Great challenges call forth extraordinary leadership, and the leaders who survive and thrive through challenging times are the ones who are able to ask the kinds of questions that help themselves evolve, and that help others to manage emotions and solve problems. Jon Berghoff has studied leadership at a level that few can match. In this conversation, he offers concepts to form a Crisis Leadership Playbook, starting with inner contemplative practices and ways of helping others direct their focus, and even including some cutting-edge strategies for using video-conference technology to create belongingness and connection, and to bring out the cooperative capacity in groups you lead. What follows here is a masterclass on how to view and tackle what for many is the largest collective challenge of our lifetime.


Q: What are your thoughts on what’s happening right now?

  • Crisis creates an opportunity for all us to shape or reshape our identity and that leads to more questions on who I want to be and how can I serve and help others right now.
  • Part of the gift that comes from this crisis is the humanity and the generosity that is brought out from so many different corners of the earth. There’s so much that people are doing right now to help each other that we’ll see unexpected positive consequences in the long run.

Q: As leaders, tell me about the kinds of leaders that are most likely to thrive through this challenge and be able to overcome it in the strongest possible fashion.

  • Christopher Lochhead said that one of things he’s learned is that you have peace time leaders and war time leaders. There’s some folks listening to this who have learned they actually thrive during a crisis.
  • At the end of the day, chaos or crisis is the most common way for us to evolve to some sort of higher order. Now is the best time for any leader to strengthen their own inner contemplative practices whether it’s prayer or meditation to get more attuned to what’s going on inside of us.
  • A quote by Bill O’Brien said “The quality of any intervention will always be a reflection of the interior condition of the intervener.” We have to remember as leaders that whatever is going on at a cellular level inside of us will reflect and refract outwards to others. And I think about that with my kids.
  • Leaders who choose to ask the right questions of themselves and of others, are the ones that will be most helpful during a time of fear, scarcity, uncertainty, and doubt.

Q: How can we refocus our minds through the questions we ask to move ourselves in a positive direction in our inner game?

  • It’s really important for anyone in a leadership position to create the permission for people to realize that what they’re feeling is acceptable.
  • If there’s anything that this pandemic can teach us is that we are not in control of anything, but something that you’ve taught me is that while we can’t control things we can influence. We have to ask ourselves how do we find a sense of responsibility for how we show up.
  • When there’s widespread scarcity and fear for our survival, we got to ask questions like when in my life have I been resilient? When in my life have I faced an obstacle where I had no solution yet I somehow came through it on the other side?
  • For leaders who are leading others, to recognize how isolated and alone people can feel. We have to ask how we can create instant experiences of belonging and deep connection.

Q: How are you managing things at home with your wife and three kids and how are you thinking about the future of your business and your personal life right now?

  • A lot of the credit goes to my wife for what she’s doing to keep our kids occupied right now. I’ve gotten our kids into nature more than I’ve been for years.
  • At work, we’re already in the business of designing questions and choreographing conversations to help groups tap into their genius, so when the corona thing hit I was really caught off guard. Our work was emphasized on how we lead groups in a room.
  • In the last 10 days, myself and our faculty probably facilitated 50 or 60 online critical meetings with groups of 20 to 200 people.
  • A crisis can bring out a cooperative capacity but none of that works if we don’t stop and ask what are the questions to ask how to involve the right people. We’re bringing groups of people on to zoom platforms and we’re moving them in and out of different sized conversations, and conversations that serve different purposes.

Q: If I’m a Cutco District Manager and I want to be able to get my team together throughout each week in different ways and have different conversations that are moving the needle, what are some of things that I could be doing?

  • If you’re training people, you have to teach them information that they can practice. Have 25 people in a zoom call, teach them something, break them into pairs and let them role play for 15 mins. While they’re role playing you or your assistant manager can drop in on their room and watch them role play.

Q: What other thoughts do you have on how a training organization can better train their people or the idea of group meetings?

  • You need to have all the tech dialed in early to test it and figure it out instantly.
  • People use the idea of being virtual as an excuse to not show their video and we got to get past that. We got to bring the humanity to these spaces to make up for not being in a room together. Set expectations at the beginning of the call.
  • Employ an active learning cycle and it’s very simple. At the end of the teaching, ask what’s the most important idea or ideas that you got from that message. Have 2-3 people discuss what they found most interesting.
  • The best way to solve the biggest problems is getting people up to speed on technology.


  • How do I find a sense of responsibility for showing up? How can we create experience and a sense of belongingness?
  • How to bring groups together and help facilitate greater learning and to collaborate on solutions to problems that they’re facing.
  • How can we reconnect to a meaningful purpose in all of this? Remind yourself of your why behind the work you do and what is important in life. Connecting to your greater sense of purpose will bring greater energy and motivation.
  • How can you be an island of sanity in a sea of chaos? Right now people need leaders who will help them maintain perspective. Be willing to be authentic and real about what you’re feeling and develop a circle of influence in which you can do this.
  • Create a space where others will feel that what they feel is acceptable. If you’re scared, that’s okay. If you’re feeling unmotivated, that’s okay, most of us are. Great challenges forge us into who we can be.


  • Visit Xchangeapproach.com to see what Jon offers.


Show Notes for this episode provided by Darien Romero.

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