The Stronger Leader Series: Part 1

An Interview with Kevin Hart, EVP and CTO for Cox Communications

Kevin T. Hart, EVP and CTO for Cox Communications

While a recent study by Harvard Medical School said that that over 95% of leaders felt burnt out, a growing number of leaders are thriving in their careers due to their passion for fitness and healthy living. In “The Stronger Leader Series,” High-Performance Coach, Pete Leibman, interviews C-level executives, game-changing entrepreneurs, and other high-performers who attribute part of their career success to their active, healthy lifestyles.

This article features highlights from Pete’s interview with Kevin T. Hart, EVP and CTO for Cox Communications, an $11 billion broadband communications and entertainment company.

Note: To nominate yourself or someone else to be featured in a future installment of this series, send an email to Support@PeteLeibman.com and use “Stronger Leader Nomination” as your subject line.

Pete Leibman (PL): “Kevin, you had a really successful career as a Division 1 soccer player at the University of Tulsa. How did that experience prepare you for your corporate career?”

Kevin Hart (KH): “I learned a lot about overcoming adversity as a Division 1 soccer player. My junior year, we set the school record for most losses in a single season. The next year, we actually set the record for most wins. I often draw on that experience of going from worst to first. It’s a good analogy for work. If you are losing a piece of business or up against an impossible deadline, you know you can still find a way to get it done, even if you don’t know how at the time. That’s always in the back of my mind, and something I try to share with my teams as well.”

PL: “How did your interest in fitness evolve after college, and what does your current workout schedule look like?”

KH: “I definitely had to adjust to stay in shape while working long hours, traveling a lot, and now being married with three kids. I’ve completed over 10 marathons throughout my career and done a few Olympic distance triathlons too. Earlier in my career, I had a unique approach where I only trained hard one day a week on the weekends, and I was able to complete 4–5 marathons that way. Over the last 5–10 years, I’ve done a few more marathons, but I try to do a couple of miles every morning and longer runs over the weekend. I also do some strength training and mixed doubles tennis now too.”

Kevin and his wife, after winning the Alta/Atlanta Mixed Doubles City Championship

PL: “Do you currently follow a specific diet or any key nutritional philosophies?”

KH:I got more serious about nutrition when I started doing marathons. Hydration has been a big component, especially when you travel. It sounds so simple but many people don’t actually focus on it. Staying hydrated and keeping my energy level high at work and during workouts and tennis matches has made a huge difference for me.”

PL: “How do you believe that living an active, healthy lifestyle has helped you throughout your career?”

KH: “I’ve come up with some of my most creative ideas and programs during long distance running. There’s something about being in nature when your endorphins are flowing.”

PL: “How much do you travel for work, and how do you stay active and healthy when you are traveling?”

KH: “I was in consulting for 10 years, so I was on the road 4–5 days a week for a decade. I learned the importance of having some physical activity every day, even something small because it adds up. And, definitely focusing on getting in some exercise early in the morning when you don’t have a backlog of commitments like later in the day. The morning activity also helps you start the day on a positive note.”

PL: “Why do you believe it’s important for leaders to make their health and fitness a priority, and what would you say to a leader who believes that he/she is too busy?”

KH: “You might think you are too busy, but even 30 minutes of activity will propel you a few hours ahead in terms of energy level and creativity. Taking a quick break to keep your energy high and make sure your body is strong will help you make better decisions and help you use your time more efficiently. It can save you time in the end.”

PL: “Do you do anything to encourage others at work or outside of work to lead a healthy lifestyle?”

KH: “My wife and I and our daughters participate in a cancer fundraising event called Swim Across America. It’s a national foundation and we brought the event to Atlanta. This last year, Missy Franklin and other members of the Olympic team helped us with the event. The organization has raised millions of dollars for cancer research over the years and also promotes fitness and healthy living. We have done it for four years and encouraged hundreds of friends, employees, and others to participate.”

Kevin with his 3 daughters at Swim Across America Atlanta 2016

PL: “Outside of your eating habits and exercise, what else do you do to recharge and keep your energy high?”

KH: “I have three daughters and one thing I love most is coaching them in soccer. It’s a great outlet where I can also pass on the importance of athletics and sportsmanship and health and wellness. Last year, I took my two older daughters to the ESPN Disney tournament in Orlando. Both won the national championship for their age group for 3v3. I coached 16 games over three days. The last game went into double overtime. It was a huge adrenaline rush… both stressful and relaxing at the same time.”

PL: “Sounds like exercise, doesn’t it?”

KH: “Exactly.”

PL: “What is your philosophy on sleep? How many hours do you usually get each night?”

KH: “On a wall in my home, I have my list of goals around fitness, family, and work. A key bullet point on that is related to sleep. I target 7–8 hours a night. It doesn’t always happen, but I really try for it because I understand the importance. Without that, you can’t execute at your highest level.”

PL: “Is there anything you do to improve the quality of your sleep?”

KH: “After I get home from work, I spend time with my family. Then, I’ll take some time to prepare for the next day at work, so I can compartmentalize work and not think about it all night long. Doesn’t always work but I try. Then, I’ll relax a bit and spend time with my wife before bed. I also have a white noise machine that hums in the background. It’s really relaxing and definitely helps me sleep better.”

PL: “What’s your favorite strength training exercise?”

KH: “Probably arm curls with free weights.”

PL: “Favorite song or musical artist to work out to?”

KH: “When I’m near the finish line of a marathon, I’m probably going with U2 or Red Hot Chili Peppers.”

PL: “Favorite healthy meal or snack?”

KH: “Unsalted almonds.

PL: “Toughest event or workout that you have ever done?”

KH: “The Chicago Marathon back around 2007. It must have been 90 degrees with 90% humidity. They actually called the race off when I was at mile 25. A guy tried to get me to stop, and I said, ‘I’ll stop in 1.2 miles.’ I ended up finishing the race. It was a brutal day and an accomplishment I’m really proud of.”

PL: “Favorite athlete?”

KH: “Tough one, but probably Michael Jordan because he always came through in the clutch.”

PL: “Any upcoming races or fitness events that you plan to participate in the next 6–12 months?”

KH: “I’m probably going to try to do a marathon next year and try to outperform the first one I did over 20 years ago.”

About the Author: Pete Leibman is an executive recruiter, author, and high-performance coach whose career advice has been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and CNNMoney.com. As a leading authority on high-performance, Pete’s currently writing his next book, titled Work Stronger: Habits for High-Performing People and Organizations. Click here for a free report from Pete on “The 5 Keys for Your Strongest, Healthiest Year Ever.”

Pete Leibman at work (left) and participating in a Tough Mudder obstacle race (right)