Maybe you’re in the beginning stages of an M&A. Or the dust has finally settled and you’re trying to build cohesion and reduce the territorialism that crept up when everyone in the organization, including the SLT, was wondering who would remain standing. Or, perhaps, there’s been good news: Your company’s market value is ever-increasing (think Paypal) and with that comes potential new directions and new decisions.
No matter, things are in flux, uncertain. And you’re tasked with leading through those waters. In this, the second part of Leading Through Limbo, I’m going to share the remaining four key factors for successfully leading yourself and your team through the uncertain. As I wrote in the initial episode of this series, the first factor is to accept what is to assess what can be. What follows is what comes next.
These factors are drawn from the real and lived experience of the leadership exemplars that I talked with for The Making Magnificence Project® and who appear in my forthcoming book, Magnificent Leadership (Business Expert Press, January, 2018).
#2: Frame and Re-Frame.
Create a helpful narrative that enables you to make sense of the uncertainty. One of the CEOs that I interviewed, told me that of all the things required of him, by far the most important is conveying and communicating meaning to his employees. And he told me that it’s equally important in good times as tumultuous. If circumstances are challenging, what narrative can you create that will make them less so? If an outcome is unknown, or won’t be known for awhile, as is so often the case in business, how can you frame the events so that your team is inspired and galvanized rather than defeated and siloed?
#3: Find and Protect the Passion.
You want to be the best in your field? You find fun in closing the deal? Maybe your jam is to lead and develop your team. Or, perhaps, you’re fueled by working on some of the world’s toughest problems. Find that thing in your work that is your excitement and fun and joy and don’t relinquish it. Particularly when things get topsy-turvy. The world may be spinning, but whatever you’re passionate about will sustain you. It’s one of the three fuel lines of Magnificent Leadership® for endurance over the long haul. It matters. A lot.
#4: Take Appropriate Action.
You’ve accepted that things are upside down for the time being. You’ve found meaning in the circumstances or have created a narrative that makes sense to you. You’ve held on to your love of what you do, even in the midst of the whirlwind. Now make a plan. Keep a sharp focus on future success while at the same time remaining open to iteration. In times of tumult, the landscape is often shifting, and often rapidly. Holding a steadfast gaze on future success in conjunction with taking appropriate action, while at the same time being open to the alternate possibilities that present themselves, ensures that you’re responding to the circumstances at hand while remaining future-focused.
#5: Find Someone to Hold the Vision.
In the realm of the uncertain, doubt and fatigue can be our greatest enemies. Over and over again, the successful leaders that I spoke with all had at least one person who “got” them, someone who not only supported their aspirations but was there in times of trial. Someone whom they trusted to confide in, let down their guard with, and who reminded them of what was possible when it became obscured. Magnificence is not a solo journey. Find someone who will help you re-ground to your own possibility, strength, and the bedrock of what you know to be true. That bedrock can often be captured in simple mantras (all the CEOs that I interviewed had them), those pieces of wisdom that we turn to in times of challenge that give us comfort and reassurance.
All of the leaders that I interviewed for The Making Magnificence Project® navigated significant periods of uncertainty and limbo, times when they didn’t know what would come next, good or bad, when the outcome was likely not known for quite some time, when the sands beneath their feet were shifting. For my clients in executive leadership, that’s often a daily reality. Common examples include: key projects that have substantial glitches; star team members that leave and leave a hole; racing to get to market first; prolonged mergers that leave things up in the air with a tight lid on communication and information; shakeups on SLTs that make people nervous; new CEOs who turn up the dial on expectations and culture in the best ways and are met with deep resistance. The list is long. Infinite, really. You could probably give three examples right now of important matters at stake with unknown outcomes.
The best leaders know that an ability to withstand the discomfort of uncertainty, to sustain themselves and their people, to name it and then take appropriate action in its midst, tend to come out on the other side, better for it. As I told an audience last week, I consult across industry, and uncertainty is one of the constants. Some organizations and leaders courageously acknowledge and embrace it and then up their game. Others bury their heads in the sand.
Which leader do you aspire to be?
For more on working directly with me to lead through uncertainty and accelerate, rather than diminish, team performance, you can reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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