We've been through challenging times before, but we’ve never been through THIS before.
There is no playbook on how to deal with a global pandemic combined with a shut down of the economy. There are, however, guiding principles on how to lead through a crisis, regardless of the cause.
These principles don't change based on the circumstances. They steadily guide you and your team to help you overcome your circumstances.
1) Tell the Truth and Communicate the Facts
- In any crisis it's essential for the leader to be honest and transparent about the situation. Explain the challenge you are facing. Communicate the facts. This is what we know. This is what we don't know. This is where we are as a team, company or organization. These are our numbers and forecasts and while they don't look good, we must confront the reality of the situation. I've found that even if you communicate bad news it's still better than the negativity and uncertainty that comes with poor communication.
Remember, where there is a void in communication negativity will fill it. And whatever you do don't sugarcoat the situation or lie. I once saw a superintendent of a school district get a standing ovation even though he had just announced that they were having to lay off 10% of employees. He spoke with compassion, he shared the facts, was always truthful and had earned their respect.
Lead with Optimism and Belief
- Even when you are in the middle of a crisis and your circumstances are not positive you must stay positive and lead with optimism. After all, pessimists don't change the world and neither will you if you let your circumstances define your attitude. This doesn't mean you ignore the reality of the situation. It means you believe you will find a way to overcome your situation. Leadership is a transfer of belief and the optimism and belief you share with your team plays a big part in how you work together to overcome adversity.
Share the Plan
- When Alan Mulally took over as the CEO of Ford in 2006 they had lost 12 billion dollars. He turned the company around in a few short years and many say it was one of the greatest leadership feats in history. He told me that everyone had to know the plan, embrace the plan and relentlessly work towards the plan. It's essential that, as a leader, you share the plan and explain why the plan will work and how it will be executed. This brings clarity and clarity leads to focused action. As I think about what our country is going through, one thing I would like to see is a comprehensive plan that explains how we will restart the economy while saving lives. I suspect it is coming soon and it will be very helpful when it does.
Point Towards a Positive Future
- After you tell the truth and communicate the facts, share your optimism and plan to succeed, you then want to share a vision of what success looks like in the future. "Yes, this is where we are now. This is our situation. But here is where we are going. This is what we are working to create." What success looks like for each team and organization is different. The key is to define it and share the vision with your team. We all need something to hope for and work towards and when you share a positive vision for the future it engages, ignites and rallies your team to create the vision together.
Positive Leadership Virtual Training
We'll be hosting a positive leadership virtual training in early May to go deeper on these principles and more. If you'd like more details about the virtual training,
sign up here