During my 42-year business career, I have experienced my share of economic downturns, disasters (both natural and man-made), and general business hiccups. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a unique crisis for businesses, but some leadership tactics remain the same.
For example, in 1977, at the start of my farming career, I learned the value of advice from an external expert on insurance before I lost crops due to a drought. During the Great Recession in 2008, I learned to hire executive leaders with various strengths and leveraged previous experience that would help us weather the economic downturn. When it came time to rebrand my business as a managed service provider in 2011, I lost excellent clients and great employees. It was the right move in order to keep pace with the changing market demand needed to stay in business.
[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]
Whether you are facing an economic crisis or a shift in business focus, there are plenty of things you can do as a leader to instill confidence in the people around you. I hope these ten tips, gathered over the course of my career, can help you and your executive team navigate the challenges we all face today.
1. Self-care is important
Self-care is vital to greater success. We all need rest to free ourselves from a consistently stressful connected environment. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to get enough sleep, exercise regularly, put down the electronics, and spend time with family and friends. You cannot effectively lead your organization through a crisis if you are not well.
2. Rely on your team
In challenging times, people will step up if we let them. But if you try to solve the world’s problems on your own, your team can only stand back and watch. Bring your team into discussions and planning and execution strategies – you will quickly see how valuable your team members are and better understand what they are capable of.
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3. Planning and preparation are key
Some of the worst business decisions are made when emotions direct the outcome. Planning and preparing ahead of a crisis is one of the most important things you can do as a business leader. The best way to do this is to brainstorm actionable strategies with your leadership team. Walk through a number of “what-if” scenarios that can be rapidly executed at a moment’s notice. This helps you and your team make decisions based on facts rather than emotion and prevents you from making knee-jerk reactions to crises without sufficiently considering impact on the organization.
[Help your team be more intentional about time and energy. Read also: COVID-19 leadership lessons: 5 ways to help your team recharge. ]
4. Communicate thoughtfully
Communication is crucial, but it can also be the Achilles’ heel of leadership. Never assume that your teams and clients automatically know how to succeed – that doesn’t just happen on its own. Communicate information clearly and honestly so others don’t need to guess and possibly fill voids with inaccurate information. When people are feeling stress and anxiety, it’s especially important to share information clearly from the beginning so it is not misconstrued.
5. Personal ideals matter
Employees often leave their personal beliefs and ideals out of the workplace for fear of crossing professional lines. But if your personal practices and principles help you stay healthy, organized, composed in stressful situations, and even motivated, omitting them from your work life means losing a critical part of who you are. That, in turn, can limit your ability to lead effectively. Lean into your values and engage with others who share them. Don’t dismiss your personal ideals and standards, especially in the face of a crisis.
Let's look at five more tips:
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