Navigating the Storm: 6 Strategies for Leading Through Turbulent Times

Navigating the Storm: 6 Strategies for Leading Through Turbulent Times

Navigating the Storm: 6 Strategies for Leading Through Turbulent Times

It’s verifiably ugly out there! Many sectors are facing a challenging economic climate, meaning that your job as an executive is feeling harder than ever – am I right?

Many leaders I’ve talked with in the last few months are seeking ways to keep their (and their employees’) spirits up while prioritizing the critical few tasks in front of them. They’re rightly focused on understanding their customers’ needs, analyzing the underlying economics of their products/services, simplifying day-to-day business processes, supporting their employees, and evaluating the need for changes to their business model(s). And they're also figuring out how and what they should communicate (and to whom) to reinforce the respectful, trusting culture they’ve built – it’s a lot!

Why Bother to Keep Your Spirits Up?

By now, you certainly know that emotions are ‘contagious’ within groups of people, including your company. You could reasonably be feeling discouraged, frustrated, or even irritated that the great plans your team laid out earlier this year just don’t seem to be getting traction… And you may even be judging yourself and your team harshly because of this.

Basically, things suck. UGH!

It’s so tempting to hunker down, turn inward, and isolate yourself from your employees while you "figure out what to do." But this is the last ‘vibe’ you want to spread through your company.

When times feel especially dark, employees look to you and your team for signals about the future of the company. And to survive times like these, your company needs the very best and brightest contributions from everyone involved, the kinds of creative ideas that can only be generated from a positive mental state.

This doesn’t mean cheerleading and being all ‘rah-rah’, but it does mean you want to be intentional about your emotional displays.

So, how can you bounce back from unpleasant emotions rather than letting them get the best of you?

Boosting Your Resilience

According to, resilience is "the capacity to remain flexible and adaptable while facing life’s challenges. It is a complex concept involving traits, environmental factors, and a learned capacity that comes from experience."

While we can’t do much about our inherent traits, we can all learn from experience. The good news is that your can boost your resilience through a wide range of efforts, such as focusing on using your unique gifts, reframing problems as opportunities (shockingly, this alone can invite creative problem solving), accepting the facts, getting support from people in your network, and learning new emotional coping strategies.

Here are 6 ways you can start boosting your resilience today:

1. Take a brisk walk, or join an exercise class. Moving your body reduces unhealthy stress. Especially when you "don’t have time," make a point to get out and move.

2. Calm yourself. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation or yoga, help calm the sympathetic nervous system by managing that pesky ‘fight-flight’ response to increased stress. Any activity you can do slowly and mindfully (painting, washing dishes, folding laundry) can offer a similar benefit, as long as you focus all your thoughts on what you’re doing and quiet your "mind chatter."

3. Write it out. Studies have shown that journaling helps with self-reflection, self-soothing, and learning from experience. Stressors can sometimes be alleviated by writing down the stream of thoughts that run on ‘repeat’ in your head, and getting it all down on paper (or virtual/digital "paper") can help accelerate ‘sense-making,’ – very needed in trying times.

4. Use your core strengths to regain your sense of confidence (Clifton Strengths or Values in Action are two good tools for this).

5. Get (more) support. Talking through difficult situations, expressing complex emotions, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable with people you trust (like a great executive coach!) are all ways to foster the type of support that can help boost resilience.

6. Laugh out loud. Laughter is a salve that quickly boosts resilience, even if temporarily. Watch a funny movie, talk to the funniest person you know, or share a funny story with a friend. (Maybe even host a "watch party" for your team?)

Self-Care Before "Team-Care"

Like most leaders, you probably feel like you *should* know ‘the answer’ for how to fix any tough situation. But you’re only human, and with the increasing complexity of the business, economic, and political worlds in which we operate, it’s unlikely that you’ll have all the knowledge needed to do this (and certainly not to do it alone).

Instead of getting stuck in your stress and frustration, resolve to find a path forward. Include trusted colleagues, and even try including some folks that you don’t usually invite in – you never know where the best idea will come from, or which crazy suggestions will lead to the next big breakthrough!

Most importantly, take good care of yourself and your people.

Times are tough, but so are you, and so is your team. When you (and they) can exercise your resilience, you can navigate the storm together, uncover the hidden opportunities within the challenges you face, and get the entire team in a better position for "What’s Next?".

Treat yourself with kindness and compassion. (If you need some inspiration, listen to an episode of To Lead Is Human!)