Things can change at a moment’s notice, and we’re all seeing that as COVID-19 impacts our communities, our economy and our world. If you’re a leader who has suddenly found yourself juggling these changes, it can quickly become overwhelming.
Leading is hard enough. Leading through COVID or other adversity can sometimes seem impossible.
Fortunately, there are several things you can do to not only hold your business together but guide it to success — even in times of crisis! Below is a list of tips I put together to help leaders get back on track and strongly lead their team through adversity.
Jim Hemerling, an organizational change expert from BCG, stresses the importance of putting people first if you want to survive a crisis. This means listening to their ideas and focusing on their strengths, as well as being open and honest about how the company will be affected by the adversity it’s facing.
In uncertain times, it’s normal for anxiety and frustration to build. As a leader, it’s your job to reach out to each of your team members to check-in, particularly those who are engaging in limiting behaviors like excessive worrying and complaining, procrastination, or becoming unresponsive.
Offer a compassionate ear and engage your team in calm and measured conversations.
Humans don’t like change and we will work hard to maintain the status quo — even if it means ignoring problems and pretending things are business as usual. Before taking any action to solve a problem (or not taking action at all), take the time to get the facts about the situation.
Leadership speaker and expert Thomas Kolditz has done a lot of research on what he terms “in extremis leadership,” or “leading as though your life depends on it,” and recommends listening to employees at every level of your company, seeking counsel from experts, and gathering all the facts (even the ones that you’d rather ignore).
Only when you have all the facts about a situation can you make an informed decision about the next steps to take.
As a leader, people are looking to you for direction — especially in times of adversity. If you’re not stepping up and providing direction and information, that gap will be filled with negative assumptions. To keep your team motivated and confident, your communication should be consistent, honest, and transparent.
Information is a powerful tool that can reduce emotional distress and fear, provide guidance, and show your employees that their leadership is on top of the situation.
Remember, just because you’re a leader doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers. If you’re unsure how to respond to a question, just say so and tell your team what you’ll do to find out. That level of openness serves to build trust, something truly needed in times of uncertainty.
Leading through adversity means being ready and able to quickly adapt your plan to a new set of circumstances. A great way to adapt, and something adversity experts recommend, is by creating new goals based on your current circumstances.
But remember, this doesn’t mean diving headlong into change for change’s sake. The decisions that you make during times of crisis don’t exist in a vacuum; they’re going to have a far-reaching impact on your business.
Your goal while leading through adversity should be to work smarter and make informed changes to the way you operate. This means adopting policies that keep your team safe and finding the tools that will help them do their jobs in their current environment.
Resilience is all about being able to recover quickly from difficulties. In the workplace, this means responding to adversity and crises in a reasonable and strategic way.
The key to modeling resilience for your team? Maintaining realistic optimism. This mindset forces you to move from worst-case thinking to tackling the most likely outcome, a situation that’s far less traumatic. Through communication and planning, you will be better prepared to handle the uncertainty of a crisis. As a result, you’ll be able to minimize the impact on you, your team, and your business.