Leading in Difficult Times

I was talking to a friend the other day and we were reminiscing about a business we worked at that went through a really rough period. Market demand had dropped, orders were down, margins were being squeezed, and we had a new business system that limited our view of the situation.

He mentioned something that really struck me.

He said, “I’m glad we went through that time because it made me a much better leader.

He’s right.

Leading during difficult times takes everything you have but the truth is, you will be better off because of the experience.

Having led both military and business organizations through some pretty difficult periods, I’m convinced that tough times make you a better leader.

Tough times make you a better leader Click To Tweet

Let me suggest five reasons why:

Tough times require you to operate at your highest level. When the seas are calm and the weather is nice, you don’t have to be at the top of your game. But tough times require an intense, 24/7 focus on the problem. As a leader, everyone in the organization is watching you and depending on you to make the right decisions to lead them out of the situation. It requires focus, determination, decisiveness, courage, intensity, and perseverance. It will take your absolute best.

You learn a lot about yourself during tough times. The challenge of leading during difficult times is learning to deal with those voices of self-doubt, fear, and worry while your team is depending on you for confidence and strength. Tough times are the ultimate test of a leader’s character and resolve. There is nothing that will boost confidence more than facing the toughest challenge in your career and coming out on top.

Tough times are the ultimate test of a leader’s character and resolve. Click To Tweet

You build strong bonds with your team during tough times. When you stand shoulder to shoulder with your team through a crisis, you build a bond that can last a lifetime. When a leader and a team step up and work together through a tough situation, it builds a powerful new level of trust and respect. The overall capability of the organization is forever enhanced through this experience.

Tough times give you a new perspective. Your perspective forever changes from having withstood a difficult period. You have a much greater appreciation for when times are good. You also are less likely to let people, politics, and minor issues get you down. Tough times help build your maturity as a leader.

Your perspective forever changes from having withstood a difficult period. Click To Tweet

Tough times become an anchor point for the rest of your career. Great leaders can almost always point to a time in their careers when they became great. In most cases, it was leading an organization through a tough situation. The most difficult situation you face may actually be the defining moment in your career.

Most of us don’t want to go through difficult times. It’s human nature to want things to be easy. The problem is when things are easy and you aren’t challenged, you don’t grow. 

Confidence and maturity as a leader come from dealing with your self-doubt and fears while overcoming adversity.

So, instead of complaining or worrying about the current COVID-19 pandemic, why not try to celebrate these tough days?

Yes, the times are hard. But this may be the best thing that ever happened to you as a leader!

I’ve been covering the issue of leading in a crisis daily on my Twitter account, so make sure to follow me and add your thoughts to this conversation.

Deep Leadership Podcast

Also, listen to my interview with Monty Granger on my podcast. Monty is a retired Army Major who was called into action to set up the Army medical facilities at Guantanamo Bay right after 9/11. He knows what it means to lead through a crisis.

 

 

 

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)

Help! I’m in a new leadership role, what should I do?

A while back I was asked this timely question:

Q: Jon, help!  I’ve just started a new leadership role and really want to make a good impression, what should I do?

A: First off, congrats!

Here’s the deal:

It doesn’t matter how seasoned you are, any time you start a new role, you’re the rookie.  Everyone’s watching you for cues to see what kind of leader you’re going to be.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the first 100 days are critically important. 

It’s your chance to set the right tone for your organization.

That first 100 days represent the “honeymoon” phase.

It’s the small window of time when you have the full attention of everyone.  Yes, you’ll be under a microscope with people watching your every move.  But this is good news!  It means you can make a big impact…

IF you take advantage of those beautiful early days!

First and foremost:

You’ve got to have a plan.

No plan, no magic.

The best leaders in history have known this…and used this “secret” to win the commitment – if not the hearts – of their staff.  And this all begins with letting your team know who you are.  There may be anticipation – even trepidation – among your people.  Right off the bat, have a meeting with all team members to fully introduce yourself.

Use stories and examples of how you handled past situations to let them see your character.  Be visible.  Spend time where your people are.  Actively listen to their questions, concerns, and ideas. And engage them on the subjects they care about.

In this way, you’ll get to know them.

And they’ll get to know you as well.

Finally, make a point to meet one-on-one with key employees.  I like to have one-on-one meetings with as many people as I can. I want to know the biggest challenges and the most important issues facing the organization. I also want to understand what they think needs to be addressed first.

Bottom line:

The energy you put out is the energy you get back.

If you’re open, cooperative, and show them you value them as humans, they’ll pay it back with insights you wouldn’t get otherwise and greater alignment at all levels.  Get ‘em on the bus first.  Then you can steer.

Anyway, that’s all for today.

Stay tuned for my next post when I’ll go into no less than 7 more key actions you MUST take in those all-important first days to grab this bull by the horns and bring it on home!

If you are striving to become a better leader, get a copy of my Amazon best selling bookI have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following.

The Absent Leader

While most people identify micromanagement as the worst leadership style, there is another type of boss who is equally destructive to an organization, the absent leader.

This is the type of boss who is distant, aloof, or so busy that they don’t perform the basic duties of a leader. Leadership is about being present. It’s about setting the direction for your team and accomplishing goals. It’s also about resolving issues and conflicts when they arise.

When a leader isn’t present and isn’t carrying out these critical duties, chaos reigns.

Absent leaders create a situation where each employee does what they think is best for the organization. Most people care about their company and they want it to succeed but, when the leader steps away, there is not one person guiding the organization. Everybody decides what’s best to do. In the absence of clear direction, the organization will drift further from its mission.

The other problem is that one individual might choose to go one way and another person goes in a different way. This results in the organization getting pulled in many different directions. This creates internal conflict, unnecessary debate, and arguments which wastes precious time and resources.

When there is no leader, or when the leader is silent, chaos takes over.

Another example of this is rumors. When a leader doesn’t adequately explain what’s happening in an organization, especially during times of change, rumors will begin to get started. People will speculate on what’s going to happen. These rumors will run through an organization and do nothing but create worry and waste time, energy, and resources.

Rumors happen when leaders aren’t leading.

There are three ways to avoid becoming an absent leader.

Be present. Be there for your team. Listen to what’s going on in the organization. Walk around the workplace and be seen. Be alert for rumors and internal debates. Understand where people may be wasting energy and where divisiveness exists.

Lead the organization. Set the vision and the objectives. Establish clear boundaries and expectations. Let your team know what the priorities are. Be there to resolve conflicts and make hard decisions. Don’t shy away from your responsibilities.

Don’t stand for chaos. It’s the leader’s job to build a stable, smooth-running business. Chaos should always be the exception and not the rule. It’s good to have debate and discussion but allowing constant infighting and arguments only wastes the time and energy of an organization. It does not put you closer towards your goal. Take a look at your organization and see what’s going on. If there is chaos and confusion, you are not doing your job. You are an absent leader. You might have the leadership title. You might have the corner office. But you are not leading your team and that can be devastating to your organization.

Reach out to me on Twitter and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you.

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