Are You a Hotshot Leader?

What’s the Hotshot Rule and what can it do for your leadership?


Kat Cole, North America COO and president at FOCUS Brands, explains a self-coaching exercise leaders can use to prevent complacency in their work.

“The Hotshot Rule asks you to consider that if out of nowhere, you were fired from [your] job… and a hotshot takes over,” says Kat. The Hotshot Rule encourages leaders to think about what changes the hotshot replacement would make to the job they do now, she explains.

“The rule suggests that we get blinded by our own progress, that because things are so much better now than they were three years ago when I got here, that I'm comfortable,” says Kat. Watch the video to hear more about the Hotshot Rule and why you should use it as a tool to enable you to always move forward in the roles you fill.

The Hotshot Rule is a simple practice of self-coaching and it's essentially thinking of a role that you fill. It could be your role as a manager at work. It could be your role as a mom that day, as a friend. So you've got a job, some job, some role. The Hotshot Rule asks you to consider that if out of nowhere, you were fired from that job. You were gone immediately. You didn't have time to clean up your files or clean up some emails or make a few phone calls, you're just gone and a hotshot takes over your job. You have to decide what a hotshot is. You kind of could imagine what awesome mom that day or a great manager, what they might do or what they might think.

It's easy to think about this because many of us have been that hotshot that first day on the job. We come in and we see nothing but all the things that we can improve right away. What's interesting is someone just left that job. The things that we see, new in role, are the things that we should improve right away, but they're often the things that maybe are three times better than they were when the person who just left took over.

So, the Hotshot Rule suggests that we get blinded by our own progress, that because things are so much better now than they were three years ago when I got here, that I'm comfortable. Maybe I don't have the same fire or see the problems as big as they are. Maybe the big problems I cleared and now there are new problems that, relative to the big ones I dealt with, are small, but they're still today's biggest issues, but they're smaller to me because I know where we started.

Progress can create a level of complacency and comfort that can keep each of us from elevating and being the best version of yourselves. So simply imagining that someone takes over your job today, looks at your desk, looks at your calendar, talks to your team. Ask yourself what's one thing, just one, you don't want to overwhelm yourself, what's the one thing that person would look at right away and say, "This is unacceptable. It's the first thing I'm going to fix"?

The question is why can't that be you? I go through this every quarter. I pick one role that I fill. It might be the role of a life partner, a daughter, a friend or my role at work or with some of the companies that invest in. I ask myself if someone took over the job with no notice, what would they look at and say, "Man, I can't believe she let that go," or, "I can't believe she was letting this happen," or, "She did this this way. That's the first thing I'm going to change."

Usually, it's pretty easy to answer that question and then ask yourself, "Why can't I do that? If I know good and well that a hotshot will come in and say this needs to be improved, why can't I?" I do it every quarter religiously. I have for 10 years. I do it with many of my teams now. Interesting things come out of it.

One quarter of one year it was I've dealt with some difficult franchisees when I first took over this brand and now the franchisees I'm working with today are less difficult than the first batch, but nonetheless, they're the most difficult and I'm not holding them accountable in the way that I should.

In my brain, they're not as advanced in their challenges as the first group. Meanwhile, my team is looking around going, "When is she going to take care of that?" The minute I did the Hotshot Rule and realized, "This was my area that a hotshot would take care of. They would hold these franchisees accountable. They would get on a plane and go see them."

Literally, the next day, I bought a plane ticket. I went to go see those franchisees and took care of some issues. My team, when I came back, said, "Finally." They had known what the right thing to do was but I was the one that was in a position of authority to do it. Because I had gotten complacent, I wasn't addressing it in the way a hotshot leader really would.

I've applied it to my personal life, to my health, where I think if someone had the opportunities that I have, the time that I have, the access to a gym or to a running path, what would they do differently? The answer that day was they'd do a heck of a lot more exercise. And why can't I, really? What's keeping me from doing that?

But the key is to just pick one thing and then you go after that one thing immediately. What you then see is a series of improvements throughout the year that are small, but that are noticeable to others around you. That then trains you to almost do a mini-Hotshot Rule subconsciously more frequently.

It sort of builds this hotshot muscle that when you add it all up looks like you're a pretty amazing, assertive, really get after it kind of a person, but it's actually a product of a formal process, which is trying to be your own best self-coach and hold yourself accountable for the elevated performance that you're absolutely capable of.

Kat Cole

Kat Cole’s twitter handle reads “Connected-Creative-Conscious-Community building Capitalist, Biz Advisor, MBA, Coffee-loving Chronic Learner” – this not only describes her as a person, it describes the philosophies she applies to busi...

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