The Top 3 Priorities for Leading Through These Unpredictable Times
By Debra Kunz, Executive Coach and Founder, Center for Deliberate Growth®
“Let’s have a pandemic!” None of us put that into the suggestion box. This was not our idea.
Part of why leading through this particular situation is so complex is you already had your existing business challenges – and now you’re leading through piles of added issues where it feels like everything is impacted in some way or another – at work and at home. (Did you ever think we’d spend this much time talking about toilet paper?? Well, unless you’re in the consumer goods industry that is.)
Usually when I’m working with leaders who are creating changes in their companies, it’s because it’s their idea to do so. It’s to set up the business for growth, improve themselves as leaders, raise productivity, respond to growth that’s already happening, enable better teamwork, navigate industry changes, expand or rethink their services, or restructure to optimize resources.
In these examples, the changes were initiated by you, the leaders who are ultimately responsible for the people and the results of the business. And, those changes were initiated to produce a particular result or improvement.
So let’s make it a little bit easier to navigate how to effectively lead through the changes created by a pandemic. (I shared four steps for being an effective virtual leader in a prior article.)
The Top 3 Priorities for Effectively Leading Through Change Right Now:
How you look at the current situation makes or breaks how productive you will be today, and tomorrow, and next month.
You don’t have to love change to be effective at leading through it. It’s actually more important right now that you’re not afraid of change.
Worry and fear and anxiety about what is happening now is human. Express that and own it within yourself. Just don’t live from that state of mind or make decisions from it.
- When you are operating with a state of mind based in fear, your viewpoint of what’s possible will be automatically limited to options that will protect you, not move you or the company forward.
- I understand how a viewpoint of protection might be appealing right now, though it will interfere with how quickly you can lead through this current and complex change scenario.
- The faster you are able to embrace the changes happening right now, and move into a mindset of acceptance, the more peace you will find, and the more solutions you will see.
- This step is where you keep your head on straight so that you can continue with leadership priorities #2 and #3.
It’s okay to admit that keeping your head on straight is something you need help with. My clients feel that “fuzzy focus” too, and it’s what we coach on most often right now.
2. Address Resistance: Especially your own.
If you find yourself avoiding decisions, even small ones, or dodging questions from your team, you are resisting.
If this sounds like you, I get it. This is not how you planned this year to go. Me neither. Yet here we are.
- The more we refuse to adjust to what’s needed right now, the more stress it adds and the harder it will be to lead effectively.
- The ripple effect of your resistance will be felt throughout the business. In fact, your resistance becomes your teams’ resistance, if they didn’t already have their own.
- Resistance eliminates innovation and drains productivity.
- If you are demonstrating resistance to your employees, it’s going to be very hard to create what the business needs, and what your people need, to move through this scenario.
How Do You Know if You’re Resisting?
Listen to yourself and your teams. For example:
- “I can’t believe we have to do that.” The first time you say this is fine. The third time about the same thing is resistance.
- “I don’t know what to do.” The first time you say this is a realization. The third time is an excuse to avoid the tough decision or to gather the information you need so that you can make the tough decision.
Instead of Resisting:
- Receive that reaction within yourself, and from your teams, as information. Take it as feedback about what’s happening, and then use it as input into what to do next.
- In the case of your employees, resistance could show up as a reaction to how you are leading through this situation. That’s actually a good thing; if a piece of your team’s resistance is a reaction to you, it means that you can choose what to do differently to improve their response to change.
3. Build Resilience: For yourself and your teams.
The opposing force to resistance is resilience. Think of resilience as inner strength, courage, adaptability, and flexibility.
At its core, resilience is a fundamental belief in yourself, in your teams, and in your company that what you’re planning will work. And, that you can successfully adjust as needed.
The Advantage and the Risk:
Resilience is tested when mistakes happen or things don’t work the way you thought they would. Resilient leaders accept mistakes, rectify the situation, and then move forward.
On the other hand, resistant leaders avoid the problems and run from conflict — wasting costly time and money — while they just “hope” things will be better without an actual solution in place to do so.
- When everything works well, people don’t think about needing to be resilient.
- It’s when the unexpected happens that leaders learn if they have the right business processes, have the people who are the best fit, and determine whether the way you do business is the best way to serve your clients or customers.
- Resilient leaders ask their people for ideas. Likely there is something that you haven’t thought of because your teams have an entirely different viewpoint of the business than you do.
- Resistant leaders think they ask for input and ideas, though inadvertently silence their teams when they continue to answer the questions themselves.
What I shared today is a small piece of what I’ve learned about leading through change. My 27 year career includes a period of 10 mergers in 10 years. Since then, I’ve guided numerous executives and business owners through changes to create intentional results as I founded the Center for Deliberate Growth® in 2010.
A Short Case About Change:
A business owner client resists change yet wants financial growth. He was resistant to the point that even after deciding to work with me, he still fought me every step of the way. In fact, a common way he expressed the scenario was “your program ‘forces’ me to look at things that I don’t want to look at.” To his credit, he kept engaging in the process which showed signs of resilience.
According to him, one of his most interesting discoveries was when he learned that his team was more resilient than he was. Much to his shock, through my program he uncovered that his employees were ready for change and anxiously waited for him to “get with it” as they would state.
After we worked through his state-of-mind to become a Growth Mindset, let go of some of his resistance, and worked into becoming a more resilient leader, employee engagement rose by 23%. When we engaged his team, and I taught them the same growth principles that I taught him, revenue was 26% higher than the prior year.
What would you like to discuss about leading through change?
About the Author: Debra Kunz is an Award-Winning Executive Coach and Business Performance Consultant, and the Founder of the Center for Deliberate Growth®. With over 25 years of experience, Debra’s interactive programs energize and educate leaders to think differently about how they create results. Her unique method includes the measurable ROI of strategic leadership and performance solutions. Debra delivers virtual and in-person programs for US and international clients. (In-person options will resume following the pandemic though there’s no need to wait for help. Let’s explore a virtual program now.) © Copyright 2020 Center for Deliberate Growth®. All rights reserved.