Uncertainty is one of the toughest things for leaders to work through. Maintaining performance and steadying the ship are vital; emotions are high and demands on leaders are higher. But we know history provides many examples where crisis has created opportunity. Right now, strong leaders are addressing the short-term of preparing their organizations, teams, and customers for disruption, while using this time to optimize and prepare for long-term opportunities.
What can leaders do to look past the immediate and create into the future?
Start with you
We often tell leaders their teams breath the oxygen they create. The energy you bring to every conversation, meeting, decision will create the environment in which your team operates. During times of stress, this matters even more. We help leaders reset by using cognitive reframing to help them get into the right head space. A quick trick for this is to ask: what else could be true? How can I turn this into an opportunity? Instead of what can’t we do, what can we do? What would we do if we weren’t afraid? What could go right?
Lean into resource constraints
Resource constraints can be a good thing. Research has shown that resource constraints can trigger creativity and novel uses of resources, while abundance tends to lead to more typical uses. The current environment may lead to limits on resources, be it the ability to connect, supplies, funds, time, or something else. How can your team use this time to create and take risks they might otherwise not have had to? Challenge yourself and your team to create new pathways out of the current situation. We’re seeing teams rapidly innovate in every dimension, from how they connect to how they supply their customers. Some of these innovations will provide competitive advantages on the other side of the current crisis.
Use the quiet times
During the plague, Issac Newton went through the “Year of Wonders” which laid the foundation for the laws of gravity; Shakespeare did some of his best work, writing King Lear. What important things have you been leaving on the altar of the urgent? If you’re in an organization that finds itself with more quiet/remote time, think of what challenging questions you’d like posed and help your team use some of the quiet moments to dive deep. Be intentional and help your team use quiet time with purpose.
Be mindful of positivity
During times of crisis, existing rough patches become glaring holes; stress can cause leaders to show up as not-their-best-selves. Be mindful of helping your team vision and focus on a positive shared future. Positivity can mean the difference between the “a-ha” creative idea that could make the difference and not. Positive emotions have been shown to open up neural connections, drive openness, creativity, and greater outcomes. Make sure you’re bringing the vision back up from the crisis at hand. Start and end interactions with as positive a future vision as you can, and ask your leaders to do the same.
Although it may seem out of place, the benefits of laughter have been well documented. Although the global impact of the current crisis is no laughing matter, allowing yourself and your team to laugh, be it at a funny meme, shared video, or through many of the remote work strategies available online, make time to laugh. The lower stress, increased connection, and positive feelings will help drive not only creativity, but engagement and motivation.
About the author: Laura Greenberg creates environments for people and teams to thrive and elevate. She is an executive coach, facilitator, and founder of Verde Associates and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in values-driven leadership at Benedictine University.