Challenges and crises, big and small, are a fact of business life. How leaders rise to those challenges is often the difference between success and failure for a business and its employees.

Leadership, when things are going well, is easy and often fun. We set plans, make decisions and our teams go off and execute – we succeed and celebrate. It’s when life gets challenging and difficult, that we as leaders, need to step up. It’s when times are hard that your teams turn around and look to you to ask; “So what happens next, what do we do?”

When we are facing a crisis, from changes in supply chains to global pandemics, we have to be more thoughtful in our decision making and leadership. I’ve identified five questions that leaders can ask themselves as they move through a business challenge to ensure that they’re leading with integrity and for the good of their company and its community.

Do I fully understand the situation that I find myself in and what the impact of that is on my business?

Understanding the situation you’re in is a mix of insight and foresight.

Insight is understanding what has happened to the business and why it has happened. 

Foresight is being able to see ahead and understand what that means for the organisation going forward. This detailed comprehension of a situation and it impacts means that leaders are able to move confidently to the next step.

Am I making the right decisions and making the right plans in order to match our situation? 

Decision making and the plans that develop from those decisions need to be grounded in the insight and foresight of point one. Leaders need the ability to see decision making as an active process, where they check that their decisions are in line with their understanding and impact of the challenges they face.

Am I actively engaging and generating morale and motivation for my people?

Great leadership is built on the trust between you and the people who have to do the work you ask of them; to execute plans, lead teams and deliver results.

A part of building this trust is being visible and available to your people, showing up for them when they need you. Good morale is created when people feel listened to and valued. 

Reflecting on how you engage with  your people and generate a positive environment for morale to thrive is an important part of leading in troubled times.

Am I monitoring the delivery and execution to make sure it’s happening? 

If you’ve got steps one, two and three right you’re at the execution stage of your plan. You’re ready and standing by to support your team and drive the execution and delivery of your plan. This isn’t about you doing, it’s about being available to pick up and respond to problems and keep the plan motoring forward.

Which leads neatly to the final question…

Is the delivery and execution matching those plans and decisions? 

Leadership through a crisis is a circular process, with even more need than usual for you to be constantly reviewing progress against the initial analysis and planning phase.

We all know that no plan survives first contact with reality, things are going to change and new decisions will need to be made and plans tweaked, teams re-engaged and tasked with delivering the modified plans. 

Which means that you need to be constantly reviewing whether you’re delivering against the situation you find yourself in.

Leading an organisation through a crisis period, set of challenges or business pivot, requires leaders to be more engaged and more visible in the process. These five questions will help you focus on each stage of the process and ensure that you’re being the leader your team can trust.

3 reasons why talking to your team can help you build a stronger organisation

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Hi, my name’s Neil Poynter, and welcome to “The Leadership Soapbox.”

Now this week, I’m asking a question. And some of you might’ve seen my little video that I put out on LinkedIn last night, and it was really about why we need to be talking to our people right now. And I really want to ramp into this in this video with three reasons why I think right now we need to be talking to our people even more than we have done before.

Reason one, and this is really picking up on what I said last night in the small video. There’s one of my other videos way back where I talk about this question, what support does my team need from me? And I’d been reading or actually listening in the car to Stephen Covey’s “Eighth Habit. And he talks about the fact that we’re in this information age, that we’re now working with knowledge workers. We’re not in the Industrial Age. We’re in the Information Age. And it suddenly occurred to me and he actually talked on the video, an er moment or an aha moment. But actually, this was a duh moment. And I was thinking, “Hang on, what support does my team need from me?” Well, there’s a very simple solution here, isn’t it? Go and ask my people what support do you need from me.

So here’s the first thing. Let’s go and ask our people what support they need because they’re the people at the front line. They are the people who are doing the work, making the objects, making the phone calls, having contact with the clients. So right now, we’re saying this, what support do they need? Go and ask them. Now that’s going to have a spinoff effect into reason three which I’ll come back to.

So that’s the reason one. What support do they need? Ask them.

Reason two, and I think this is very specific to what we’re in at the moment.

A client of mine that I was talking with a month or so ago was saying how difficult it is to predict what’s going to happen in the marketplace at the moment. And that’s because there is no data. No data that we have for the months of March, or April, or May coming up going back over the years is valid at the moment because we have such a huge player in the context of the world at the moment with COVID that everything that’s happened previously just doesn’t really come to bear. So who knows what is going to happen?

Well, I’ll tell you who knows, the people who are having contact with our clients. The people who are doing things. The people who can go out and ask the questions. What’s going on, how are you going to be responding? What are you doing?

Now more than ever is a time for human intelligence. And by intelligence, I don’t mean thinking power. I mean information gathering and assessment. I mean intelligence as in MI5, CIA. That sort of intelligence, intelligence gathering. Gathering information and analysing it for what it means. But we’ve got to go out and gather that information. And the people who will be able to gather that information right now are the people who are doing the jobs. Your service engineers, your customer service people, your salespeople, your representatives. Those people who are out there seeing things, and doing things, and talking with our clients, and talking with the people we work with are the people who are going to understand it.

So that’s reason two. We need to know what’s going on.

Now reason three…

We’re talking about engaging with our people. Well, if we engage with our people in this way, it’s going to create more engagement. And that’s that they will feel listened to. They will feel more wanted. They will feel more valued. Now if you go and have a look at my videos on building morale, you’ll see that the important- I think it’s in video one of that set, that people feeling valued is critical, absolutely critical to them feeling that they feel good about what they’re doing, that they want to do this.

So if we are asking them what they need and they see that actually we try to put it into practice, and also we’re interested in what’s going on in their area and that we are listening to their information, they’re going to feel more valuable. That’s going to get better performance from them just because they feel more involved, they feel more important. And this is something that is so important and so many organisations miss out on.

So there’s three reasons why you need to be asking your people what’s going on and what support do you need? Three really strong reasons.

And here’s the other thing. I want to ask you what support can I give you? Coaching, is there any mentoring? Can I help with your organisation?

What support do you need from me?

I’m going to put up some questionnaires this week about this around LinkedIn and perhaps if I can find other ways of doing it. But what do you need from me? And what support can you give other people in your organisation?

Don’t just think about it for your people by the way. Think about it sideways. Think about your colleagues.

So here’s the theme. Let’s communicate, let’s talk to one another. Let’s find out what one another need. Thanks very much, I’ll speak to you soon.