Burst of Innovation - How To Lead During Uncertain Times

How To Lead During Uncertain Times

We live in a world where rapid change and disruption is the norm. Particularly with the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the situation is evolving quickly and there is more uncertainty about how everything will play out, especially in the short term.

 

For those of us in leadership roles, there are many things that are out of our control - we can’t control what happens with this virus, nor can we control how our clients will respond to it. However, we can manage our work, and more importantly, our team, and guide them through this time of uncertainty. Here are three tips (and a couple of bonuses)! for how to effectively manage your team and create a path forward.

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Realism over Optimism

In times like the one we face now, it can be tempting for us as leaders to adopt an outlook of optimism and positivity in leading the way. However, this exaggerated optimism can be detrimental, particularly if your team is dealing with their own issues and concerns. Being overly optimistic in your leadership could put your team under more stress because they think the situation is not actually being handled. On the other hand, being overly skeptical or negative can also be harmful to team morale.

 

The better option then is realism. Going to your team with a realistic lens of the situation and a balanced perspective of the positive and negative aspects can help put them at ease. Acknowledging the uncertainty that exists and the reality of the circumstances helps them see that you are aware of the context and that you are at the helm as the leader giving them a path forward.

 

Action Over Answers

It is impossible to have all the answers, especially at an unpredictable and uncertain time like now. How we need to lead at this time is by showing that we are taking action, not by claiming to have all the answers. As the leader, people trust and believe you, and when you present them with actions and next-steps to tackle the situation, they will get behind you.

 

Action doesn't necessarily mean sharing a step-by-step process of what you are doing. What your team, your clients and everyone looking to you for guidance needs is the assurance that you are doing something and that reasonable steps are being taken. It can be investigation, or research, or evaluation - all of these are a way to take action, and this strategy builds on tip #1 of being realistic. Forget trying to be overly-optimistic and having all the answers. In times of uncertainty, what we really need is a leader who is realistic and takes action. 

 

Investment Over Workload

A lot of our teams are now working remotely, and we’re hunkering down to get things done. Staying productive to keep operations running smoothly is a priority at this point. However, during all this uncertainty, we need to also show our team that we are investing in them, and that we care about their well-being. This time should not solely be focused on clearing the workload, but also looking to the future and taking steps to move forward together, so it is critical to invest in your team, particularly at this time.

 

[If you are looking for a low-cost, scalable way to invest in your team, check out our Six-Part Online Innovation Class: The Six Keys To Being A High-Performing Innovation Leader.]

 

Bonus: Innovation Over Restriction

This is an amazing opportunity for us to encourage innovation in our teams. Necessity is the mother of invention, and with all the restrictions and constraints in place, we can challenge our teams to drive innovation and think differently about how to do things. It could be coming up with new ideas to deal with travel bans or even how to stay connected and collaborate as everyone works remotely. Instead of feeling constricted by the restrictions in place, we can use them as a springboard for innovation to overcome these new challenges.

 

Bonus: Empathy Over Authority

We need to be strong leaders in uncertain times - it is important to lead with authority and focus on realism, action, investment and innovation. However, at a very personal level, we also need to have empathy and listen to our people. In times of uncertainty, whether it’s because of disruption in the organization, industry or marketplace, or because of external circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic that are creating uncertainty across the globe, we need to take time to acknowledge the stresses and frustrations of our people, and connect with them on a human level.

 

Watch the video to learn how to lead during uncertain times.