The Leader’s Playbook-9: “Stay Frosty…”

I spend a lot of time with the teams I get to be a part of talking about the various ways to both approach, and solve, complex and wicked problems. Remaining focused on the issue at hand versus the emotions that can surround an issue is a lot of our focus.

As a teenager I remember first reading a book about Apollo 13. Apollo 13, Commanded by legendary Astronaut Jim Lovell, was the supposed to be the second moon landing. Not long after beginning the long journey to the Moon, Apollo 13 had a major in-flight emergency which immediately put the crews lives at risk. At that time, this was the most significant challenge NASA had ever faced during a flight.

Mission Control in Houston was instantly thrown into a confusing and chaotic situation which required immediate, and precise decisions, in order to save the crew. In what became a seminal learning point for me, legendary Flight Director Gene Kranz, while leading his team through the chaos of the initial reactions, paused, thought, and told his team… “work the problem people… work the problem.” And they did… and over the next few days managed to make thousands of correct decisions which resulted in Apollo 13 safely looping around the back side of the Moon and returning safely to Earth with all three crew members aboard.

I’ve adapted the concept that Flight Director Kranz took, as well as many other famous leaders in our history, and boiled it down to two simple words.. “Stay Frosty”. When it gets crazy… keep your calm about you… and “stay frosty.”

I hope this approach helps you as much as it has helped me and others in our business.

Also check out Mr. Kranz’s book “Failure is not an option”. It is a great read.

The Author is currently serving as an active duty military officer. Any comments or recommendations on this post or on this site are solely my personal views and do not represent the position of any branch of the United States Government.