With Laura Russell-Nygard
My second interview of this series is with Laura Russell-Nygard who is Spa & Wellness Director at The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, Montana. Hope you enjoy...
Me: So what is your definition of good leadership?
Laura: Well, good leaders treat people like they want to be treated. They don't just say this, but also do it. Also good leaders hold others' accountable. I will back up anyone on my team, but when someone is an "ass" LOL - I will hold them accountable. Good leaders believe in themselves and get through everyday the best they can. If one day, the "shit hits the fan," LOL - tomorrow is a new day. Especially in the times we are now in, good leaders take things day by day, doing what is best for everyone; themselves, their team, and the business. We all just hope we all get through this in the end. Every day I start with the intention that I am going to have a good day, and spread positivity all day long.
Taking one day at a time, and doing the very best is exactly what great leaders, such as Laura do. Also, knowing that every day will not be "perfect" is something good leaders embrace, as every day is an opportunity to do good and be better.
Me: Do you listen to any podcasts? Read books on leadership?
Laura: I do listen to podcasts, and I do like Ted Talks. I am one of those leaders, who also talks to colleagues and those in the executive team, to bounce ideas around, and share knowledge.
Me: Do you have more meetings with your team now, to help navigate these times?
Laura: Yes, sometimes we all have anxiety attacks together. LOL. We are in times when the world is in an uproar, and we need to hold each other up and give each other kindness, appreciation, etc... We share things, and yes, I am a boss, but my team also knows I am a friend, and we are all part of a work "family." I think it is important that we figure things out together. I like to see what tools I can provide for the individuals on my team to do their jobs better. I like to see how we can help each other, and come together, if this is indeed the "new normal." We do need to come together when the "shit hits the fan," figure it out, and we need to have the tools in place to do our job effectively. We were closed for two months, even though the Resort was open the whole time, so once the Spa opened, and the floodgates opened, we were so busy - it was like we went from zero to one hundred with this "new normal." It was important for us all to get in the groove again, and that takes a team effort.
The hospitality industry has been hit extremely hard, as have many other industries. The last six/seven months or so, has been very challenging for most. Whether this is the "new normal" or just plain "abnormal" - it is what it is. Good leaders like Laura are figuring things out, pulling their teams closer, and finding tools to successfully navigate these times.
Me: How do you think a good leader navigates crisis?
Laura: Well, it is ok for us to fall apart, during this roller coaster ride for a second. It is really important during this roller coaster ride to give each other appreciation, support, and kindness, while getting in a groove again.
Me: So in my last interview, we touched a bit on the topics of empathy and compassion, which seem to be the "buzz" words now, in any recent discussions on leadership, as well as the issues of narcissism in leadership. Many "esteemed" leaders in families, companies, government, management are narcissist, as they tend to be quite arrogant, demeaning towards others, abusive, controlling, overly demanding, and I do not think these people are "good "leaders." It is my opinion that leaders build up others, and most importantly create more leaders; empowering others to be the best versions of themselves. These other types of "narcissistic leaders" tear people down, and their energy is parasitic in nature. They want to be buffed up, and dim the light of all those around them. I think this is quite abusive, self serving, and potentially dangerous to the spirit of individuals.. Thoughts?
Laura: Well, in the past I may have been a bit of an "arrogant" leader. I had to take the time to learn not to be. We are a small spa, and there are 12 of us here and me. I have to be empathetic. It is quite funny that you asked this question, as I was just talking last week with my team about this. I feel like this year, I have had to be more empathetic. I listen more to others' opinions, and I am a better listener. I believe we can all learn from one another. I also know that I need to be a shoulder to cry on. I am more open to listening to other's ideas, as I don't know everything about everything. I think a good leader acknowledges this, and seeks to grow, learn, and evolve and be better. I am also understanding that sometimes taking a step back in my role for a moment, may be what I need to do, so I can recalibrate.
The self awareness Laura has is impressive, as I believe that self awareness is one of the main qualities great leaders have. To be self aware takes a tremendous amount of work and effort, and many do not have the level of self awareness, or the consciousness needed to grow, evolve, and inspire. True leaders inspire others to be their best, as they are doing the same.
Me: I talk with people in the hospitality industry daily, as well as other industries. Many people seem so unhappy and unsatisfied in their work. Any thoughts on this?
Laura: Well, no one is tethering another to a job, or chaining another to a job. There also may be things that can stimulate one to like their job more, and it is the leader's responsibility to talk with the individuals within their team, and chat about things such as this. Many times people can be happy where they are, and do find something they can love and embrace within their work. If someone can not be happy at their work, then possibly, they do need to look in the mirror, and also ask themselves what they are passionate about and why. Taking the plunge to embrace new things can also be a positive step forward.
I agree with Laura that one does need to look in the mirror and ask themselves what they are passionate about, and why. I think this is something we should all do regularly. I do think many are so far away from who they are, their innate talents, gifts, as well as real passions and joys, that they need time to reflect on what did they liked doing as a young child. I think the keys to so much are in one's childhood. We are all born with innate gifts, talents, and joys - things we just love doing. Whether parents, or teachers, or peers, or culture, etc..... most get "programmed" out of who they really are at their core. I believe a true leader wants others to live their gifts, express their talents, and be happy and fulfilled. I agree with Laura, no one is "tethering" another to a job, and the past is the past, so looking within, and also reflecting on childhood dreams, and wonders- does hold many clues for most.
Me: One last question - which you probably already know, I am going to ask you. LOL. The role of humor. So when I built my kids sunglass company, I had lots of celebrity moms and dads, sport my shades on their little ones. Matthew McConaughey was by far one of the most sincere, gracious, grounded, and kind celebrities. I am a big fan of Joe Rogan, and Joe had Matthew on his podcast a few days ago. Matthew spoke about the importance of a sense of humor.
You and I laugh a lot. Humor adds lightness to "heavy type conversations." Do you think there is a place for humor in leadership? thoughts?
Laura: Yes, of course. Laugher makes us feel jovial, and we can breathe. I was doing a laughter yoga class, and in the beginning, it may feel like we are forcing the laughter out. But once we get through the first minute or two, it is actually fun, and it comes naturally. I do remember when you sent me that funny video- The Vic DiBitetto one.
When all this shut down first started, and everyone was not sure how to handle anything, there was tons of anxiety and fear. That was too funny a video, and you and I have laughed a lot since then. I think we need laughter in the darkness of this world. Laughter provides a lightness and love, kind of like a child-like presence. There is a love to laughter and it does lighten up the mood. I try and laugh with my team. I also think with all this wearing of masks, we can not see people smile anymore. It used to be, when someone smiled, even if a stranger, a smile makes one feel good, and somehow appreciated. The world is in a "shit place" so to hear each other laugh is a good thing. I also believe that when I can be humorous with others on my team, I can be vulnerable, and also be myself around them; so we do have fun at work, and enjoy each other.
So well said. I love to laugh, and I agree, laughter is very child-like and we need to laugh more. It not only lightens the mood, but I think it does something to our cells biologically. When we laugh, I think our cells are happy. Laura makes the excellent point, that we are not able to see others' smile anymore, and smiling, similar to laughter is good for the body and soul. Matthew McConaughey also talks not just about sense humor/laughter, etc... he also talks of the importance of recalibrating, raw expression, frequency, journaling, etc.... worth a listen!
So I want to thank Laura so much for this interview. As you can see, she is a light, a joy, and an exceptional leader. She has a warm heart, tons of love, and is so genuine, anyone who is blessed to know her, whether personally or professionally or both - is fortunate!!!