Have you heard the expression “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb"?
So far this month, I’d wholeheartedly agree, what with the dramatic weather events across the US and in many countries, layoffs at so many companies, the failures and stresses on the banking system, and related stock market volatility! FUD* is everywhere, it seems.
If you thought your head might explode this month, I feel you, and I dug into my archives to review the unique issues that arise when leading through such VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) times.
If you’re a regular reader and follower, you are likely familiar with what some clients have called my “world’s simplest leadership” model, which describes the three things leaders must do (read up on that here, if you don’t recall) – these are always necessary.
But leading in tough times is more complex – there’s more uncertainty, organizations are more stretched, and people are more fearful. And when people are fearful, they naturally move into ‘survival’ mode – fight, flight, or freeze.
You, as a leader, are subject to this fear as well, and in reaction may feel tempted to either ‘save the day’ through cheerleading, optimism, and having all the right answers, or take a defensive stance by hunkering down, cutting projects and expenses, limiting exposure wherever possible, or becoming self-protective (forgetting what your team needs from you). Remind yourself that neither of these will serve your organization.
In such crazy times, here are five things you can do to lead more successfully:
1. Quell the fear. Manage your own emotions and project calm composure.
2. Find opportunity. Look out from the bunker, and shift your attention from survival (do whatever urgently needs adjusting) to seeking opportunities.
3. Shift from panic to focus. Name the solid ground under foot, what isn’t changing, and restate your first principles (what’s core to your organization), reassuring your team.
4. Move from control to inclusion. Fight the natural urge to be the hero, and controlling all the conversation; instead include more people and get the team re-engaged, and feeling their agency.
5. Cultivate hope. Don’t provide false hope, but do remind yourself, and others, of the good outcomes that are possible.
By taking these steps, you’ll help yourself and your team to accept the crazy, acknowledge the uncertainty, manage emotions, get feet firmly on the ground, and invite a little ‘head in clouds’ thinking.
What other steps have you found helpful as you lead your organization in such chaotic times?