I’m excited and saddened at the same time during these “different times” we are currently experiencing through COVID.
On one hand, every day I think and feel that I have the opportunity to develop and grow, because we cannot be living the same way now, as we were pre-COVID. The simplest of our usual routines and tasks have to be approached differently. That means, adapting, growing, changing, re-prioritising, re-valuing and re-thinking. That makes me excited. I see opportunity, I feel energised. And this is how I feel, despite the fact that I am suffering, as everyone else, through the economic effect of COVID.
Which brings me to what saddens me. It’s not the economy and it’s not the loss of income we are facing. It is simply the death toll, and the tragedies that some people are living through. That hurts. And I look forward to seeing that end as soon as possible.
In light of that, and despite the tragedy, I chose to focus on the positive. As a leader in crisis, now more than ever, you need to be aware that choice is key. What you choose to experience now, will determine your ability to lead during this crisis. Because choice creates intention, and intention is the foundation of everything. Whatever you intend, becomes. And if you intend on nothing, you get that also.
Therefore, if you do anything right now as a leader, do this. Intend on being an exceptional leader in crisis. Because your role is crucial during these emotional and tense days. You can choose to create a safe and positive environment for your teams, which will enable them to better manage and process what is occurring. As a friend of mine reminded me, being able to hold space for those around you, is a fundamental quality of an effective leader. The positive and powerful intention creates that space that you can hold and share with others. A space in which growth, development, and healing takes place.
During crisis, the team is looking at you more than ever before. They look at you consciously, and also sub-consciously. They also feel you at those two levels. Which means that they are processing your behaviour and making decisions about it on one level. And they aware of that. And on a deeper level, your behaviour and your energy (or aura or vibration) are triggering within them emotions and responses that they are unaware of. These, all put together manifests in the behaviours that will be experienced in your business and towards your business. This in turns decides if your business/operation will fail or succeed.
As a consequence, in order to have a business and team that get through this, or even better, the catch-phrase of this crisis is “not just survive, but thrive through this”, your role as a leader is to ensure that your behaviour, and that of your team is calm, decisive and effective.
Now, I’ve decided to write this blog from the “negative” perspective. So I’m not going to list what you should do to achieve this, I’m going to list what you shouldn’t do. The reason for that is that often if you get a “how to do” list, you may very well do that, but you may also continue to do the very things that are damaging your leadership and business. Therefore, this list is about becoming aware of what NOT TO DO as a leader in crisis. That will ensure you are not dynamiting any good work you are doing.
Let’s explore that DO NOT DO list. This list can help you choose better behaviours which in turn will make your intention more positive and attractive to others. Furthermore, it will enable you to hold space for others, which in turn will open more doors for you and your business;
DON’T IGNORE THE FACT THAT IT’S A CRISIS
It is important to recognise this, its magnitude, and scale. Its human effect and its toll. That doesn’t mean you are focusing on the negative, it just means you are aware of the facts. And more importantly, be aware of its impact on those around you, so that you can communicate with empathy and compassion.
More importantly, acknowledging a crisis allows you to explain to your team the science and theory behind the stages of crisis. For example, I love this article by Morela Hernandez (writing for MIT Sloan Management), who says “Effective leadership can make crises manageable instead of overwhelming. Leading through crisis typically involves adopting a systematic approach to problem-solving: Stages of crisis include issue detection, response, recovery, and learning”
When you explain this to your team, they start to see that “this too shall pass”
DON’T KEEP THE SAME OBJECTIVES, TARGETS AND GOALS
Let’s face it, whether you have been affected directly or not, the landscape has changed. Therefore it is important to shift your goals, whether they be personal or professional, in order to match reality. Our goals tend to be linked to the outcomes that we desire. And when we set those goals, it creates an instruction to the sub-conscious mind, which then helps to manifest the outcomes. Our behaviour and intention will be linked to that.
If you don’t shift your goals, your behaviours become erratic and somewhat disconnected from the new reality. That, in turn, creates a sense of confusion and disassociation from your team. They will feel somewhat unsafe and uncomfortable in your presence. Clearly, that is not the feeling you desire. So, shift your goals now. Make them realistic.
DON’T KEEP DOING THE SAME THING
If it’s broke, fix it. Don’t operate through this crisis with the philosophy that if it worked in the past, it will continue to work. This is the time to look at your business. It’s the opportunity to re-assess and re-examine.
Certain parts of your business will not work during this crisis. They will either need to be eliminated or restructured. Whether it’s how you operate, what you sell, how you communicate to clients, or how you distribute your product, you need to examine it and make a decision. If it’s bleeding your cash flow, make that decision now. It is not the time for analysis paralysis or procrastination. It’s also not the time for excessive meetings and communications about the same matter.
An effective leader in crisis will make the tough decisions, in a timely manner.
DON’T BELIEVE IT’S YOUR DOOM
Hey, it’s quite simple right. However, truly check in to yourself. Are you seeing this as the end? Are you seeing this as the straw that broke the camel’s back? You might not be saying it out loud, and you might not be acting on it, but regardless, it will affect your results and it will affect how your team responds to you.
If you are being fatalistic, shift that perception immediately now, and say to yourself, now it’s time to find ways to make my business better than ever before.
All eyes are on you, boss! And guess what, they are judging. In order to make the most of that opportunity, ensure that your behaviour is calm and constructive. The killer of that is just one outburst, one overreaction. It immediately saps your credibility. And while most will understand that this is normal under duress, it doesn’t reduce the fact that your leadership impact will be dented.
Overreaction manifests in many forms. Excessive meetings and communications, impulsive strategic shifts, micro-managing, becoming stoic, blaming etc.
And guess what is behind your overreaction? Well, it’s simply the fact that you have lost control (fear is the emotion). And you can only lose control if you try too hard to keep control. So during crisis, be comfortable that you will have less control. Be flexible and as Bruce Lee said, “be like water my friend”. Water fits into any shape and gets through any obstacle. As a leader, be like water and go with the flow more during crisis.
DON’T CLOSE YOUR MIND
One of the key survival instincts is to minimise everything so that you can focus on what is important. In itself that is a great strategy. However, it can take over and I hear my clients say “let me just get through this and then I’ll…”. And they freeze everything else in their lives and act as though the only thing left, is to survive.
Well, if that is your behaviour, then that is the outcome you will get. Just survive.
To get better than that, be prepared to do the survival work, but don’t let that drain all your energy. Meaning you go home, and just think about the problems. Instead, keep looking at growth, keep learning about what’s possible, keep engaging in adaptive and constructive conversations. If you just become defensive, you will act defensively, and that is not effective in a crisis.
DON’T SACRIFICE YOUR HEALTH AND WELLBEING
Following the point above, it is easy to think about deferring your healthy routines in order to spend more time on dealing with the changes needed for survival. The key to being a great leader is the ability to maintain clarity, energy, and positivity. Eating well, exercising, meditating, and surrounding yourself in nature are more, therefore, more important during crisis that ever before. In which case, keep doing them, and more so, do those more. You will find the time when you use time effectively.
DON’T FORGET TO BE GRATEFUL
I don’t need to say too much here. In crisis, and especially during COVID, be grateful you and your family have shelter, health, and food. Anything over and above that is a blessing. Be grateful for your team, be grateful for your clients and suppliers. Appreciate all those in your community and circle.
And where possible, contribute by helping those who need it and be generous with what you have as others may have much less.
Because the list of what not to do is so extensive, I’m not going to go into detail on each of these here. I will share some videos on the many of them, and you can get in touch if you want to chat about them further. But I do want to list them here, just so that you become aware of the behaviours you don’t want to do;
- Lose sight of your long-term mission
- Fail to communicate
- Fail to be transparent
- Aim for perfection
- Be inflexible
- Let stress overtake you
- Point fingers
- Act too slowly or too quickly
- Fail to delegate
- Be untrusting or untrustworthy
- Keep information from your team/s
- Speak negatively or discouragingly
- Be too relaxed, or not urgent enough
- Have a fixed mindset
- Stop training your team
- Solely money focused
- Manage based on reaction to the present only
- Forget the power of visualisation and affirmations
- Forget the greater good
I invite and encourage you to use this list, and you’ll find that you will better filter the developments that are occurring daily, ensuring you are being more calm, collaborative, transparent, and effective. I often say that success is not measured by how high you climb, it’s better measured by how many you take with you along the way. Now, more than ever, your focus on others and lifting them, will help you shine as a leader.