Leading through Crisis
"Whew, glad that's over – now, let's get back to normal!"
Here's the reality. No one will be able to say that, and no one should be waiting to say it. Things will continue to change, and the entire world will behave differently in the future than they did in the past.
We will never go back to life as we knew it pre-pandemic. And let’s be okay with that. Because then we can move forward. If you’ve been following the blogs in our Build Back Better series, you’ll know having a 60-day plan and taking immediate action is key to emerging from this crisis as a stronger, better organization.
What is also required now more than ever, is extraordinary leadership. Balancing empathy and productivity, fast yet thoughtful decision-making, and focus on the future as well as what's important today, are all part of the leader’s responsibility during a crisis.
Here are 7 leadership actions required in crisis to Build Back Better:
1. Better communication
The leader’s responsibility is to communicate with clarity, honesty, and consistency. COVID-19 has tested our communication ability not just because our methods are redefined (virtual) but also because of the fluidity of the situation (phased re-opening plans). Create a daily and weekly communication plan for everyone in the organization. Openly share all you know and don’t know, make sure they realize if you say something that is later proven to be untrue, it’s wasn’t intentional, but rather was all you knew at the time.
In real estate, it’s location, location, location; in leadership, it’s communication, communication, communication
2. Paint the picture of a better future
Great leaders point their teams toward their North Star. They paint the picture of the future and how it’s going to better than today. During a crisis, the most important work is always ahead of them, never behind. And the actions they take or don’t take today, will determine the future. Get everyone to follow the advice of the great Wayne Gretzky and:
Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it is
3. More empathy, flexibility, and tolerance This crisis has introduced multiple challenges for everyone, both personally and professionally. No one has been spared. It is paramount that you create a safe environment for the team to share their challenges and work collaboratively to overcome them. Be flexible and open to new ways of getting work done. People will have shorter fuses due to the stress of change and uncertainty; there will be more burnout.
Have a keen awareness of your attitude and your ability to give everyone the benefit of the doubt when faced with a reaction you would have preferred not to have received. .
To bring out the best in others, you must first bring out the best in you
4. Raise the bar
Being more empathetic and flexible doesn’t prevent you from asking for more. It’s time to raise the bar on the team. Right now, everyone is being forced to evaluate how they work. They are more introspective and able to find smarter, more effective ways of getting things done. Empower your people to be innovative, look for opportunities, try new things, move fast, and be better at their work. It’s the silver lining result and part of Building Back Better. .
People are like jelly donuts; you don’t find out what’s inside until they get squeezed
5. Focus on the customer
Your customers are also figuring out how to build back better. They need partners. They need value. They need change. If you spend all your time looking inward, you risk severe pressure to reduce your fees or worse, be part of their expense cuts. Your plan must include strengthening customer relationships because they will all be under review.
If we solve our customers’ problems, we’ll solve our own.®
6. Give crystal clear direction
During a crisis, you don’t have the same amount of time to make and implement decisions. Your team, therefore, doesn’t have the same amount of time to absorb and understand the direction. In addition, they are more distracted, disorganized, and afraid. Be clear on what needs to be done – right now. Be extremely specific on what you expect, by when, and stay close on the follow-up. In short, you must have clear, short-term agreements in place on what needs to get done, or you will see inaction. As Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich said,
It’s not what you are going to do; it is what you are doing right now
7. Be the cheerleader
Not every leader is wired to be a cheerleader, but every leader needs to be the cheerleader during a crisis.Pass out more “psychological paychecks,” giving compliments and encouragement. Sporting events are cancelled, and cheerleaders are in short supply; do your part to make up for that gap! You need to be the role model, the spark plug, the believer in the work you are doing. All eyes are on you, and your voice has to be the one that says,
We Got This!
During this crisis, odds are you are expected to get more done, most likely with fewer resources, in a shorter period, while facing less predictable outcomes. Sadly, most organizations are managed rather than led. Cultures are being tested, and leaders are in demand. Butler Street can help support the growth of your leadership team right now with virtual, immediate, and affordable training sessions. Seize the opportunity. Set your leaders up for success so your organization can Build Back Better.
As former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel stated,
Never let a crisis go to waste