As I write this, globally we are in the midst of the Corona (COVID-19) virus pandemic. It is un-chartered waters on so many levels. It feels like every country, government, community, organisation and family is being impacted to some extent. And amongst it all, we are seeing a multitude of responses being played out, all of them right in their own model of the world.
Irrespective of the current situation, the new norm of life seems to be a world of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity). And as leaders, we are constantly being called upon to lead through times of extreme uncertainty and crisis; often so in situations that we have not seen before, like the Corona pandemic.
As leaders therefore, it is critical for us to be clear and congruent on the question of: “How am I going to lead in such times…times of high degrees of uncertainty and change?”
I believe that leading through uncertainty and change is an iterative process comprising of the following five phases :
1. Lead yourself first
When travelling on planes, we are always reminded of the following…
“In case of an emergency, please put your own oxygen mask on first BEFORE helping others.”
The above may seem like common sense, but may not necessarily be common practice.
To be in a position to lead others through tough times, we must first lead ourselves. That requires us to laser in on the 3 foundational elements of our being: Physical, Emotional and Spiritual.
- How am I looking after myself physically?
- What do I need to do more/less of to be fitter and stronger?
- How can I boost my well being even more?
- What internal dialogue am I choosing to engage in?
- What am I most fearful about? What am I most grateful for?
- How can I make room for both: my fear(s) and at the same time remain calm, centred and resourceful?
- How do I tap into the power of my faith/universal source for guidance, strength and direction?
- What specific rituals will be most helpful?
- How do I keep myself spiritually centred?
When our physical, emotional and spiritual selves are more in harmony, then we can engage our intellectual parts more powerfully.
2. Evaluate Intelligently
In times of uncertainty the volume of noise goes up dramatically; be it on the news, social media, amongst friends, family and colleagues and more. Amongst this noise is a mixture of facts, opinions, ideas, concerns, fears, feelings etc. And far too often it is so easy to get swept up in this volume of noise.
In times like these, it is critical for us to evaluate intelligently, allowing room for both facts and feelings, both of ourselves and others.
Here are some questions to consider:
- What are the facts about the situation that I know?
- What might others believe are the facts in this situation?
- What is still unknown?
- How do I feel about the situation?
- What might others be feeling about this situation?
- What meaning am I choosing to give this situation? Could I find more empowering meaning to what’s going on?
- What meaning might others choose to give it? How can I influence others to seek more empowering meaning from this?
3. Tap into your past successes
Chances are that we have all faced adversities in the past, be that personal and/or professional. Chances are also that somehow we have overcome our adversities and made it through. And we might have even come out stronger as a result of it.
I believe triumph over adversity leaves a trail of clues. So whilst traversing uncertain times, it helps to reflect on the clues that enabled us to be resourceful in the past.
So ask yourself: In the past, how specifically have I overcome the adversities I have faced? Of all that has helped, what was been the most helpful?
In reflecting on the above, I would suggest adopting a holistic perspective. Specially, consider unpacking your “success formula” across the following three dimensions:
- What mindset was most helpful?
- What enabled me to cultivate that mindset?
- What enabled me to stay in that mindset when things were tough?
- How have I made decisions when faced with uncertainty before?
- What was my criteria for arriving at those decisions?
- How did I engage and align others in the process?
- What were the first steps that I took that were the most helpful?
- What strategies and actions enabled me to seize momentum?
- How did I engage and energise others through the process?
4. Decide, Act and Adjust
“It is in the moments of decisions that our destiny is shaped” – Tony Robbins
As leaders it is our job and responsibility to make decisions and orchestrate progress. In doing so, we must get honest with ourselves around where we choose to focus our energies on.
For example, ask yourself and decide :
- Am I going to be part of the problem OR be part of the solution?
- Am I going to focus on what I’m worried about OR focus on what I can control and/or influence?
- Am I going to focus solely on my needs OR consider the needs of others and the eco-system we live in?
More practically, here are some questions to reflect on.
- What decisions are yours to make?
- How will you make these decisions? What do you need to consider?
- How do you engage diverse perspectives so as to overcome your own biases?
- What are the vital few actions that need to happen quickly – in the next 1, 7, 30, 60 days?
- What are the vital few strategies and actions for the mid-to-long term?
- How do you ensure agreed actions do actually happen?
- How will you evaluate whether or not you are making progress?
- What is your process for adjusting and/or changing course?
5. Maintain Perspective
“This too shall pass” – King Solomon
How do you alter your perspective on a challenging problem or situation? Here are 3 effective ways:
a. Ask the long game question
One of the most effective ways to get perspective is to ask yourself a simple, but powerful question:
“In the grand scheme of things, will this incident/issue/problem/situation matter a year from now, or a decade from now?”
By pausing to reflect in this way, you force yourself to get a helicopter view of the situation. And when you view the situation from a higher vantage point, you’re more than likely to change your perspective, or at the very least, lower your emotional intensity about the situation. This reduced emotional intensity results in a clearer headspace, a place from which you are better able to develop a way forward.
b. Look for the gift and the opportunity
Napoleon Hill, in his famous book Think and Grow Rich, said, “Every adversity carries within it a seed of equal or greater opportunity,” a restatement of the saying “every cloud has a silver lining.”
To uncover the potential gift in any situation, ask yourself:
- What is the gift that might be disguised in this problem/situation?
- How can this problem/situation provide me with an opportunity to grow even more? Every problem is an opportunity to grow if you choose to believe it.
c. Look beyond the problem
Instead of focusing on the problem, imagine and anticipate the positive emotions you’ll feel once you’ve resolved the problem and/or the situation no longer exists.
Times of uncertainty will come and go in our lifetime, but it’s the way we respond, grow and adapt to them that stays in our character. By becoming more self aware and deliberate, you can lead and serve those around you in a more proactive and powerful manner.