Time to Rise
How to navigate through the biggest leadership challenge of your life.
The way the story goes, someone once asked a man how he was. He replied, “I’m going through hell!” With vigor, his helper replied, “Well, that’s no place to stop. Keep going!” This quote is often attributed to Winston Churchill. It first appeared in a religious context in the October 30, 1943 issue of the “Christian Science Sentinel” journal of Boston, Massachusetts, but we don’t actually know who said it. However, we do know Churchill said, “Never, never, never quit.”
We’re at that point right now where things look tough. We’re in the thick of it, aren’t we? All of us have been impacted. It’s a good time to watch a movie where the good guy or gal wins. It’s usually through sheer grit, determination, faith, ingenuity, and confidence that they will see the other side. (Not Contagion!) Then, it’s time to make your own plan.
My guess is that most of you have already been through quite a lot. 9/11, the recession, competitive threats, economic challenges, a divorce or other great personal losses, and guess what? YOU MADE IT. You are still here! You have a 100% track record of getting through difficult situations!
Last week we talked about How To Make The Most Of Your Time During This Season Of Unpredictability And Change Due To COVID-19.
So, what’s your next move?
- Begin with a plan for how you’re going to manage, communicate, and lead your operation for the next two to three months. Assess your assets (people, cash on hand, receivables), your risks (likelihood of payment for services, competitive threats, staffing challenges), your opportunities (services or products that are more needed now than before) and most importantly, ways you or your company can help during this crisis. We’re seeing many companies rising to meet this challenge such as General Motors who is partnering with Ventec Life Systems to help increase the production of ventilators. Be that company. Be that leader.
- Communicate with transparency and often with everyone in your supply chain about what’s happening and your plans. Silence is not a good tactic during a crisis, it’s a deadly one. Daily briefings rooted in reality but with an eye on action will help your team to focus on what needs to be accomplished and how valuable they are to the mission. Build trust wherever and however you can. During times of uncertainty, communication is a must.
- Get out of your own head. Begin to think about what could be possible for your business if this lasts even longer than we expect. What customer or client problems can you solve? Then write a brief, one to two-page marketing plan to make that happen. Remember you are 80% more likely to accomplish something if you write it down. In 2017, I went through Babson College’s Executive Education program for Entrepreneurs. They talked about the anxiety we all face from time to time and how to get through it. Quite simply, get it out of your head and onto a piece of paper and then start writing down different scenarios and how they could play out as well as how you can meet the current demands. Once you have a plan in place and know there are several options, you move from inaction to action, from a scarcity mindset to a resourced one.
- Partner up. Who can you walk alongside within your industry or through association memberships to encourage or help a broader audience?
- Write a personal note or do a call instead of an email. Zoom, Skype, or other video call platform is even better. Unlike where we were a month ago, you may get time with someone whom you normally would not. Make the most of that time. Be prepared.
- Check-in with your team at least once a day. Beyond “What are you working on?”, allow 10 to 15 minutes to see what everyone is up to and how they are adjusting. Make sure everyone has a chance to talk.
- See where you can do good. You have the same tools you had a few weeks ago. Who needs those tools the most? Who would have thought that an automobile manufacturer could make ventilators? Be resourceful. Think WAY outside of the box.
- Advertise, maybe. It depends upon what you’re selling. Like we’ve talked about before, this too will pass, so this is the time to show support, kindness, and empathy to your clients, customers, sub-contractors, and friends of your organization.
They say that leaders are born in a crisis but I don’t believe that to be true. I believe we prepare every single day of our lives for moments like this and when a crisis comes, as it will, inevitably, we are either prepared or not. It’s that simple.
Last but not least, make sure you’re spending time with a tribe of other leaders or a leadership coach who will help you get to the next place. We are designed for community, relationship, and mutual support. We are not meant to go through this life alone. Buddy up. We could be in this for the long haul.
Stay in higher brain. Focus on what you can do, write a plan, and work that plan.
Prior to the recession of 2008, I worked alongside an inspiring management consultant at The Creative Company. She and I would often be in long strategic sessions with leadership teams, some of whom didn't see eye to eye. At the end of the day, no matter what happened, she would say, "As long as no lives were lost, it's all good." Well, that's a good benchmark but during this crisis, it's clear that some lives will be lost. Our job as leaders is to focus on what we have control over, including the safety and well-being of those who work for us. We also need to remember and support those who are on the frontlines of this pandemic whenever and wherever we can. It's time to rise, be bold and lead like never before.
Later this week, you’ll have a chance to sign up for a free webinar and download The Creative Company’s guide for creating an active crisis communications plan. This is one way we can help during this time. I’d love to hear more about how you’re working through this time too so feel free to reach out to me personally or others on the team at The Creative Company.