In our post-pandemic, post-Brexit, cost-of- living crisis world, the challenge of leading a team has never been more complex. Leaders must manage the demands of an ever-changing external landscape and guide their teams through the myriad of professional and personal challenges we are all facing.
During these times, successful leaders must act decisively, be agile, be empathetic, and set an example for how their team approaches success and failure. When we look at examples in sports, politics and business, we repeatedly see that real leaders are forged in times of crisis.
Learning how to navigate this landscape is critical in any leader's journey and will often determine whether they thrive. Here are some key strategies and learnings for leading a business in rapidly changing times:
To lead complex situations and support others, you need to know yourself, be very self-aware, constructively self-critical, aware of your weaknesses and ensure you can constantly develop. Do not neglect your mental health during turbulent times - you are not invincible. If you can, ensure you have the right level of coaching and mentoring in place.
It is tempting for leaders in times of heightened stress to want to make decisions alone, often thinking that it is their job to solve everything. This mindset can often lead to a sense of isolation, and this responsibility can weigh very heavily. Instead, find time to reach out and engage with your professional network - the chances are you will find people who feel exactly like you and can offer insight, perspective, and sometimes even solutions. Even reading articles and blogs from industry leaders will give you confidence and new ideas. If you are new to leadership, you will be surprised how many times successful people have ridden life's roller coaster.
If the plane hits turbulence on your flight, the last thing you want to see is the pilot running down the aisle, panicking, and shouting at his crew. A leader will make better decisions when they remain calm.
The need to install calm does not mean you should keep these challenges secret from your team. On the contrary, it is beneficial to share these issues in a way that helps your team see you approaching and positively solving them. This will be an effective approach, as it will influence your team to do the same. Always be honest and authentic with your team; this will instil vital trust in you.
You might be shocked when you discover more about your team's breadth of skills and experience. Most of them will have had other jobs, so it is an excellent time to dig deep into what they have done, what they have learnt from it and how it can help guide you and your colleagues through difficult times. Whilst external training is always important, look internally to see how your team can develop each other through workshops and coaching. This approach is a positive way to share some of the challenges and learn how to solve them as a team.
We all tend to be forced outside our comfort zones in uncertain times. However, doing so encourages us to become more resilient and think more creatively. Each setback creates a lesson that an intelligent leader will embrace, and every disruption creates an opportunity to grow and develop as a team.
You must be available for your team during these times, they may need reassurance or guidance, and it is vital that they feel like you are with them and able to speak to them. Remember to consider how important just a chat with their manager is in stressful times and be prepared to listen and help them figure out a solution rather than simply telling them what to do.
Authenticity is key. Be prepared to show your team the real you and to let them see that you are on your own journey of learning and development. You will instil confidence that they also can be bold and optimistic when facing their own challenges.
Now is the time to remember your strategy. First, you must share this with your team more than ever now and encourage them to focus on what they can do daily to achieve your mission. Then, you must judge if you need to amend your strategy. In times of change, external forces may force you to do this, but you never move away from your team's vision. Now is not the time to tear up the game plan. So keep focused and move forward together.
When you work with such changeable boundaries, mistakes will be made, and ideas that seemed great one day might prove less constructive the next. However, this shouldn't always be seen as a negative. A good leader will learn from this and allowing your team to see you go through this process will encourage them to try new things and be more innovative.
Act quickly when you identify an issue that needs action or spot an opportunity whilst not being reckless. This proactive but considered approach will inspire your team and assure them that you are willing to try new things and are facing uncertainty with positivity and creativity.
Create a safe space for all your team to be themselves, deal with problems, ask for help, have a bad day, and have a rant and moan. Everyone is different and has a unique experience of the world. For example, during lockdown, there was lots of support for parents who had to juggle work and childcare but less for a single person sitting and looking at the same four walls day in and day out.
In times of heightened pressure, it can be easy for a team to blame each other for things that go wrong, feel isolated or feel like other team members are 'coping' better than you are. Be aware of this and cut it off at every opportunity.
I use this phrase with my team and putting it into practice is easy. You make sure everyone feels part of the successes and therefore feels confident and empowered to be part of solving the challenges ahead.
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