As I write this blog, we are in the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Each day brings changes to how and where we can conduct business; we have little visibility into what the next month, three months, or six months will bring; and many of our employees are fearful.
To help those leaders during this and other crises, I offer some suggestions to how we can lead our businesses in uncertain times.
First of all, we need to keep calm and project an image of calm and confidence. Our employees look to us for guidance. The calm and confidence comes from the certainty that we will survive this. We do not know what will happen tomorrow and we do not know when this uncertainty will end. But, we do know that (with the collective efforts of our great team), we will do everything to make it through.
The consultant, Stan Sipes, once commented:
“The most common weakness I see in organizations is the lack of work that is done in a meeting.”
Today, more than ever, so little work is done in meetings because no one has done their homework to actually prepare for the meetings.
As a result, a meeting with the objective to discuss and make a decision morphs into a meeting that is 95% informational (getting everyone up to speed) and 5% decision-making (which usually becomes just a rubber stamp because we have run out of time and attention).
“There are smart decisions and wise decisions. And one form of wisdom is the ability to judge when to let luck disrupt our plans. Not all time in life is equal. The question is, when the unequal moment comes, do we recognize it, or just let it slip? Jim Collins (Great by Choice)
Being opportunistic means that we take advantage of those opportunities that unexpectedly cross our paths. To best position ourselves to capitalize opportunities, we need to:
Successful leaders make good decisions… consistently.
Good decision-making is dependent on a number of factors: understanding, experience, intelligence, foresight, and just plain luck. There is no guide that will tell you how to make the perfect decision. But, there are some keys to better decision-making that, when followed, will help to improve the quality and consistency of your decisions.
“It’s not always what we say; often it’s what we allow the other person to say. By listening, we gain trust and make other people feel more comfortable with us.” Rick Pitino
The ability to listen well, to really listen well, is one of those “soft skills” that distinguish effective leaders from run-of-the-mill managers.
As leaders, effective communication requires that we listen well to understand the true views and opinions of our team, our customers, and other stakeholders.
Four keys to such effective communication include:
Strategic thinking skills differentiate middle-level managers from effective upper level leaders. With excellent strategic thinking skills, the leader is able to make effective decisions that benefit their companies in both the short and long term.
Developing strategic thinking skills requires practice. It requires us to think strategically and see the consequences of our thinking. Three ways to get this practice and develop great strategic thinking skills include:
Hawaiians and other Polynesians are the descendants of peoples who traveled by boat from East Asia to settle their islands. Those most likely to survive the long and arduous journey were those with “thrifty genes”. They were those ancestors who were best able to process and use the limited food on their boat trips. Today, in a world of cheap and plentiful food, these same “thrifty genes” have led to an epidemic of obesity and diabetes among their descendants. What worked in one time may not work in another.
I share this anecdote to drive home the point that “survival of the fittest” does not mean survival of the toughest or meanest in a dog eat dog world. Rather, the survival and success of the fittest requires that we be flexible and adaptive in our leadership focus, style, and vision depending on the needs of the marketplace and our companies. Continue reading