Leaders have a big problem, which means you may have a big problem, too. When uncertainty is the new normal, how is it possible to lead others? Increasingly, leadership resilience (and lots of it) is your most valuable skill. Your confidence comes from your ability to bounce back and persevere even in the face of enormous uncertainty. How will you thrive in the face of rapid paced change, evolving marketplaces and shifting environments?
Here are five ideas to help you successfully persevere amidst the unexpected:
Cultivate a Sense of Calm
There’s an enormous benefit to cultivating a sense of calm in the face of rapid change and surprising shifts in the marketplace. One example is that calm gives you time to think, reflect and consider. Rather than rushing off in a panicked pursuit of an immediate solution, cultivating calm offers you and your team leaders the chance to take a breath, consider options and act decisively. Russell Simmons, the hip-hop mogul suggest one of the greatest tools for him is meditation. “I can promise you that no tool has made me a smarter, more focused and clearer thinking entrepreneur than meditation.” Whatever your means for cultivating calm, minimizing stress and distraction in the midst of uncertainty will serve you and your team well.
Find a Fresh Perspective
One of my favorite graduate school professors was fond of saying “perspective is worth 100 IQ points when it comes to working through the challenges facing leaders.” What she meant was having a fresh viewpoint or a strong source of comparative analysis could help illuminate new solutions to the challenges at hand. Whenever you face a serious obstacle to success, finding another person, organization or industry who may have experience a similar circumstance can often provide ideas for finding a new solution or direction.
Become More Inquisitive.
Questions are more important than answers for leaders. It was the genius Albert Einstein who reminds us that “the important thing is not to stop questioning.” While it’s easy to overlook the seemingly obvious, asking your team to explore the “few things that really drive results for your organization, profession or industry” will likely yield some surprising responses. One of my favorite exercises is imagining different items combined in different ways. Imagine drinking a glass of milk that tastes just like what you found at the bottom of your favorite cereal, without the bowl or the cereal. Sound unreal? It’s not. It’s called Cow Wow Cereal Milk. Now what’s your next great combo?
Embrace Differing Points of View
To be clear, I detest the term “devil’s advocate.” It’s like an arsonist telling you he’s a fireman. When I encourage you to embrace other points of view, what I’m suggesting is not disregarding good ideas or bad ones at the outset. I’m suggesting you try looking at them with a fresh set of eyes. You can adopt the perspective of your customers, clients, co-workers, colleagues or competitors. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is finding a new perch from which to view the issues and potential solutions. Try “piggy-backing” on a colleague’s idea. Find a fresh perspective and argue in favor of it. Watch your language. Be careful of phrases that marginalize other people’s ideas. Sentences and statements that begin with, “well the facts are…” or “the truth is…” seldom meet that threshold.
Try Helping Others.
For leaders and their teams, it is easy to be stressed-out and frustrated in the face of unexpected change. Shifting trends, new developments in technology, or a disrupted strategy can readily derail even the most thoughtful analysis or tactical plan. A longtime colleague used to marvel about how awesome human beings were at “pretending not to know what they really know.” Her point was that most of us know when things are going badly try as we might to talk ourselves out of those feelings. As a leader what are the ways you can break the cycle? How can you help your team see their new reality? Working closely with your team, being a pro-active listener and sharing your own understanding about what’s to come is a great place to start. Well before today’s unrelenting pace of change, Jack Welch the former Chairman and CEO of General Electric suggested this approach for leaders and their teams:
- Face reality as it is, not as it was or you wish it were.
- Be candid with everyone.
- Change before you have to.
- If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.
- Control your own destiny, or someone else will.
Thriving amidst the surprises, disruptions and shifts to come will demand much from your leadership. Building your inner strength, discipline, and most importantly your capacity for resilience will help assure your ability to bounce back and persevere even in the face of tomorrow’s enormous uncertainty. You would be well to remember the advice of former Secretary of State General Colin Powell. “People want to share your confidence, however thin, not your turmoil, however real.”
What techniques and strategies do you use to garner new ideas and perspectives? How often do you find yourself pretending not to know, what you really know? Share your thoughts and ideas here.