When The Going Gets Tough… Critical Leadership in Challenging Times

Whether faced with economic, competitive or operational challenges, difficult times demand strong leadership. Leading teams through choppy waters requires a focused, strategic and ambitious approach. Today’s Karen Gately blog looks at robust ways to navigate your team through challenging environments.

While it can be a tempting road to follow, retreating to a conservative or fear-based approach when managing through difficult circumstances is rarely the best response. When faced with a challenge you must be clear and confident about both your direction and how you intend to get there.  It is critical that this is understood and supported by every member of your team. Striking the right balance between managing risk and driving ambitious strategy will be an important determinant of success. There is no doubt that reacting swiftly to challenges due to your uncertainty, hesitation and nervousness won’t help any difficult situation. It is critical that you bring strength of leadership to the moment and avoid the restrictive and potentially suffocating effects of unbalanced risk aversion.

When things are stacked against you, your best chance of survival is to work closely with your team and focus on getting the very best from each person and the group as a whole. Your ability to do this is profoundly impacted upon by the collective spirit of your team.  Group commitment and determination are key indicators of this spirit and whether people have the positive energy needed to respond to challenge.

Your belief in your own ability to not only respond but prosper in the face of adversity is crucial. For your team to have the trust, loyalty, energy and persistence it will require to win the battle, they need a confident leader showing the way. It is every leader’s role to inspire this confidence and determination and to leverage the passion and commitment of their team.  Expect and guide the  leaders in your organisation to do this through their actions, decisions and expectations.

Be upfront and honest about what you’re thinking and doing. Honest, positive, frequent and meaningful communication is a vital part of keeping close to your team and helping them to understand and ‘buy in’ to your decisions and priorities. Focus on accountability by setting clear expectations, actively managing performance and dealing with issues. Balancing your appraisal of what people achieve (as well as how they go about it) is an important way of reinforcing positive behaviours that are especially important during difficult times. Remember, recognition and positive feedback go a long way to helping your staff feel valued and maximizing their contribution to your business.

Innovation and creativity are important abilities at any time, but especially so when challenges are harder to overcome and growth is more difficult to achieve. Harvest your team’s ideas – ask them what they think and provide the forums and environment that encourage open and creative thinking. No idea should be considered a bad idea, just another thought or perspective that could lead to overcoming barriers and achieving results. Understand the long term impacts of decisions you make now. Consider the long term effects on the culture of your organisation or the commitment of your team; understand the potential intellectual capital loss and wider consequences for the stability of your business.  In other words, don’t let the challenges of the latest crisis distract you from effective leadership and the long term success of your business.

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