Companies have to adapt to new environments and situations faster than ever before, and the threat of macroeconomic turmoil and business model disruption is as high as it ever has been. With brexit turning into a bit of a farce our business world is changing before our eyes.
As a leader, what can you do in the midst of these challenges? In difficult times, research shows that the key is to instill trust, compassion, stability and hope.
1. Build trust
Good advice bears repeating. Trust-building is a particularly old golden nugget that has withstood the test of time. Here are some ways to do it:
Pull together: 86% of leaders concur that the biggest scapegoat for failure at the workplace is a lack of collaboration and poor communication, according to Salesforce in 2012.
Relationships need to be nurtured, and a downturn is the worst possible time to slash team-building budgets. It is self-sabotage right when togetherness and team effort are needed the most.
Ask specific questions: DBS Bank is one of Asia’s largest banks, and CEO Piyush Gupta found that once he took on the role, he ceased to know his company. The organization did not change, but his team’s relationship with him changed tremendously.
Forget boilerplate questions like, “How are things going?” in favor of something more specific like, “I noticed that X is happening. Do you need any additional support?” This will elicit a sliver of truth that can be an early warning system for people challenges.
2. Show compassion
With trust as the bedrock of your relationship with your team, compassion is the humanising attribute for your leadership. When times are bad, your team knows to expect bad news. Here’s how to deliver it effectively:
Seek to understand: Stephen Covey, author of the famed book “7 Habits Of Highly Effective People,” says that we “seek first to understand.” The best way to do so in the heat of the moment is to practice “active listening.” Say less, ask more, and if you are able to paraphrase your conversation partner’s words back to them and get their acknowledgement that you have understood, you are already succeeding.
Show appreciation: Some engagement research claims that every nugget of criticism ought to be counter-balanced with five instances of praise. This is a clunky generalisation, but what is beyond dispute is the directionality of the argument. All things being equal, praise will elicit a positive response from its recipient.
3. Introduce stability
Author Mike Wyatt opines that “stability is something we don’t often think about as a leadership quality — that is until it is absent.” In order to be the stable leader that your team needs embrace this key advice.
Have a true north: Stable leaders have a strong set of convictions while being capable of keeping an open mind. Bill George and Peter Sims wrote extensively on the subject.
Conducting your actions and thoughts thereafter in accordance with the same purpose and values builds stability both for and within your team.
Psychological safety: The corollary to cultivating a workplace where people have the courage to innovate towards success, is to nurture a workplace culture where people have the freedom to fail. Psychological safety is the top factor for team success according to Google’s internal study with over 180 active teams internally. A team that feels safe from embarrassment and insecurity is a team that is willing to take risks to achieve more.
4. Positivity through hope
In “Hope: How Triumphant Leaders Create The Future,” author Andrew Razeghi writes that “hope sets objectives, ignites will, focuses the organisation in turbulent times, renews energy, displaces boredom as it succeeds, fosters creativity and innovation, and hope inspires people to want to do the right thing.”
Hope defines what your team grows towards in the way that plants reach for the sun. Bear the following in mind when casting that glorious shine:
Base it on fact, not fiction: “Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard” by Chip and Dan Heath is a great read. The book describes “bright spots” in a company, representing where the company is thriving. Lessons can be learned from the bright spots, and in turn be applied to other problems in the company. Hope thus born rings true.
Learn from failure: Facebook popularised the mantra “Fail fast, fail often.” While you may not possess the same level of enthusiasm for failure as Mark Zuckerberg did, extracting every last drop of value from your failures, is a positive way to fuel your team’s success.
Be a great boss, in good time and bad
Being a great boss in bad times is less Herculean, more Churchillian. You don’t have to persuade people to move mountains with a carrot, they know that survival depends on it. Honesty, transparency and integrity is the best foundation in all leadership climates. Build your purpose, values and strategy on this and your teams will believe in you.
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Hi! I`m Chris Webb, I live in the South East and started Leaders Retail Consultancy in 2019. Before freelancing, I was a senior retail leader for a number of the UK’s top retailers gaining experience over 23 glorious years. When I am not coaching I enjoy spending time with the family or in the gym.
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