Leading and Parenting in Tumultuous Times
These last few days and weeks have certainly been filled with unforeseen times and unchartered territory. It is during times like these that leadership (and parenting) is tested to the utmost levels. It is also during these times that people need to be united, humble, vulnerable and selfless.
The fear of the unknown is uncomfortable, it often causes panic and disarray. In many cases, people are watching you and how you react. If anything, your children are certainly looking to you for guidance. If you have fur babies, they continue to provide unconditional love but, they too, sense your level of anxiety. Therefore, how you react to these types of situations, can make or break you. Keep in mind that people spend years building the trust of others and it becomes tested and questioned in an instant. So what to do as a parent and/or business leader (regardless of the size of your company)?
I have had the fortunate (or unfortunate) experience of leading my team (and my family!) through natural disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and wildfires), credit breach, food recalls, e-coli food contamination, serious surgeries (24 to be exact) and so on. It is important to realize that each instance is different, unique and requires various solutions yet there are many similarities as well.
Here are a few of those similarities that I have observed:
Put People and Safety First ALWAYS -
People in front of profits, because profits won't come if you don't have people. The well-being of your team and their families are dependent on you. The same with your family. Do the RIGHT THING and think of their safety, first and foremost.
Stay Calm and Be Positive
People (your team, your children, your friends, your family) will have many questions, many of those you may not be able to answer. "Type A" personalities struggle with this, they think it may be a perceived sign of weakness and this can create anxiety for many. Feeling vulnerable is not always comfortable so staying calm in those moments is not the easiest thing to do. Yet, one of the most important thing during a crisis is to stay calm and be positive. Learn to let go of what you can't control, break things down in smaller chunks of time, breathe! Staying calm does help you think clearer and clear minds prevail. It is common for leaders to want to jump in and lead, it is what they do, naturally. Take time to clear your mind throughout the day. It will also help with your own peace of mind.
Establish an Expert Team and Bring People Together, Virtually
Build a task force, an emergency response team, a family emergency committee (whatever the name!), the reality is that you are not in this alone and you need to realize that coming together as a group will generate more ideas than if you were trying to solve this on your own. Bring experts from each functional area together. For a family committee, that can be someone from various age groups representing their generation. This team needs to have structure, objectives, defining a plan and its actions, measurements, time frame and next steps. This does not need to be done in person. It can be done virtually especially given today's tools that are available like Facetime, Skype, Google Hangout, Microsoft Team, Zoom, etc.
Be Visible and Communicate, OFTEN
In times of crisis, people want to know what is going on, so being visible and communicating consistently is important.
Be truthful and immediate, talk about the actions being taken today and expected outcomes. Don't over promise and under deliver (by the way, this is not just in times of crisis!!) as this will erode trust. If you do then admit it and adjust.
Outline the little wins and celebrate them, it helps to calm fears of the unknown. Be the positive beacon of light in times of crisis. Take the opportunity to guide others by being present (or virtually present!), and by communicating often. Talking things through helps many and sometimes calm emotions and feelings.
Be Solutions Oriented and Think Out of the Box
Different times may require different measures and it is certainly not because you have tried something unsuccessfully before that you should not explore it again under different circumstances. The key here is to apply what you have learned from the past failures. Most importantly, it is to find immediate proven solutions. If those are not readily available then think our of the box, innovate, use the tools you have to change potential outcomes. In times of crisis, many succeed and some fail. Think of events where the course of history was changed because some thought differently, used machinery differently, used raw materials differently, etc. Think of the glass half full and how you can find solutions to help others. Of course, it is much easier to sit at home and pinpoint all the potential problems but that is not what leaders do, it is not what a winning mentality does, it is not what united family does.... They find solutions for a better tomorrow.
Take Action and Be Decisive - This is the time to exercise courageous leadership.
During times of crisis, there are some that sit on the sidelines and wait for tough decisions to be made while others roll up their sleeves, take action and are decisive. If you sit on the sidelines and wait, then you should not complain about the others who are striving to make a difference. Nothing wrong with sitting on the sidelines as long as you know and stay away from criticizing others... Leaders lead and parents parent in difficult times. They don't have a secret book in front of them to tell them what to do... They are courageous, instinctive, brave and decisive. They will not get it right 100% of time and they may be nervous or scared yet they still forge ahead. If they surround themselves with a strong committee, task force and/or team, they feel more confident in their decision making abilities too. When they do, make a mistake, they learn and adjust.
Lead By Example - Be the gear that makes people spin into the right action instead of spinning out of action.
During these times it is critical and essential that leaders lead by example. Don't just tell people what to do, roll up your sleeves and get in there. Put yourself in other people's shoes and understand what is critical and important. We all have seen stories of CEOs delivering goods, packing down products, sweeping floors, getting on the check out registers, etc. It's important to keep things simple and minimize the "red tape". You need to know and understand if you are making the gears spin out of control or exercising the right amount of pressure to keep everything spinning in balance. This starts with you. Don't ask for frivolous things or reports that are not going to be used, don't ask your family to keep on cleaning the cars if no one is driving anywhere.... It is the right time to empathize and lead by example. Most importantly, CONTROL WHAT IS WITHIN YOUR CONTROL. Don't take on more than you, or your team, can take or you will spin out of control.
Take Some Time for YOU - Keep your Sanity
Of course the only way to do all of the above is if you take some time to keep your own sanity.... Do whatever it is you usually do to relax: listen to music, go for a walk, read a book, meditate, cook, clean the house, weed the garden (it has therapeutic effects!). Everyone needs "me" time. If you don't do this, others suffer the consequences of your edginess. As a leader or a parent, this also means that you need to allow your kids, spouses and partners to take "ME" time.... Otherwise, people get burned out, fatigued and sickness can set in - obviously not the desired outcome.
Be Thankful and Celebrate Wins!
Say thank you and appreciate OFTEN! This goes such a long way for everyone and is critical for unity. Recognize often, celebrate wins (no mater how small, a win is a win!) and be appreciative. This goes back to the top of where we started, put people first, be calm, positive, visible, communicative, consistent, innovative, decisive and be YOU! You've got this! Confidence is key in tumultuous times.
in your leadership and /or parenting experience, any other similarities that I may have missed? Share your thoughts, I would love to hear from you.
Onwards and Upwards,