Before we get to my main points, I wanted to share an observation that may make you feel a little less alone during these unnerving times.
I’m hearing of a growing sense of weariness taking over. Phrases such as “out of control”, “discontent” and “fatigued” are coming up more often in my conversations.
These feelings aren’t coming from business owners and CEOs in desperate straits but coming from business owners and CEOs of companies doing relatively well.
People are transitioning from the initial, adrenaline filled, 80-hour work weeks that marked the front end of this downturn to planning for what comes next. It’s not surprising that you’re fatigued. Others are feeling it too.
Take care of yourself, go on that long walk, find inspiration from others and get ready for the next chapter of this uncertain road ahead. Stay focused by reading my 12 points to surviving the 2020 business economic crisis.
Qualities That Set You Apart
If we’ve learned one thing about effective leadership styles and behaviors over the past two months, it’s that the most effective business owners and CEOs possess both strong emotional intelligence and the drive and intensity to execute. They know it’s not about them and they can’t get what they need to get done all on their own.
Great leaders exhibit trust, discipline, self-control, sound critical thinking and judgment, self-awareness and empathy.
So how do you live up to these qualities of leadership during these difficult times? Here are 4 key actions:
• Be responsive: Make rapid, sound and timely decisions. We’re taught to be analytical and to manage risk downwards by having lots of data to back up our actions.
But…great leaders get by on the 75% rule. Do the best you can to get 75% of the information and data you need to properly assess a situation. Use your intuition, experience and expertise to fill in the rest. In modern management, we tend to undervalue these critical traits.
It’s always better to make a decision and execute aggressively than try to make a perfect decision (of which there never really is) too late.
Keep in mind, not making a decision is a decision – it’s just a decision not to act.
• Accept a decentralized decision making model. This may not be your natural response but you need to create a culture of giving front line people the authority to make decisions without permission. Implementing this approach to decision making creates flexibility, creativity and adaptability throughout your organization.
In the business environment, and especially under stress, we tend to exaggerate the contribution senior leadership makes to moving our companies forward. It’s always about your people. Leaders exist to create the environment so others can do more than they thought they were capable of. Leaders are accountable for the success their employees enjoy through the culture that envelopes them.
Senior leaders must be explicitly clear on expectations, but that doesn’t mean making decisions on how to execute. Stay aligned by continuing daily huddles.
• Stay calm and composed during a crisis. Covid has taught us that, as leaders, we need to get comfortable with fear and uncertainty. We’re not going to be able to eliminate the chaos going on around us. We’ve learned that we must be prepared for inevitable, unforeseen events.
It may take a lot of self-talk, but we have control over the story we tell ourselves. That story is what will dictate our reaction – our own and the way we come across to others. How others perceive, respect and follow you will be in large part driven by your composure.
• Don’t give up. Persistence and grit gives you an edge over others. Whenever you’re feeling that life is unfair, think of everything you’ve had to overcome to get this far.
It’s Not About You
Finally, I remember hearing these 4-Cs of leadership that have stuck with me for many years: consistent, confident, composed and courageous.
Leadership is about what others think of you. Not what you think of yourself. Try to improve in one of these “C’s” each day and you’ll be rewarded with employees who’ll help your company adapt to the worst of circumstances and who’ll make your company a great place to work that achieves superior financial and operational performance.