.

Nathan Simmonds:

I left it on mute. Technical problems. Look, go and find … Thank you, Ross. He was waving at me trying to sign to me to make that happen. Look, go and have a look at Ross’ website, go and have a look at the content that he’s sharing. There is some super fundamental thinking in there that is going to help businesses, entrepreneurs, leaders of all shapes and forms get that clarity of thinking to get the results they need. And go and have a look at the course. This is a time of crisis right now for COVID-19, we get that. However, in 24 weeks’ time, 56, there will be another situation on someone else’s desk causing them this, to reduce this capacity for smart thinking. The steps, the guides, and the approaches that Ross has offered are hugely beneficial.

Nathan Simmonds:

Thank you very much for listening. There’s also going … As I mentioned earlier, the mental health coaching cue cards that we’re building at the moment, they will be available very shortly. There will be a link for these in the comments below. So please, they are a huge amount of value for what they are. If you want to get help, as a leader, to ask the right questions in a crisis situation, some of the questions are going to be in there. Go and get the mindset training as well from Ross, and those approaches, and combine those two elements to create something exceptional that is going to make you stand out in these situations, and create the training that you will fall back on in that times of crisis. Thank you so very much, and we’ll speak to you soon. Cheers, Ross.


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