It is natural for you to think about the immediate situation when faced with dramatic circumstance. Especially when that circumstance extends well beyond the normal boundaries of your business and into everyone’s personal life. However, if you devote all your time to thinking about, reacting to and worrying about your current reality, you are leaving yourself exposed to a lack of choice about your future.
A good solution to this challenge is to deliberately think in projects.
Project One: Urgent decision making
Naturally there are decisions that have to be made in a short time frame to ensure immediate security or to avoid overcommitment in the wrong direction. Think about these in a factual and logical manner. Postpone anything that will not have immediate impact and allow yourself the time to absorb all the information if possible.
Choose a time when you next need to review and then leave the ‘urgent mindset’ behind until required. Breathe, relax and move on to the next area.
Project Two: My people
Whenever you communicate to your teams, there is one question everyone asks themselves before thinking about anything else:
‘What does that mean to me?’
Now more than ever this question is echoing the heads of every team member. Every email, phone call, video conference, is mentally prefaced with this statement in each person’s mind. When tension and uncertainty are all around us, our capacity for broad thought is severely reduced. We have to ensure our own safety before looking for ways to step outside our zone and embrace the collective challenges.
Although this may sound selfish, it is in fact the way most people naturally think and as such has to be acknowledged for any new information to be delivered successfully. It is therefore vital to consider whether you have answered the burning ‘personal circumstance’ question in everyone’s head, before moving on to proactive direction.
We actually know very little about the reality of our colleagues home lives. Although we exchange niceties on a daily basis, we are unlikely to fully understand the physical or emotional challenges they may be facing in their lives. It is not now our role to delve and discover what these might be, but instead to be even more aware and considerate when communicating, as the current climate may have dramatically increased stress-levels of a team member due to a situation we are unaware exists.
Understanding the fears and concerns of your team in a time of pressure and stress is vital in order to be who you need to be to them as a leader. Listen, acknowledge, answer what you can and then move to action.
Project Three: The current reality
Start thinking about working within the current reality by considering these three questions:
What can we do now that will support us in the future?
What should we not be doing now even though it is in our habit DNA?
What can we do differently?
The temptation when placed under pressure in abnormal circumstance, is to try and do more of everything you normally do in a working day. However, this can prove to be both counterproductive and mentally draining. Look at every part of your working process and consciously decide whether it is the right thing to be doing now. Analyse the work your teams do normally and decide whether this is achievable, beneficial to business and correct strategy.
For example, if you are running sales teams in a sector where no-one is buying, you are setting up everyone to fail, as well as risking brand annoyance or exhaustion in the eyes of your clients. Sure, there may well be the odd circumstance where a sale is made in the sector but you have to ask yourself if it is really worth the pressure and stress associated with everyone chasing this unicorn.
Perhaps now is the time to be establishing all the things we can ‘give’ to our employees and clients. We are in a position of knowledge if we work across a sector. We are speaking to many of our clients competitors and acting as information brokers in the market. Look to be the voice of calm,
Whatever the critical circumstance you find your business in currently, it will pass. Even if, as will sadly be the case, some businesses do not survive the crisis, their staff and leaders will likely emerge somewhere in the same market. People will remember the way you advised and guided without trying to bludgeon your way into short-term sales. Maintaining your integrity under a time of such pressure and stress will echo loudly and for a long time in your network.
Project Four: Future opportunities
What has become an option that wasn’t before?
What am I able to change that I have been meaning to change?
Although looking into the future of an uncertain world seems futile at this stage, it is in fact a hugely beneficial exercise. Firstly, there will be opportunities you have not considered previously that now become apparent either because of changing markets, or due to the creative side of your brain sparking in reaction to challenge. Allow the time for these thoughts to develop. Start building a picture of what your business and teams will look like on the other side. The positive mental impact is huge on both you and those you choose to engage in the process.
The pause in day-to-day running of any business also removes the ‘been meaning to change that’ excuse. Now we can change things and build the new habit in a timely and measured way. We can propose, discuss, edit and create the ideas that we have been carrying with us for a while.
Without a conscious mental effort to direct our minds under pressure, we will naturally end up spending the majority of our time in Project One thinking. The urgency of circumstance and the constant trigger of others concerned about today will act as a fence around our thought process, blocking any team support, creative planning or future ideas.
By breaking our thought process into allocated projects, we continue to be able to think creatively, to act efficiently and to be the voice of reassurance and calm for ourselves and everyone around us who needs it.