How to lead through challenging times
Monday 09 May 2022
It isn’t always easy to lead a team through uncertainty. Here are three things you can do to be an effective leader when times are challenging.
Leaders should be ready in calm times for tricky situations to emerge, advises a former head of the Royal Navy Leadership Academy. Make sure you take time to “step back and scan the horizon” for signals that indicate potential problems. Look after your health and diet and practice delegation, so that you have reserves of energy to draw on when needed. And always focus on ensuring you have a range of options: “Great strategies are always formulated around options and plans. When you run out of options you have run out of choices, hence you can only react to what happens next.”
When a crisis does hit, “the best leaders quickly process available information, rapidly determine what matters most, and make decisions with conviction”, according to the Harvard Business Review. It’s important to think things through, but do not get paralysed by trying to make the perfect decision or waiting to have complete information. Instead, define your priorities, force trade-offs and name the decision-makers on your team. “Empower the front line to make decisions where possible, and clearly state what needs to be escalated, by when, and to whom. Your default should be to push decisions downward, not up.”
Both the above sources also stress that in challenging situations leaders must communicate regularly and clearly with their teams and, if appropriate, customers. If not, people can make false assumptions to fill the communication gap, warns the first. Communication should be honest but positive, advises a Forbes Business Council member. Be candid because “you won’t get the great ideas you need if you downplay the problem”. But make sure to be trusting and optimistic. “Let your team know you feel confident you will all weather the storm together. Spend as much time as possible talking about what you can do, rather than what has been lost or what you cannot control.”