Crisis forces people and companies to adapt and change. Covid-19 is particular because of its global impact; consequences are magnified both personally and collectively. Large scale disruptions can expose our fault lines and vulnerabilities and push us to challenge and question existing mindsets and behaviours. While traumatic, it can also elevate and bring to the fore different leadership behaviours.
Throughout the past 8 months, we have been exploring and experimenting with our clients what it means to lead through uncertainty. These periods are especially challenging because they are complex, ambiguous, and highly emotional.
We have found that during these times, leadership is a balance between a focus on performance and on the well-being of their team. This requires the ability to shift between states of doing (actions and behaviour) and sensing (state of mind and attitude).
Our coaching services can be used individually or combined as building blocks to design a customised solution for your organisation. Our aim is to implement quickly to provide leaders with valuable reflection space and new insights to apply to current realities and challenges. Find out more on our Leading Through Uncertainty page.
The following is an exercise of reflection and action. First ask yourself each question; then think though your current behaviour and other ways of leading.
1. Attend to self
- Do I check in with myself? As leaders, you are responsible for the needs of different people. In order to do this effectively you need to first attend to yourself – your capacity to reflect and think, to regulate your energy and stress levels, and even to maintain physical health – before you can be attuned to others.
- Am I giving space for emotions? Leaders have a lot on their plates, and more so during periods of crisis. You may avoid expressing your concerns because of a belief that you must appear strong. Being vulnerable, naming painful emotions and being honest about them helps. This encourages others to feel safe to deal with their own emotions, challenges and workload, creating empathy, connection and cohesion.
- Am I using crisis as a learning opportunity? Crisis takes people out of their comfort zone, and for some, a learning zone. Leaders who have gone through challenging times usually come out much stronger, with fortified resilience and empathy. Use this time to take stock of what you can learn from the experience.
2. Attend to business
- Do I have clear sight of my objectives? Maintain laser focus on your long term objectives. Take time to step back and take a helicopter view on what is most important for the business, its people and customers.
- Am I calm and practical? During periods of disruption, people can become easily distracted and/or lose motivation and confidence. Keep your composure, be pragmatic, practical and positive. Respect the emotions of your team, but also channel them to function productively.
- Am I willing to make and learn from my mistakes? During periods of crisis, you may have to make quick decisions on important issues with limited information. Be courageous, consult your intuition and act with the best intentions. Also be willing to fail and learn from your mistakes.
- Am I establishing order or control? Avoid falling into the trap of taking too much control when seeking to create clarity. Rather, work to establish order with clear communication lines, roles and responsibility, and empower teams to make decisions, while offering support, when needed.
3. Attend to others
- Am I communicating with clarity? When communicating with others, be as transparent as possible: say what you know and what you don’t know and inform people on how you and the organisation are dealing with the crisis. Repeat your communication to ensure the message gets through.
- Am I visible and available? Be accessible and let your team know how they can reach you. Furthermore, reach out frequently to check in with others.
- Am I creating a sense of community? Crisis can be divisive or bring people together. By reaching out and engaging others, you can tap into collaboration and collective intelligence to generate creative solutions as well as to create cohesion and commitment within the team.
While crisis can be distressing and overwhelming, it can also trigger behaviours to counteract the stressors, behaviours which result in more reflective, attuned and connected leadership. Furthermore, no single individual should carry the sole responsibility for both their needs and others’. Leadership is a team sport and crisis is best navigated when each individual takes responsibility for their personal and collective journey.
Find out more about our coaching services on our Leading Through Uncertainty page.