“Hard times don’t create heroes. It is during the hard times when the ‘hero’ within us is revealed.” – Bob Riley
In a time of crisis, opportunities abound if one is well-positioned with the right attitude. A leader who may be privileged to still be leading a team in this season, albeit virtual, must do this consciously with regard for all that is happening now and how it affects team members in various ways.
How should the leader approach leading his team in times like these?
1. Find Yourself First
Before you can help others find their way through the maze of life, work, school, etc you must know where you are yourself so you can point out the direction to others in your team. This is necessary so that it does not become a tale of one blind man leading a group of blind men who have no idea their leader is just like them – without sight, without a vision.
2. Set Yourself on Firmer Footing
The leader needs to assure and reassure himself that he is on a firm footing. What beliefs, character, habits and principles make up your foundational core?
How do you affirm that all is not over when you wake up each morning? Do you make confessions and affirmations you actually believe and with conviction? Or are they just a routine recital? Are you standing firm enough to take on another person?
3. Communicate Effectively
I. Inspire hope and confidence in your team
In difficult times, what people need most is hope; something positive to hold on to. According to Wikipedia, “Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: “to expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation.” A good leader must be able to inspire hope and confidence in his team no matter what happens around them. According to Thich Nhat Hanh, “hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”
Inspiration is communicated through our words and actions. It is a good idea to consciously speak words of hope and encouragement when everything else says the opposite. Knowing that tomorrow will be better than today inspires enough courage to keep moving on and refuse to give up.
II. Our communication must be reassuring especially for our teammates who may be in unusually discouraging circumstances. Difficult times tend to blur our memory and vision. Difficult times provide a great opportunity for team leaders to refresh the memories of the team and to remind and encourage them. Genuine care can be communicated this way because you help them see beyond today by building on what was, previously.
III. Bring perspective – Be gentle but firm
No doubt there is so much going on that has taken the world by surprise and yet firms need to remain as productive as possible whether work is accomplished in the bodily presence or remotely. As a leader, you have the usually tough task of bringing perspective to a confused team. The least team members can do is to deliver their best as much as they can to ensure firms run at the best level they can in a time like this. Revised work schedules and goals should be clearly, firmly, but gently communicated so that employees know what is expected of them and are psyched up to deliver excellently.
4. Be Proactive and Strategic
“The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them.” – Unknown
Things may have gone completely out of whack and for some economies, some level of or total control may have been lost. It is the perfect time to proactively think and plan strategically with the team at hand and as an individual. Once the shock of what has been lost or is being lost begins to wear off, true leaders need to begin to refocus and re-strategise. What can be salvaged? What should be counted as a loss? What opportunities could arise from the mess? What should be my attitude? How do we turn the blocks in total disarray into stepping stones that lead us to the desired end? These are critical questions to quiz ourselves on.
Unforeseen happenings have the ability to shake us to the core and for some, the not-so-firm foundations begin to give way. How do we rise again as leaders out of such a situation? Are you and your team going to come out stronger or weaker? “In a moment of crisis, reactions set the leaders apart from followers” – Peter B. Shark