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Show me your scar
Tapping into your resilience to lead through difficult times
Thinking back to the COVID pandemic is like unearthing a collective trauma. Trauma that, to some extent, has been suppressed. It somehow feels like an experience in the distant past, as if a childhood memory. It was a period of incredible uncertainty with no clear end in sight. It tested everyone in different and challenging ways, but it also showed us how resilient we are. It reminded us of our ability to navigate difficult times and make it out on the other end.
A few months into the pandemic, I had the incredible opportunity to speak alongside Brené Brown (yes, THE Brené Brown) at a Salesforce event on resilience. In her extensive work on resilience and leadership, Brown speaks of a new style of leadership that emphasizes vulnerability, self-reflection, addressing difficult conversations, practicing acceptance, and embracing failure. Brown’s work is the foundation for how I navigate difficult. Her work has led me to appreciate the beauty and power of my scars and my resilience.
No one enjoys going through difficult times, but it is those times that make a leader stronger. Those are the times that allow leaders to flex their muscles on how to keep their teams motivated through that difficult period, how to think strategically to resolve problems, and how to be scrappy to make things happen. It's the bad and the ugly that's more interesting to me because it shows me how a leader reacts when pressed against the wall.
I am grateful for the resilience I've built up through challenging times because it is what allowed me to navigate the unknown that was the COVID pandemic. It allowed me to spring into action rather than panic. Even though I had no idea how the story would end, I had seen difficult times before and could structure an action plan based on that experience. In my opinion, effective leadership during trying times boils down to:
Quick decision making
Your team knows that you care
Taking care of yourself
Let’s delve into each in turn!
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In times of adversity, transparent communication plays a vital role in effective leadership. Clarity and transparency foster trust among team members by providing them with a clear understanding of the challenges and the path forward. It allows leaders to share important information, address concerns, and set realistic expectations. Transparent communication requires vulnerability, as leaders must be willing to share their own uncertainties and fears. This authenticity not only builds stronger connections with the team but also encourages others to be open about their own vulnerabilities, leading to a culture of support and resilience through difficult times.
Quick Decision Making
In times of uncertainty, quick decision making becomes crucial for effective leadership. Agile decision making allows leaders to swiftly assess situations, gather relevant information, and make informed choices. It involves being proactive and responsive to rapidly changing circumstances, enabling leaders to adapt and navigate challenges with greater ease. By embracing quick decision making, leaders demonstrate their ability to act decisively, instilling confidence in their team and stakeholders. Moreover, responsiveness is key in maintaining a sense of urgency and addressing emerging issues promptly. It allows leaders to seize opportunities, mitigate risks, and stay ahead of the curve. Embracing flexibility in decision making further enhances the ability to pivot and adjust strategies as needed, ensuring the organization remains resilient and adaptable in the face of adversity.
Your team knows that you care
One of the cornerstones of leading through difficult times is ensuring your team knows that you care, and care personally. Expecting your team to do their best work during challenging times can only happen if you have set this strong foundation. Taking the time to genuinely understand the needs and concerns of your team members fosters a sense of trust and support. It involves active listening, showing empathy, and demonstrating genuine interest in their well-being. By consistently displaying care and concern, leaders create an environment where team members feel valued, motivated, and supported. This not only strengthens the team's bond but also enhances their resilience and willingness to overcome challenges together.
Taking care of yourself
Amidst challenging times, it is essential to prioritize self-care and well-being. Re-energizing yourself allows you to maintain resilience and effectively lead your team. Taking moments to rest, recharge, and engage in activities that bring you joy can help replenish your energy and prevent burnout. Additionally, embracing vulnerability by acknowledging and addressing your own challenges fosters authenticity and creates a safe space for open communication. By caring for yourself, you set a positive example for your team, encouraging them to prioritize their well-being and promoting a culture of self-care.
Challenge as a catalyst for innovation
You will find that these trying times are the periods when your team will be at its most innovative. During the pandemic, the business that I was leading evolved and pivoted to places that were unimaginable to us previously, but which propelled the business forward and set us on a stronger path for sustainable growth. I recall when I was at Facebook back in May of 2011, and Google had just launched Google+, which was being dubbed as Facebook's biggest threat to date. Facebook went into a period of lockdown to react to this challenge and emerged as a stronger product. Today, no one speaks of Google+ anymore!
I'm grateful for my scars as they have made me into the resilient person I am today. Be grateful for yours. Show them to others and remember them whenever you face challenging times again. You've made it through before, and you'll make it through once again. I'll leave you with a quote from Winston Churchill that summarizes this nicely:
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts."