By SGT Ken® and Stephanie Weichert

Leadership expert John C. Maxwell says, “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” Thriving depends on how businesses view change. Change can create an obstacle or an opportunity. If viewed as positive, change can be the impetus for strategic growth.

It is during tough times that we see some businesses fall apart and others bounce back. The good news for those that thrust through difficult days is that when you bounce back, you bounce back better.

You might be wondering about leading your team through the tough times. How do you get your employees on board with you? You can help employees reach higher standards by how you effectively engage with them and how you intentionally add value to their lives while working toward a goal.

In chapter three of his book, The Effective Executive [2], Peter Drucker states,

“The man who focuses on efforts and who stresses his downward authority is a subordinate no matter how exalted his title and rank…But the man who focuses on contribution and who takes responsibility for results, no matter how junior, is in the most literal sense of the phrase, ‘top management.’”

One of the things I appreciate about working for WaterRower® is that they have empowered my wife and I to think creatively and strategically about results-minded solutions that will drive immense value to their clients while many are caught in quarantine crisis. In the same way that WaterRower® affords us the opportunity to engage with key leaders and designers to inspire initiative, create connection and strengthen solutions, you too can keep your own employees engaged during times of crisis through open communication and effectual leadership.

Instead of asking employees to be task-oriented, as leaders, we can opt to shift to being contribution-minded so that each of our employees become, “top management.” By creating a platform for employee engagement and contribution, we give each voice an opportunity to be heard and acknowledged. This gives employees greater responsibility for their work because it makes them a part of the process in achieving the goals that you set (and even creating a few of their own). When we allow for feedback and creative ideas to flow from the bottom up, we wind up with engaged and inspired employees. Instead of merely having the employee accomplish a task, employees become part of a collective solution.

For instance, Pixar uses something they call, “The BrainTrust.”[1] The Braintrust is a meeting that brings together the entire team of directors, John Lassater, and the team that is working through the script of a new movie in an environment built on trust and respect. The group is assembled when a director and a producer who are working on a project need a fresh perspective on a problem. The Braintrust meetings first consist of a show and tell of the current work in process and are followed by a lively, open dialogue about how to fix the problems. The advantage to its structure is that the insight is provided as peer review. Project leads are free to use or toss out the ideas presented. It is a method for feedback to help small groups overcome problems.

In thinking about invoking employee engagement, and I’ll add, during challenging seasons, such as the COVID-19 Pandemic, Drucker suggests asking this question: “What can I contribute?” As owners and directors, we can expand this question to, how can we lead a culture of contribution? Right now, many companies are cutting back. For some, this business decision is absolutely necessary. For those who can keep their staff, I challenge you to rally a sense of contribution and engagement in solving your overarching business problems. Perhaps your employees will come up with ideas for growth that you couldn’t yourself imagine.

Drucker’s bottom line for effective engagement (he calls it “human relations” [2]) includes:

  1. Communications
  2. Teamwork
  3. Self-development
  4. Development of others

Instead of worrying and seeking to control the situation, we simply need to pinpoint the pain point. When we identify the problem to be solved, we can set goals with measurable deliverables, then create an organized workflow and allow for teamwork. We can tap into the potential that exists in each of our employees to help them contribute toward the solution. When you create the container for rich contribution and employee engagement, you awaken the potential that exists in every employee.

About the authors

Ken Weichert (aka SGT Ken®) is an award-winning international speaker, six-time US Army Soldier of the Year, Master Fitness Trainer, Master Resilience Trainer, Counterintelligence Agent, decorated combat veteran and canfitpro International Presenter of the Year (2017, 2019). Ken’s personal mission is to help people turn stress into strength and obstacles into opportunities through physical and emotional resiliency coaching and leadership training. Ken serves as the Director of Programming and Education for WaterRower®. For more information, email

Stephanie Weichert is an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) and Business Strategist. She has performed life-coaching workshops for multiple military groups, youth organizations, as well as at canfitpro and Empower Fitness Conferences. Stephanie has a B.A. from San Francisco State University, and an MBA from King University. She has written for,, Foundations, HOOAH, Military Spouse and GX®: The National Guard Experience. Her book, Everything I Would Have Said: Survival Strategies for Getting Through Tough Times, is now available on Amazon. For more information, email


  1. Catmull, E., Harvard Business Review. (2008, September) How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity Retrieved from:
  2. Drucker, P.F. (2006). The Effective Executive. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

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