Dr. Fred Johnson
Ten Essentials for Leading Well in Tough Moments
During the Great Recession, many companies sought my advice for proceeding through uncertainty which had rattled their employees, thus accelerating fear-based environments. I found myself returning to the same guidance this week in my conversations with corporate leaders. Here is what I shared with them.
1. TRUST YOUR HISTORY!
Many companies made it through the financial aftermaths of 9/11 and the Great Recession. It required resilience, staying power, solution thinking, and an abiding self-belief that we are going to endure this. If you and your company have weathered the storms of the past, trust that you will weather the days ahead. If you had good old days, believe that good new days, even if they are different, are in store for you as well.
2. TREAT YOUR TEAM LIKE ADULTS!
In uncertain times, some leaders try to protect their employees’ emotional state, unsuccessfully, by withholding, manipulating, downplaying, or giving incomplete information. The number one complaint of employees during the mass employee transfer from company to company that followed the recession was broken trust. Because they knew their leadership was not leveling with them, they had determined in the midst of the crisis, that once the crisis was over and new opportunities emerged, they would find a job with a company that provided candor and ALL of the information. When the sand under our feet is in constant flux during these times, your teammates need to know what is real so that they can prepare and adjust.
3. SCAN THE HORIZON!
Ferry captains will tell nervous passengers in a storm not to focus on the waves immediately in front of them. To avoid seasickness, instead look out in the distance and it will settle the mind and the stomach! There are a lot of waves coming at us right now but remember, the storm is finite. IT WILL END. I frequently tell leaders who come to me for crisis instruction that every wave is another wave toward the back of the storm! There will be bad days! It’s just a wave toward the endpoint. They will come less and less but it is part of the process.
4. PRACTICE A 100% RESPONSIBILITY MINDSET! CREATE A PLAN!
Volunteer victim thinking obsesses on how big the obstacles are. The more one does this, the bigger the mental mountain we create. Rather than giving power to the barriers, give your power to the solutions. A powerful way to overcome the helplessness we feel is to create a plan and to figure out your options. It is hope-giving, empowering and stress relieving, THE OPPOSITE OF FEAR IS NOT COURAGE! ACTION IS THE OPPOSITE OF FEAR THAT IN TURN FOSTERS COURAGE.
5. FOCUS ON YOUR LOCUS OF CONTROL AND GIVE IT ALL YOU GOT!
Worrying over something that is out of our control is a worthless exercise that misuses our energy and creative thinking. You have a lot more control in this situation than you think you do, including yourself, your choices, and your mental attitude.
6. DON’T PLAY SUPERMAN!
Ten minds are better than one! Share with them the challenges! Ask them for solutions. If hard decisions have to be made, they are much likely to own them if they participated in the process. Plus, they will feel trusted, empowered, and engaged, so very important for gaining new momentum after the storm passes.
7. CHOOSE TO BE COMFORTABLE WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE!
You might not like some of the outcomes that come from this. Embrace them! So, you might have to work a bit longer than you planned! So, you have to use your credit line more than you wanted! I might have to get rid of some things. So, you might have to find a new position somewhere else! Life will do what life will!
I will roll with whatever it brings! I have people who love me! I am alive!
Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can happen? Can I survive that? Can I be happy even in those circumstances? I can start fresh I will create my own happiness that is not dependent on external circumstances beyond my control.
8. CHOOSE TO STAY CALM, RESOLUTE, AND BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!
It is easy to lead when things are going great. The test of effective leadership is when the chips are down. Your team needs you to be even, transparent, comforting and real without being Pollyannaish! Your best bet during this time is you! You can do this! No matter what happens, I will land on my feet. Your self-belief is your most potent tool!
9. CATCH THE KNUCKLE BALL!
Like a catcher who knows the ball is coming but isn’t sure where it will land, expect the unexpected. Anticipate surprises. Remind yourself you have dealt with tough circumstances before!
10. FACE THE FEAR HEAD ON!
The most effective way to address fear is to admit it to yourself and to others. Get it from underneath the table!There is no weakness in being afraid. Fear can inform us, but we must choose not to be dominated by it. Rather rely on your sense of purpose and your values to make critical decisions.
Be patient! Make no decision without clarity.In this fluid situation, information will keep coming. Avoid making long-term decisions based on short-term emotion! In clarity’s absence, wait! Take on this situation in blocks of time: a day, or a week, or two weeks, and make decisions for that period. Time will clarify.
Your best bet for coming through this moment is on yourself! You got this!