How To Lead Through Challenging Times
Being a leader who can impact your teams and industry when it’s smooth sailing is difficult. Marshaling the team around a common vision, focused on the goal, and keeping people growing and focused all require the full faculties of any leader in a given time.
So how does a leader cope with challenging circumstances? Can you make an impact when things are beyond your control? And more importantly, can you continue to grow people and business during these times as opposed to just “holding the fort”?
Leaders today face the macro-challenges such as uncertain economics, shifting global values, mergers & acquisitions, volatile commodity markets, and cyber-terrorism, as well as the micro-challenges of ever- increasing costs, personal life events, and rising market competitiveness. It may seem, at times, that there are too many things working against you at any given time. Can one effectively lead when their is so much that you’re working up against?
Fortunately the answer is – Yes, you can. A good leader is able to not let the difficulties in their way get them off track.
- Don’t let discouragement set in. It’s easy to allow yourself and your people to be overwhelmed with shifting circumstances. Be the buffer that deters discouragement and keep your teams positive that together you can overcome anything.
- You define the moment. Exercise, pressure, and resistance define muscles and health. The same can be said of trials and difficulties. During the movie “Apollo 13” flight director Gene Kranz tells his troubled NASA crew “Gentlemen, I think this will be our finest hour,” when faced with the possibility of losing 3 astronauts in a crippled lunar module. The message sent was that they would not fail, but succeed in getting the stranded crew safely home. Be the catalyst that defines a challenging moment with resolves for the goal or accomplishing a new goal in the crisis.
- Anchor the vision. By keeping everyone fixated on the long-term direction, you can allow most people to stay laser-focused on the vision they’re striving for and not the peripheral distractions and immediate obstacles.
- Keep calm, controlled, and cultured. Your people will look to you to see if you maintain calmness and control, not just over your emotions but the situation as well. But another thing you must keep besides your composure – your organization’s culture. A crises that shifts a company of it’s foundation is not as firmly rooted in it’s core values as it should be. Challenging times can be just the thing to put your culture to the test and make it thrive, but you need to continue to promote a cultural response among your people to see it through. Keep culture as your compass and guide.
- Work through, around, or with the things you can’t control. While we can easily accept what we can control, we must give attention at times to things we can’t control And when we know what those are and how they impact your team, you can make sensible choices. They may be avoidance of issues that won’t matter and don’t need your attention. They may involve working around obstacles and finding new methods that result in new efficiencies, systems, or technology. Or they can be a help in disguise that seemed to be a roadblock at first but in actuality become a boon that you can leverage. Use what you can to your advantage during these times.
- Stick with the plan. You have a plan in place to achieve your goals, so see it through. Getting distracted off your game only benefits the competition, and in a sense your people and customers will feel like you’re bailing on them. You’re plan may still work after all, and who knows, your competition may be making hasty decisions that will allow your original strategy to succeed. Stay with what you’re committed to do.
- Change the plan but not the goal. If this sounds like a contradiction of the last point, it’s not. The saying “Goals are in concrete, plans are in sand” holds true here. You must stick with the plan until you know for sure that the plan will not work. But don’t hold onto a sinking ship out of stubbornness. As soon as you see the trajectory of a plan not coming to fruition, change the approach immediately and formulate a new, smarter strategy. The important things it to keep the vision and culture intact while still achieving the goals as best you can.
Leaders are defined more of how they handle challenges than how they lead during easy times. By keeping goals, culture, your composure, and positive focuses, you can ride out uncertainty and still succeed on your own terms. And maybe even stronger because of it.