In this radio interview, initially broadcast on WBOQ-FM in Gloucester, MA, I talk about ways we can acclimate to the turbulence brought about by the combined impact of COVID-19, racial injustice, unemployment, and steep financial losses. Not knowing which way to turn for help has the capacity to crowd out our best thinking, and to force us into making impulsive decisions.
The best way for leaders to be strategic rather than impulsive is to develop new skills that help their organizations deal with collective trauma. I address trauma in the radio interview because I believe we have to prepare ourselves for multiple instances of PTSD over the next several months, and likely into the early part of next year. A new type of leadership won’t just be required at the top of the organization, but at every level of human interaction.
To get there will require business leaders to be in fighting shape, at the top of their game, and every other physical fitness metaphor you want to apply here. We already know that “what got you here won’t get you there.”
So, here is a recipe for what will get you there:
Maintain a boundless belief in your personal ability, as a leader, to impact change. Conserve your energy, eat well, stay hydrated, exercise, and remember to breathe. The goal is to focus on you, the leader, as a “whole person” who is part of a family, community, or network that is larger than you are individually. Those of us who avidly advocated for more flexible parameters between work and family now find ourselves in an entirely different landscape— where the seamlessness we longed for may now be too much. Prepare for a new way to address the more permeable boundaries between work and family.
During a crisis, leaders need the time, energy, and space to think. Most importantly, they need someone to think and reflect with, to hold them accountable. It is lonely at the top, and even more so during a crisis.
Leaders who face daunting complexity and unanticipated change realize the value of a trusted advisor to help them navigate uncharted territory and stay ahead of the curve. We need leaders with the agility and mental dexterity to lead their people toward what’s next.
Seek out an advisor with practical wisdom who can serve as your “guide on the side” as you navigate challenging times. The goal is to help you better navigate dramatic events, focus on your own personal well-being, and decide what will, or perhaps should, permanently change about your organization.
Finally: control what you can control. Stay grounded in your company’s mission, purpose, values, and vision. This means focusing on your business’ CORE:
Culture—“How we do things around here,” the set of rules and assumptions for getting work done. When explicitly understood and actively cultivated, culture will serve as the catalyst for organizational growth and adaptation.
Organization—How your business innovates, makes decisions, scales, and implements will help you align culture and strategy to successfully execute.
Resilience—How you remain strong as you meet today’s challenges and lay the groundwork for ongoing strategy renewal and innovation will pay significant dividends well into the future.
Engagement—How you connect with your employees, families, shareholders, board members, customers, and partners, who are all struggling to find a foothold in uncertain times. Your ability to provide stability, focus, and shared purpose will help each person see the key role they play in the success of your organization.
We are living through a challenge that can be met, not a disaster that must be endured. Lead, by example.