A Challenge to Leaders: Leading through Challenges

All organizations go through challenges, whether they are as significant as the recent government shutdown or more commonplace, such as growing pains from shifting business models. You shouldn’t expect or even want to avoid challenges (though some are less desirable than others). It is through these situations that individuals and organizations have the opportunity to grow. And as leaders, we are defined by our ability to navigate through challenges.

First, leaders must understand the impact on employees – most significant is the impact to trust and motivation.

Though change often comes with many new opportunities, it is hard for people not to equate change with risk and uncertainty. With those feelings come defensiveness and distrust, and sometimes the changes happening more than warrant those feelings. However, it is important to remember that distrust is a form of insecurity. When employees see their coworkers leaving or are asked to develop skills in new areas, they feel uncertain about how these changes will affect them. Rebuilding trust is about bringing back a sense of security. Let me be clear here, this is not about painting an unrealistic picture in order to temporarily assuage fears. Instead, leaders must be open, understanding, and focused on the end goal. Leaders should:

  • Be upfront about changes taking place, what impact they will have, and how long they are likely to last
  • Recognize that these changes may be hard for some employees and empathize with their feelings
  • Live the “open door” policy and encourage employees to come with concerns and suggestions
  • Demonstrate a commitment to creating a better organization despite challenges

Uncertainty can also lead to decreased morale. Especially if benefits are not seen immediately or if in fact negative changes have taken place. As morale slumps so does engagement, motivation, and productivity. To restore morale, bring back the “positive” as quickly as possible. For example:

  • Recognize employee achievements
  • Celebrate special events
  • Host face-to-face collaborative innovation sessions
  • Focus on the future and achieving goals
  • Reduce the sense of hierarchy and empower employees at all levels
  • Have a little fun!

Ultimately, the best way to handle a challenge is to come out of it stronger than when you went in. Whatever the cause or reason, a  great leader has the ability to take a challenge and turn it into something positive.  For example, during the recent shutdown, our team leaders focused on building their employees’ skills, developing new and innovative solutions, and creating tiger teams to improve existing services. When the shutdown ended, our teams were able to help their clients better than ever before. So, instead of getting lost in challenges, learn to accept the situation and transform it into an opportunity.


What I’m Reading Now: Wake Up!

Pressure is the external demand in the environment. Everyone has pressure in their work and life: deadlines, projects, family demands. That is not stress. Stress is what people do with that pressure in their minds. Dr. Roger’s 30 years of research pinpointed one factor above all others as being the key driver of a person’s stress — rumination.

  • Author: Nick Petrie
  • Title: Wake Up! The Surprising Truth about What Drives Stress and How Leaders Build Resilience
  • Source: Center for Creative Leadership

Elsewhere on the web: My post on cloud & keeping focused on your desired objectives

Though I most often blog about leadership and career topics, as I do here, every now and then I write on other topics that are critical to business and the industry I work in. Most recently, I wrote a blog post about keeping focused on your desired objectives and outcomes when implementing technology, specifically cloud in this case.

What decades of experience shows is that for any technology – including Cloud – achieving the full benefits requires people to support the design, development, implementation and management of technology. Whether redesigning business processes, changing governance structures, or training workers, having the right services is a critical component to success in the cloud.  After all, you don’t want the cloud just to say you have it, you want it to have a meaningful impact on your organization.

Read more at the IBM Insights on business blog.

Friday Fast Tip: Know where to focus

The fact of the matter is you can’t do everything. More specifically, you can’t do everything all the time. Sometimes you have to give up or at least delegate certain things in order to focus on others. Prioritizing is essential to being a successful leader.

For example, during the recent Federal shutdown, I needed to focus on my clients and my employees and their needs. Unfortunately, that left little time for blogging, but that’s ok. Like I said, you can’t do everything all the time; the important thing is to know which things need to be done when.