Leading through Uncertainty Requires You to Be Fearless with Carey Lohrenz

We all feel the stressors of work, family, and the unknown. After last year, leading through uncertainty is a given. Leaders must do more with less information. Today’s guest is Carey Lohrenz who is a former lieutenant in the U.S. Navy who was the second fully qualified female naval aviator to fly the F-14 Tomcat in the U.S. military. Carey is a professional speaker and author of Fearless Leadership. Carey provides her insight on leading through uncertainty with stories that will inspire you. We discuss the modern principles of leadership to help you be a stronger leader. Given the pressures of today’s chaos, leading through uncertainty is more important than ever.

Don't miss an episode. Subscribe to Growth Think Tank.

Carey Lohrenz: The Transcript

About: As the first female F-14 Tomcat Fighter Pilot in the U.S. Navy, Carey Lohrenz is used to working in fast-moving, dynamic environments where inconsistent execution can generate catastrophic results. The same challenges are found in business: markets change, customer needs evolve and if you do not adapt quickly, your company is at risk. In her motivating and engaging keynote presentations, Carey shares her fascinating experiences operating in one of the world’s most challenging environments – an aircraft carrier. She is uniquely qualified in the fundamentals of winning under pressure, reducing errors, and overcoming obstacles. Her mastery of these fundamentals can help your team triumph in this high-risk, time-crunched world.

Share the LOVE and TWEET about this episode.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Carey Lohrenz: My belief and the way I lead and coach and, and, enable executives and teams is that my perspective is everybody is in a leadership position. And that means you are a catalyst, which means that you have to be able to understand what your purpose is so that you can get people aligned very, very quickly so that you get to where you want to go faster in my world. Speed is. I would submit to you right now that everybody listening, the same thing applies, and we need to be able to make decisions quickly. We need to be able to make them formed decisions, and we need to be able to develop a culture of learning where every single person is invested in their own success and their team member’s success.

Intro: Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett: We have to learn to leave the uncertainty, not just because we’ve been in a pandemic, but because there’s always going to be something that we’re uncertain about leading through uncertainty is something I’ve seen as a leader is a very good trait because you want to make sure you’re able to communicate your vision very clearly. You want to make sure you can align people to that vision and really create. The kind of culture and the people experience inside of our companies that allow us to go through these changes. You want to be adaptable in order to do that, you’ve got to have a little bit of a fearlessness approach to leadership. And so I wanted to reach out to someone I thought could bring you a unique conversation. So we have Carey Lohrenz she’s a professional speaker. She is a Tomcat pilot. I could go on and on and on, but she’s written a couple of books on leadership, fearless leadership. She’s got a new one coming out called span of control.

What we talk about today is about leading through uncertainty about what it means to truly align to the purpose, what it means to create the kind of leadership space that allows people to grow and feel empowered all of this inside today’s episode with Carey. When you think about your journey to being an incredible extraordinary leader, make sure that you have everything available to you. If you have any gaps in your skillset and your mindset, I’d love to talk to you about what those may be. You have a question about what’s next for you, or you wish it was different than it is today. That I would love to work with you. My focus is on fast-growth companies. You don’t have to be on the Inc 5,000 to be a client, but you really do want to be hungry for growth and be an extraordinary leader. Just go to genehammett.com. You can find, start your journey up there. We’ll schedule time together. I’d love to talk to you about what’s going in your business. Help you create a game plan, and it’s all at no cost to you. If you’re an ambitious leader and you want to go to the next level and be extraordinary, then just go ahead and go to genehammett.com. Now here’s the interview with Carey.

Hi Carey, how are you?

Carey Lohrenz: Hey, I’m glad to be here. Thanks for having me on today.

Gene Hammett: Excited to talk to you about being fearless and about, you know, really the depths behind that. But before we dive into it, tell us about you, Carey.

Carey Lohrenz: So I was really fortunate. I was one of the United States, Navy’s first female, F-14 Tomcat pilots. So I spent about a decade, flying airplanes, doing some cool stuff, doing lots of global strategic planning. , but it’s also where I learned some of, I think my most indispensable lessons. Not just in leadership, but also in life itself. So I was very fortunate in that time to be able to work with some of the world’s most outstanding team members and some that would provide coaching opportunities as well. Myself more than one occasion, I promise you. , but since that time, since leaving the Navy for about the last 15 years, I’ve been working with fortune one, fortune 500 companies, the Forbes global 2000 Inc 5,000 companies, just like, like your audience, helping people. They’ll not only their own individual leadership skillsets but also to grow and develop high-performing teams on a personal note though, I own my own business. I’m on a couple of boards. I was the president of an association and I have four amazing kids. So I stay pretty busy. I juggle a lot of glass balls on any given day.

Gene Hammett: I’m kind of curious back in the day of flying these jets around you landed on aircraft carriers. Is that fair to say?

Carey Lohrenz: Yes.

Gene Hammett: What do you miss most about just the thrill of, actually being an air flying?

Carey Lohrenz: Oh gosh. Well, I think that for anybody who’s done that there are a couple of elements from the people perspective, definitely. You miss the overwhelming sense of purpose that the teams that you’re on have on whether that’s a role, small team, whether that’s within a squadron when you understand how your Airwing works. But everything being so rooted. Yeah, in purpose and being able to understand pretty clearly what role you played in the success of a  team, I think was actually really powerful. And I find that in addition to people missing the adrenaline, , certainly flying fighters on and off an aircraft carrier gives you a certain jolt of adrenaline. , I think people really miss finding a company or finding a team that generally everybody’s equally as invested in what that stated purposes or shared goal. So I think, I think that purpose piece of it, and obviously the adrenaline, well.

Gene Hammett: Certainly I can say I’ve never been into the armed forces. My dad was in the Navy back in the day. And I can see the purpose being alignment there, but within fast-growth companies, you probably know this. They there’s a lot of them that are very mission-driven and purpose-built. They, that is a driving force in who they hire, how they lead, how they engage with their teams. I know the purpose of work has translated from the Navy into the corporate world, but when you work with your clients, what are you seeing relates to purpose.

Carey Lohrenz: Well, I think that’s, sometimes there can be a struggle, especially if, whether you’re just starting out, you’re a new entrepreneur or you are trying to scale really, really quickly. It’s that the difference between a vision and a purpose, oftentimes I think can get kind of gobbled up and people assume that, Hey. We’ve, you know, they, they see our mission statement. It’s on, it’s on our letterhead or it’s on our front offices or it’s in my unit, email signature. But what you, what we fail to internalize is how you flip that vision, that purpose. Into action. And especially for those companies who maybe got a lucky break or they had a really, really great product or they’re in a great services category and they do find themselves scaling really quickly is that if you, if you lose sight, You lose the fight. That’s one of the things we used to say is we would walk out to our airplanes that regardless of, of how talented your people are, regardless of how clear you might think your mission is, if you lose sight of the most important work you should be doing, you are guaranteed to lose the fight.

And one of the struggles I definitely see right now, it’s still continuing, you know, a year or so, more or less for some people, depending on where they’re listening from, that were in. Pandemic period is that this idea of leading through uncertainty and that will, I’ve told my team, I’ve told my team, I’ve sent an email out. They know what’s most important that they’ve actually, they may not right now, right. The environment is changing. And one of the things that I think we have to be very, very careful about. Well, there are two things. Is that just because you’ve stated your mission or your company values in a three-inch binder or plastered up on a wall somewhere or sent out an email doesn’t mean that people have necessarily internalized that nor are they behaving in a way that supports that. And when we’re working in times of uncertainty, when we’re leading through uncertainty, One of the critical things that each one of us has to be very cognizant of is our teammate’s exposure to, or experience with right now, task, saturation, and stress, and why that matters. Is because all of the research out there and all of the science supports that when people are under profound amounts of stress and duress, they simply do not retain 80% of what you are saying to them.

So for those of you who are listening, who are parents, what you can consider, or if you’ve been a dog owner, not cat owner because that’s a whole different beast. When you are trying to train a puppy or you have young kids. If you consider that the amount of stress that a lot of your teammates, even if times are good right now, but it’s at a crazy changing pace. The amount of stress that your teammates and employees are feeling right now could be blocking 80% of what you’re trying to share with them. So what does that mean? This can, this can lead to technical skill overload. It can lead to information overload. It can definitely lead to burnout or those feelings of overwhelm, but we have to make sure that combined with what we think we’ve articulated as a clear sense of purpose, that we’ve actually communicated this in a really clear, concise way that both empowers and inspires our team. And you know what, that’s a heavy lift for a lot of people. I think a lot of people overestimate their communication skillset and they then underestimate what the potential is in their teammates. But that’s just simply because they haven’t communicated effectively.

Commentary: Carrie just said something really interesting. I want to put a spotlight on it. She talked about task saturation and stress inside of our workplace. Well, what does this really mean for you as a leader? Well, you want to make sure that you’re tuning in beyond just the work that has to be done. You want to make sure you’re really connecting to the person, what this looks like is not just having conversations around metrics and the next milestone and all the things that they see as challenges or roadblocks. But it’s looking at the person and saying, what’s going on in your life. Are you feeling stress? Do you feel okay, with what we’re doing here? What could I do to help you feel better about the work we’re doing now? Those questions may sound a little soft. But they’re meant to be questions that allow you to open up to each other and to really connect on the deeper issues. If someone is feeling stress or someone’s feeling task saturation, you can’t just solve it by removing the tasks from them. You want to connect to them at a personal level, and you want to do that from a coaching approach. That’s my 2 cents on this. If you want to be an extraordinary leader. Back to Carrie.

Carey Lohrenz: Sorry. I feel like it just went on a tangent on that. It’s a bit of a soapbox for me.

Gene Hammett: I want to dive Into the book that you’ve written and share with our audience about being fearless because that’s one reason why you’re here. But the main thing before we get to that is you talked about internalizing values, internalizing, you know, the vision. You said internalize a few different things. So I want to, I don’t want to leave the moment without you explaining what you really mean by internalizing these things.

Carey Lohrenz: So it’s one thing to have, you know, have invested in a really fancy-schmancy vision and value statement and a three-inch binder full of strategic plans and all of this great set of tools that we might think. But it’s another thing to grow within your team, the capacity and the ability to understand that how you show up matters, and the way you show up matters, the way you show up for yourself, for your teammates. Yeah. Your customers for your clients and what this means is that again, endemic to, to growing the foundation of growing a high performing culture, a high performing team means that we have to make sure that we as people in a leadership position, and I would submit to you that my belief and the way I lead and coach and, and, , enable executives and teams, is that my perspective is everybody is in a leadership position. And that means you are a catalyst, which means that you have to be able to understand what your purpose is so that you can get people aligned very, very quickly so that you get to where you want to go faster in my world. Speed is life. I would submit to you right now that everybody listening, the same thing applies, and we need to be able to make decisions quickly. We need to be able to make informed decisions. And we need to be able to develop a culture of learning where every single person is invested in their own success and their team members’ success. And the way we can do that is by having, I call it a PROFESS, , it’s called prepare, perform prevail, but it’s an execution process, again, that you are working to clarify the complex so that everybody knows what the plan is.

IE they know what success looks like at the end of the day that you’re not just saying, I don’t care what you’re doing, just get it done. That they know why their role matters. They know what success looks like. They might get to that end goal differently than you would, but you’ve empowered them to take action to get you to a place that’s more valuable than where you are today. And then, because what we, what we want is we want our day-to-day execution and effect to be, , be boring, not, not fun. But just predictable in so far as that we’re not celebrating firefighting. We’re not, high-fiving the big saves every day or multiple times a day. We want to get rid of those execution errors so that everybody has time to reflect. Everybody has time to learn. You have time to think about what you can implement that can help you outpace the rate of change right now, that’s happening. And you can’t do that. If all you’re doing is firefighting. And celebrating a culture of firefighting and not like actual firefighters. Obviously, we like them but, but these high fives of woo big save woo big save time and time again.

No, like that’s not where it’s at. You want to, you want to be able to celebrate a couple of those, but you want to be able to have a predictable execution rhythm. That allows you to learn very, very quickly what’s working and what’s not. And why, and you can do that by debriefing. So this is where this culture too often right now. And I see it a lot in the IT space. I see it a tremendous amount in any space that’s touching on innovation right now, whether you’re you’re changing the way your, your, , Managing your supply chain or you are working in IT. We talk about, we want really innovative and flexible people, but we’re not actually developing the skillset or having the conversations that support the learning. That’s required to be innovative, to be creative, to get the best performance out of our people. It’s all a replicable ecosystem, but if you don’t stop and think about it for a second and go, does my team actually have the processes to learn? What does our feedback look like? Because you can’t continue to tell people, just show up, you know, you’re you, you matter, just keep, you know, work harder, not smarter work smarter, not harder, whichever that, see, I can’t even get that analogy, right.

Because neither one of those is working. People are burning out because. It’s a fast-moving dynamic environment that we need to encourage a culture of learning and personal responsibility and accountability for the sake of the value of the whole team. I feel like I just said a ton of information in a really short period of time.

Gene Hammett: You are giving us a lot. So I want to take our focus into being fearless because that’s something earlier it’s like, it’s about how you show up and leaders. We’ll say that, they have a certain amount of fear on difficult conversations around changes in the strategy that they’re just, they’re unsure of certain things. And so fear begins to creep in, and I’ve always felt like fear is not something to be avoided, but I want to talk to you about what, what your book really is about, about being fearless.

Carey Lohrenz: Right. So this is, this is not the absence of fear, right? This isn’t that I’m encouraging anybody to just go out with any sort of semblance of false bravado and have somebody go well, Carrie said to take big risks and be bold. Yes, absolutely. You have to do that, but if you’re not standing on a foundation or operating and executing from a foundation that is one based on grabbing lessons learned. You are going to make some potentially tragic or catastrophic errors that could doom yourself or your company as well. So this is about understanding that when you’re pushing the envelope when you are leveling up if you will when you’re operating and navigating chaos and obstacles and barriers, you will feel fear. You will feel a lump in your throat. And what happens is oftentimes people will cross their arms and they’ll sit back and say, I’m just going to wait. I’m just going to wait for a second and I’m going to wait for those guys or those gals or that team to go first [00:17:00] and see how it works for them. But while you’re waiting, somebody is being brave enough or bold enough, or has a learning system, put it in, not from an LMS perspective, a learning habit built within their teams, that the reason they’re able to go forward.

With 80% good enough information. The reason they’re able to quickly adapt and adjust is because they’re not counting on that plan that they built six months ago, or right now, maybe even six weeks ago. And it’s not that they’re dramatically changing lanes, it’s that they’re adapting and adjusting and iterating along the way. So being fearless is. You know, it’s not about winning or losing, but it’s understanding that you need to be able to, you need to be able to feel that fear and you need to be able to overcome that no matter the situation and the only way you can actually do that effectively. And this is 100% scientific. Is to take action and bold fearless action is what drives success. Now, what drives sustained success and relevance in a rapidly changing and challenging marketplace. 100% is going to be predicated on your team and your ability. To learn. And that means you are going to have to hold yourself accountable for learning, and you’re going to have to build in, again, those systems within your team that allow for good debriefing that allow for passing on and shared lessons learned again, from a culture perspective, what does that mean?

Well, for some people, very uncomfortably. So it means you’re going to have to set your ego aside and understand that this debriefing piece and the vulnerability piece. Of being transformative, doing big things in a sustained manner means you’re, you’re going to have to at the end of the day and at the beginning of the day, and in every conversation, stay focused on the fact that this is not about who is right. It’s about. Is right. So if we throw it back into my old stomping grounds for a second into, into the cockpit or into ready rooms where you’re debriefing with very, very intense, very high ego, very performance-driven people, we still have to be able to set our ego aside so that we get to. A better place than where we ended up. And that is how the that’s how the learning happens. Otherwise, you’re going to lose valuable team members. You are going to have disengaged employees who don’t feel like they’re valued and, or, , don’t feel like they matter or their feedback. So this is not all butterflies and unicorns and happy-go-lucky. Ooh, Hey, let’s just throw some unicorn dust on this and debrief and everything’s going to be fine, right? It’s not that this is not like some soft, soft touch. What? I can’t even think what I’m trying to say here. It’s it’s not butterflies and unicorns. This is part work. You get what I’m saying? , but it’s very doable and it’s so accessible for every single team, regardless of your size, regardless of how long you’ve been in business.

Commentary: Carrie, said that the scientific way through, , indecision is to take action. I don’t disagree with that, but let me back up for a second. You want to make sure you take intentional action. Don’t just react to the moment, sit back and reflect for a moment about what really needs to be done. Is this the right approach? Are you the right person to be doing this? That’s a big one. If you want to empower others, you don’t want to just respond. You want to be intentional. Bring this moment to you because extraordinary leaders or intentional to a fault, they really are able to reflect. And maybe it just takes a few breaths to reflect on how they’re going to show up in that moment. To move forward. And that’s what I’m asking of you to create a moment for you to be an extraordinary leader is to be intentional. Then take action back to Carrie.

Gene Hammett: I want to combine two things together here before we wrap up this being fearless and internalizing. Cause I know that many times fear comes from inside of us. If it comes from doubt or worry. And one of the questions I’ll ask my clients and you can kind of chime in on the whole, how this all fits together. But I asked them this question when they’re being indecisive and I go, what decision would you make if you truly trusted yourself?

Carey Lohrenz: So are you asking me what my, what do you want? My responses?

So, so in part, and I think in part, and don’t take this the wrong way. There’s so much out there in social media, whether it’s Instagram, life hacks or motivational guru BS speak, that will tell you, you know, just pretend like you don’t have any fear and just leap. And, and I am a fan. And I believe in there, you ha you will get to a point where you have to leap and the net will appear that being said, if you’re not willing to do the work, the hard gritty work of reflecting of debriefing, of studying, of understanding the numbers in your business, boy o boy, the number, the number of people that I talked to who actually don’t understand the numbers. The numbers in their business or the actual business that they’re in because they, they had a widget, they had an opportunity, they had a service, whatever the case may be, and it just took off that’s that’s when you start to you start to try to serve way too many masters. And at the end of the day, when you dilute your focus, you dilute your power.

So this is all about taking smart. Risks and making good decisions balanced with knowing if you’ve put some processes in place you’re debriefing, you’re asking for feedback. You’re finding problems by red teaming or with a planning checklist. You’re uncovering errors intentionally because we never want to leave success to chance you’ve seen it. I’ve seen it where, you know, a company you’re working with has a really big win. They celebrate, they pop their Champaign woo-hoo they set their new goals, their metrics, and they’re onto the next big thing, but they don’t actually know the mechanics behind how they were successful. You have now left your next success up to luck. That is a dangerous place to be. I’d rather be reasoned and studied and have processes that can discover the failures and the reasons for success. Then thinking, you know, wipe your bow whoop. We got away with that one. That was good. Good work though, team. And just move on to the next thing, because it’s not going to end that way.

Gene Hammett: Carrie, I want to appreciate your intelligence and wisdom and sharing this with us today. I really appreciate you taking the time to, to be here for the audience. Where can our audience find you or get your books?

Carey Lohrenz: Absolutely thrilled to be here careylohrenz.com. I am on all of the social media channels. Well, not all of them, actually. LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, not really Snapchat. No, tik-tok sorry. , and my new book is actually coming out pretty soon. Just a couple of weeks called SpanofControl.com. So I think it’s going to be super helpful, but yeah, just reach out to me and I’m glad to be here.

Thanks for the invite.

Gene Hammett: Well, thanks for being here and I really appreciate it.

Carey Lohrenz: Glad to be here. Thank you.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.




And lastly, please leave a rating and review for the Growth Think Tank on iTunes (or Stitcher) – it will help us in many ways, but it also inspires us to keep doing what we are doing here. Thank you in advance!

If you want more from us check out more interviews:

Transformational Leadership
Productivity Tips
Best Selling Author Interviews