These are strange times. The script is being rewritten everyday. Pandemics are the stuff of movies. Fictional, until today.
Jack Nicholson, in A Few Good Men, famously says, “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”
The truth, friends, is that we are smack-dab in the middle of a pandemic. And we are forced to handle it. But you know what? Some people cannot handle it. Some of those people are in our team. So we, as leaders, have to handle the truth. And handle it well.
We need to do a number of things: steady the ship, chart a dynamic course of action and keep our team’s action and motivation set on moving forward without being distracted by the surrounding chaos.
We break this down into three areas:
1) Effective Strategies
2) Effective Communication
3) Effective Leaders
The plan must be dynamic enough to deal with unpredictable factors that may cause further disruption. What the best leaders do is to build a base strategy and use this as a foundation to agilely navigate the changing landscape before them.
The more heads in the room, the more the dynamism. Get your senior managers actively engaged in finding solutions. Bring them into the discussions and devise alternatives in moving forward.
Some components of this process include:
You start with a brainstorming process (storm of ideas, unfiltered and uncensored), but eventually and quickly narrow the options down.
Identify no more than 3 critical outcomes that the company must achieve during this period. Your team will be tempted to widen the net, but you, as the leader, will keep them on track. Of course, a little bit of dabbling in lesser priorities is understandable. But the focus – just on those three!
Some ideas on what the most common critical outcomes could be:
This list is not exhaustive. But remember, less is best. Limit the foci to three!
Use a strategy framework that you and your team are familiar with. These may include SWOT-TOWS, Design Thinking, Six Path Framework from Blue Ocean Strategy and more.
With any process or framework that you use, do it step-by-step. Be efficient, but do not be unduly rushed. Use this process to give ownership and individual confidence to your team. Pre-think the process to give assurance during it.
Extreme times call for extreme measures. What got you here may not get you there. Moments like this can prove to be pivotal to an organisation’s success.
In the process of designing strategy as well as forming team and individual initiatives to support that strategy, welcome a brainstorm of ideas from everyone, focusing on how their individual function can help achieve them. You want to achieve brain-STORMING, not brain-DRIZZLING.
When new ideas are suggested, no matter how crazy or inappropriate they may sound, you should react appropriately to continue encouraging new, wild ideas.
Take care to avoid using phrases such as:
… and the biggest dampener, What a stupid idea!
These statements coming from a leader will demotivate not just the individual proposing the idea, but also kills the brainstorming mode in the room.
Instead, build confidence and ownership by using phrases such as “great idea”, “tell me more”, “can you explain?” and even “Wow!
The goal is two-fold:
The great ideas are there. You just need your team to be brave and motivated enough to voice them out.
The worst thing a leader can do in this situation is to go into silence. Even if you don’t immediately know what to do, your people must people need a sense of security from you.
Be a mirror. When people look to your for guidance, it is not just for the strategies, solutions and ideas. It is also in your body language and mannerisms. By being calm yourself, you will encourage calmness in others.
It is key to make calmness visible.
Operationalise calmness in your body language and expressions by:
Use your words to paint a picture of stability, hope and success for your people. There is no need to be a professional motivational speaker. Be yourself and find your own style. Transparency and authenticity will increase the impact of your words.
The best way to start is by planning and using the best words and phrases. Here are some suggestions for you:
Identify the biggest worry on your team’s mind and address it by sharing relavant information that can give them a sense of stability. Some examples include:
Take care to disclose as much as is prudent - follow up with disclosure of some level of information that will put people's mind at ease. But do not exaggerate. And, of course, do not share sensitive information.
You need a team of leaders. You are not physically capable of being everywhere, addressing everything at the same time. You will need other leaders who can emulate all that we shared above.
For your managers, it is crucial for them to be able to practice the same things you do in order for the leadership team to present a unified message to the entire organisation. As for non-people managers, you can emphasize role of personal leadership.
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