Leadership Skills: How to Lead in Tough Times

Times are tough, they just are. Many people, probably some in your company or team, are struggling to pay their bills or with finishing an important project.

4 Tips for Leading During Tough Times

1. Shared Clarity

When the direction isn’t clear, people mark time. No one wants to look foolish by asking, so they act like they know what they’re doing. Yet lack of clarity is what lets projects fail. Stop assuming.

Clarity leads to power. Make sure you, your boss or sponsor, and your team are in complete alignment about the goals and tasks of the team. You may have to define the vision and goals in a lengthy document. If so, also craft a short-hand way of referring to it that provides rich meaning.

Keep that short-hand reference alive in all meetings, conversations, and documents. Test the clarity by saying, “This is what I understand we are doing. How do you see it?”

Clearly state your own priorities, too. If you have more than one or two, you don’t have priorities; you’re confused.

If you think the project requires joint execution, clear documentation, and rapid escalation of issues, add these three priorities to your mantra about the task. Then, when faced with a tough decision, you or your teammates will have clear guidelines for deciding.

2. Informed Optimism

Pessimists seldom hold leadership posts, at least not for long. Since we experience whatever our minds filter for, pessimists and optimists each get what they expect.

Believe in your project, yourself and your team, not blindly, but for good reasons. Your team takes its cues from you. If you believe in the task, yourself, and the team, it is likely they will too.

Don’t accept an assignment if you believe the task isn’t possible. If you have trouble believing in yourself or the team, ask yourself what you must do to regain optimism.

If it’s the task you don’t believe in, then consult your leadership and engage in the planning required to restore your faith. If it is the team you don’t believe in, call a re-orientation meeting with them and work through it. If you still don’t believe in the team, give your manager or sponsor your honest appraisal. It’s better they know now.

3. Uncensored Reality

Continuously test your plan against a dynamic reality. To do so you must open your eyes and ears wide. You must also open your mind to alternate points of view.

Remember that no matter how smart or experienced you are, you are always stuck in your own perspective. Include large doses of diverse opinion in your meetings. Seek out the truth.

Invite team members to slay all the taboo dragons and fight off denial. Let them know up front that if you appear to be wearing blinders, they are welcome to point out how they see the reality. And tell them you’ll treat them the same way.

To pursue uncensored reality means being willing to confront the truth about a situation and about yourself, and that can be difficult. You can develop this ability little-by-little by confronting things you normally would not. If you shy from conflict, facing it will help you learn how to turn conflict into resolute agreement.

4. Agile Resourcefulness

Anticipate unplanned set-backs and surprising opportunities. Regardless of how well you plan, your entire operating environment has a vote in what actually happens. Set-backs and opportunities are exactly why you need a clear, optimistic, reality-based team in tough times.

True teams excel at improvising in the face of adversity. Trust the team to help you take advantage of unplanned opportunities and respond to set-backs.

If you are a leader who consistently demonstrates clear optimism and resourcefulness in the face of difficult truths, you will get rewarded with the respect of the other team members.

Get Started With This 5-Minute Practice Tip

From 1=minimum to 10=maximum, how much do you demonstrate:

  • Shared Clarity 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  • Informed Optimism 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  • Uncensored Reality 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  • Agile Resourcefulness 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

What can you do to move up one or more level in each area?

Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Attend the acclaimed Creating Results-Based Teams workshop, or get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

Posted in Leadership on 01/06/2014 01:37 am
double line