TEC Canada | Leadership Development for the Thinking CEO

Q&A with Dr Larry Ohlhauser, TEC Canada Speaker of the Year 2010

Dr Larry Ohlhauser was recently named TEC Canada’s Speaker of the Year for 2010. Over the past year, his presentations in Canada have been met with rave reviews and an average score of 4.80 out of a possible 5.00 from TEC members across the country.

Dr Ohlhauser has been a TEC speaker since 2005 and prior to that was a TEC Canada member for eight years. His presentations on being a ‘healthy CEO’ give TEC members the awareness and tools they need to ‘increase their effectiveness and enhance their lives’ by living healthily and maintaining good work-life balance.

Dr Ohlhauser kindly took some time out from his busy schedule to talk about the award and to answer a few questions for us:

Congratulations on the award Dr Ohlhauser! This is the second time you’ve won Speaker of the Year – the first was in 2007. What do you think makes your presentations so consistently popular with TEC Canada members?

I think it boils down to 3 reasons:

Number one, I have a pretty compelling message: If you take care of yourself there’s a good result and if you don’t, there’s not. And it’s non-judgmental, factual, so it’s a message they need to hear.

Secondly, I think it’s because of what I call my style or my method. I learned a pretty long time ago it’s pretty hard to tell TEC members what to do! So I’ve created a lot of self-assessment tools and they get a pretty interesting snapshot of how they rank in all the factors without me telling them. And it’s pretty sobering – they’re always trying to get a higher mark because it’s bit of a shock to them. So as a result my style is really to educate them, encourage them, and actually empower them so they can make a change. And I entertain them. We have fun – they have fun.

And the third one is probably the credibility I have. I was a clinician; CEO of a large medical organization for years; have my own consulting business; and was a TEC member for eight years. 

Your area of focus is executive health and the importance of CEOs managing their health as well as their business. Do you find that the CEOs you work with across the country have particular issues in common despite industry and geographical differences? What are they?

Probably the common theme is that they’re such hard drivers – they’re entrepreneurs and CEOs. They are really results-oriented and they want to really do well – it’s etched on their genes. And that’s a commonality – really, you can’t be a good TEC member unless that is part of your makeup.

But the second thing is the downside: Most of those people are so driven they actually start thinking they’re invincible, they’re almost immortal, so they ignore many things. And so it’s that terrible struggle. I always say ‘you’re the biggest resource in your company, what are you doing to take care of that resource?’

And I think that’s why my message rings true – it’s factual. Someone said to me ‘you’re non-judgmental’, I’ve had people sitting there [in a presentation], they’re 280 pounds and I’m thinking ‘they’re not going to like my talk’. They come up to me and say ‘I needed to be here today’.

So these are the two things: they’re all driven, and that’s great. Secondly, they (not universally but pretty common) don’t think health and wellness is necessarily a big issue – because they sort of dabble in it a little bit – but I think that’s why the facts ring pretty true to them.

What has been your most memorable TEC Canada presentation experience?

First of all, there are many memorable events during a presentation and there are many very interesting follow-ups, a month later, three months, a year later.

But the most memorable happened really early on. I did a weekend with a group and so I talked about physical, relationships, and financial wellness; and when we’re finished the Chair said, ‘Well, let’s rate Larry while he’s here, to his face.’ He turned to me and explained ‘It’s part of teaching the TEC members to be authentic.’

There was a fellow named Bob sitting right up front, and the Chair said, ‘Let’s start with you, Bob’. Bob said, ‘Nah, start on the other side of the room.’ So my first reaction was ‘I’m going to be slaughtered.’

We went around the room and it was really pretty good – and it got back to Bob. He said, ‘Well Doc, I like your physical health; it was like a booster shot to me. You know I’m into physical fitness and eating [right]so I really appreciate that. Thank you very much.

“Financially,” he continued “the principles you talked about, we’ve really had a good lot of good years and we’re pretty comfortable.” And then Bob couldn’t speak.

He said ‘Doc, you hit me right between the eyes in my relationship.” He turned to the group and said “guys, I’m in really deep trouble.”

So I left, wondering “Wow, whatever happened to Bob?”

Two years later, I’m actually in a city that this TEC group is not in. I actually went to hear Bill Clinton speak. There were 3,000 people, and after the event’s over and the lights go up, I feel this tap on my shoulder. And it was Bob.

He said “Doc, you got a minute? My wife would like to meet you.”

And she took my hand in both of hers, she looked into my heart and all she could say was “Thank you. I needed to meet you.” I mean, Bob needed to be there that day!

Are there ever any groups or people that you have trouble ‘getting through’ to?

Yes. And there’s two parts to that: There’s my perception that they’ve got this block, and then there are still people for whom it hasn’t really rung true and I think it takes time to percolate.

A fellow emailed me, saying, ‘Hi Doc, you saved my life.

‘I bet you remember me because I was this guy taking all these copious notes, the engineer sitting in the front row. I finished your self-assessment, took it home and showed my wife, she said “Bob, you flunked! We’re going on holiday in two weeks and I’m not going to go unless you get a checkup because Bob, you flunked the test!”

‘My doctor wouldn’t let me go home from the checkup – directly to the hospital. Forty-eight hours later, triple-bypass surgery. As I’m recovering, my doc said “Bill, if you made the decision to go on holidays instead of coming to my office, there’s about an 80% chance you’d be dead.”’

Many of these people need an emotional event, but sometimes that’s too late, and so part of my challenge is to say ‘before this happens…’ They’re very bright, driven people, which is great.

What would you say are the two most important things a CEO can do to really take control of their own health?

The first thing is that they’ve got to be convinced by facts because they run their businesses by facts. And they sometimes ignore them because there’s so much noise. So I try to give them the cold, hard facts that they can look at and say ‘Whoa! If this was my business, if this was the data, I’d be taking notice!’ So they’ve got to have accurate information and facts.

Secondly, they have to understand how important stress is in their lives. They’re pretty much in general denying the stress.

Number one, they really have to recognize what stress is – not the good stress that gets them to be a part of TEC, but the bad stress that’s going to kill them. And once that recognition is there, then how they manage that.

So I spend a lot of time with some of those tools, because if you don’t understand the good stress you won’t be that successful, but if you don’t understand the bad stress, you’ll be dead.

You can read more of Dr Ohlhauser’s advice in the Wisdom for CEOs section of the TEC Canada site, and on his own site at www.thehealthyceo.com .

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