Never underestimate the influence you have as a leader. Whether formal or informal, when the crap hits the fan, everyone looks for leadership to calm and focus the team.
If there is one thing consistent about business it’s that change is inevitable. Great leaders can navigate turbulent business climates just as well as they can when all is calm . Often they use those frantic circumstances to capitalise and strip away competition and you find there were intentional key decisions that launched the business and teams to increased success.
Success or failure during times of peril depends on your ability to get your team moving together with strength and confidence. 8 examples where strength, focus and resolve will help you avoid the temptations that lead to failure in difficult times include:
1. Keep calm and carry on.
When a state of panic sets in, reactive leaders will ramp up the energy and stress. Some problems do need to be solved immediately. But if the you are frantic and emotional, everyone else will be too, and efficiency will diminish. You cascade your emotions.
Learn to break the news calmly, while making the seriousness of the situation clear. Take your time, breathe and carefully assess the situation so you can work with the team to clearly set the appropriate priorities. Then you can be effective and efficient internally as you deal with the outer chaos.
2. Focus on solutions not blame.
When something goes awry, people naturally start to ask, “Who did this? Whose fault is it?” It is good to know the root of the problem, but this often descends into counterproductive finger pointing. While everyone is focused on avoiding the burden of guilt, the situation may be going from bad to worse. A leader who allows or participates in the blame game ends up with a diminished team full of distrust.
Instead help the team focus on moving forward. Ask “What do we need to do to recover quickly?” and then get the team working together to make those things happen. A team will be more successful by creating heroes who inspire others to step up.
3. In the moment of frustration learn to bite your tongue!
It may feel better to yell at someone out when you’re angry or tense…at least it provides a momentary sense of release. But it does more harm than good in the long run. Your team become resentful or fearful and become less likely to give you their best, or bring you news that might trigger a mood.
When your emotions flare, give yourself a moment to let your rational brain step in. Bite your tongue (not literally of course), step away from the situation, or just take a few deep breaths. Find ways to channel the negative energy into positive results.
4. Assuming makes an Ass out of U and Me
In moments of small annoyance or crisis, people often scramble to identify a cause, sometimes allowing existing assumptions to drive conclusions rather than facts. Do you actually know the reason for the issue? If you have existing concerns or criticisms, it is especially easy to jump to conclusions that may or may not be accurate.
So try and ask more questions that frame the big picture. Calm, value neutral questions allow you and others to diagnose what’s truly going on. Careful analysis with the team may surface core issues that can lead to increased efficiencies.
5. Keep feedback to private 121 sessions.
Sometimes we all need to let of steam or grumble a bit when someone frustrates or lets us down. Doing that in front of the rest of the team spreads dissatisfaction and mistrust.
If you really need to ‘give feedback’, do so privately, in a journal or with a partner. When you’re feeling calmer, approach the employee directly and politely but firmly share the truth about how they have fallen short.
6. Keep your team informed and in the loop
If the truth is scary, it can be hard to share it with everyone for fear that panic will ensue and everyone will desert the ship. But if you leave them in the dark, your people are likely to fill in the blanks with even scarier outcomes. Most people will paint a more desperate picture when uncertain about their own future.
Try to give your people as much good information as the situation allows. Promise to keep them updated, and keep them focused on the work they can do, rather than worrying about what they can’t. That way you can lead them to success instead of managing their fears.
7. Be honest about team performance
Employees are people with thoughts and feelings, and it can be painful to watch them wilt under criticism. So rather than address their failings directly, it sometimes seems easier to drop oblique hints or bury suggestions under insincere praise.
You need to deal the hard stuff first, directly and without hesitation. If they don’t know they are creating a problem, they won’t know they have to fix it. You can follow up with encouragement and praise to soften the blow without muddling the message.
8. Avoid having office favourites.
We love our star players, and we want others to emulate them. Your employees probably know exactly what makes their colleagues shine. That does not mean everyone wants to be continually compared to them.
So evaluate each employee on their own strengths and weaknesses, using a clear standard that is fair and equal for all. Base your comparisons on an ideal, not any one person. Take the time to work with each team member to perform at their personal best. Yep you are busy, but showing the person they are a priority will motivate them beyond their fears and concerns.