These are uncertain times and many of you are wondering what you need to do right now as a leader. JUST LEAD. You have all faced uncertain times and led through complicated situations; whether it has been a family crisis, corporate mergers or possibly the Great Recession of 2008. You’ve got this! Here are a few things to keep in mind as you manage your company, your team and yourself.
Managing Your Company
With everything changing so quickly, many businesses are still, understandably, in a very reactive mode. While, I think this is fitting for a period of time, I encourage you spend at least a few hours thinking a bit farther down the road. There are two large themes I would tackle:
1) What does an extended COVID 19 look like (6/9/12 months out)? What might (in a worse case) things look like?
2) What happens when things rebound? Will we be ready to ramp? Will we have the staff, product capital, etc.? Will there be pent up demand? Will the demand look differently?
When considering each question, think about the impacts on the following categories:
· Revenue and Cash Flow
· People (current and future)
· Customer and Community Needs
· Product Demand
· Funding Needs
· Business Development – What can we do to nurture new business?
Doing this “what if” exercise will allow you to imagine a world where things are different. This will give you more resiliency to manage changes as they unfold because, by imagining what the future holds, you will have already anticipated many of the changes to come.
THINK BIG and act small is one of my favorite mantras. This means that you need to spend time imagining and planning for future scenarios so that you can make small pivots, as needed, today that align to that future. While the future might seem more uncertain than ever, trying to get your arms around a few possible scenarios will help you be better prepared for things to come. You will be able to act with more confidence and more quickly understand the implications of your decisions. Again, if you are feeling like a bug on the windshield, this critical exercise will help you shift your operating mode from reactive to proactive. It will help you pivot more quickly.
Email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need help facilitating this exercise.
Managing Your Team
Leadership is both a condition of your position (your title, your role) and your ability to create followership. Both are important. But positional leadership only gets you so far. Followership is what is needed now. Are you credible to lead, are you sincere and authentic and do you have a point of view about where you are going and what you value? Point of view, as noted earlier, is a lot harder today when information is rapidly shifting.
But, remember – You’ve Got This. You have led through times of uncertainty before – certainly on a smaller scale, but uncertain all the same. You have led through uncertainty and succeeded with many lessons that have carried forward. Check out this eight + minute video by Barry Posner, co-author of The Leadership Challenge, on the concept of followership based on their research over the years.
Based on the research, the following four traits rose to the top: honest, competent, forward-looking and inspiring. Barry sums these four traits as credibility, meaning, you must have a point of view, be energetic and follow through on promises. In short, what he says about credibility is that, “People will not believe the message if they do not believe the messenger.” So, what does all of this mean in today’s turbulent environment?
Using the leadership themes mentioned above, I would implore you to think about the following:
1) Be credible and empathetic: Take time to listen and understand how people are feeling both professionally and personally. Be honest about what you know and don’t know. It is ok to share your own concerns about how you are feeling. If you don’t, credibility will be lost. Remember, people will not believe the message if they don’t believe the messenger.
2) Be present: Be present with your team and your customers. Do not go dark in the face of uncertainty. One of my mentors gave me some sage advice about communications… “In the absence of communications, people tend to make up bad stuff (negative stories).”
3) Pivot and be creative: Again, THINK BIG, act small. This will allow you to be more innovative, pivot based on the scenarios you have defined and encourage your team to try new things.
4) Stay positive: Encourage your teams to look for SILVER LININGS whether in business opportunities, team bonding and/or community outreach. When I think back on my career, some of my best learnings and experiences arose out of adversity. And, remember, your team will follow your mood and mindset. So, be positive and reserve a few minutes each day or each week for the silver lining discussion.
Leadership is hard and it can be lonely, especially with social distancing in place in these unprecedented times. However, your team, your customers and your family need you now more than ever! In the past, you might have been able to summon extraordinary reserves to push through a big project, an important deadline or a family crisis without really changing your underlying habits – essentially you pulled on your reserves to perform as a leader. However, I remind you that this is not a sprint it is a marathon. The amount of energy and time needed to sustain that energy is currently undefined and uncertain.
This means that you need to develop and nurture healthy habits so that you can go the distance. Think about what you would be doing if you were training for a marathon. We need great leadership now more than ever so please think about how you can recharge your battery daily to be at your best.
Jay Shetty tells us that we would be much better off if we focused as much time on re-charging our own batteries as we did on re-charging our phones. The advice is simple:
1) Exercise: Do something every day even if it is just taking the dog out for a 30-minute walk.
2) Meditate or just be still: Meditation and stillness (even for 10 minutes a day) is exercise for the mind. There are so many great (free) apps out there for this (Headspace, Calm, 10% Happier). Try it for a week and let me know how you feel. It is not easy; I get it. It took me 3 to 4 months to create this habit. Now I look forward to it every day.
3) Sleep: With many of us now all at home, our patterns are likely unbalanced. Be diligent about setting a consistent sleep and wake time. Try to plan on waking up at the same time every day. Turn off all devices at night. Sleep, like meditation and exercise, impacts our hormonal balance which in turn impacts our health, mood and mindset. We need you to be at your best!
4) Connection: Connection is essential to humans and with social distancing it might be easy to feel a loss of connection during these times. I heard one physician say that it should be called physical distancing vs social distancing. Commit time each day to connect virtually with someone.
Check out Jay’s short video
Remember, to go the distance, you need to hone your most productive skillsets and develop new habits. For me, meditation and just “being” have been the hardest. Let’s encourage each other and share ways to recharge.
Stay healthy, positive and forward-thinking! Please touch base if you want to discuss any of these areas further.
One last note…….
Beautiful words to remember by Kitty O'Meara And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed."