As an Ontological Executive Coach and Strategic Consultant, I have had the privilege of working with some amazing leaders throughout this crisis. In fact, I was recently speaking at a conference in Las Vegas as COVID-19 was becoming breaking news in our country. This crisis is causing leaders to contemplate furloughs, layoffs, an end-to-business as we’ve known it, and unfortunately, an end to some businesses.
It was an honor to be part of the conversation and to help leaders working through this ambiguity. Shock, overwhelm, grief, tears, eventual understanding, and the reality of their current situations were common conversations.
One of the key points over the last few weeks has been that within any crisis also exists opportunity. There is great opportunity for you, your relationships, your teams, and your organizations to grow and change.
Below we will discuss important principles and a simple plan to help you and your teams navigate through the crisis, lead through ambiguity, and come out of this situation with the skills to be ready for success.
Step 1: Remember Your Purpose
What is your organization’s purpose? Always keep in mind WHY you and your organization do what you do. It is important that any strategy aligns with your original purpose. Ask these questions to give you and your team guidelines to begin: What is our organizational purpose? What is our team’s purpose within the organization? Who do we do it for? What outcomes do we and they desire?
Step 2: Work within Your Circle of Influence
Stephen Covey writes about working within your Circle of Influence and keeping out of your Circle of Concern. The concern right now is the virus and how it is impacting our world. There is not much we can do about these concerns. Instead, define what you can impact: What is within our influence that we can impact? What is not within our influence that we cannot impact? What may be within our influence that we need help from others to impact?
Step 3: Define Two Teams and Their Challenge(s)
Define a Crisis Team and an Opportunity Team within your organization or department. Identify the goals and challenge(s). Get clarity on what your goals and challenges are through this crisis, and on the other side of this crisis. Ask the following questions: What must you defend? What must you eliminate? What must you capture in the short term? What will be your short- and medium-term goals coming out of this crisis? What can you reimagine and develop now to impact your future goals and challenges?
Follow organizational strategies like those at Google and the Gates Foundation by adopting an OKR framework. Set a 90-day strategy with defined Objectives and the measurable Key Results for the period. Cascade these OKR’s throughout your team for maximum effect.
Increase your meeting rhythm to a “weekly standup” (if not daily) to increase team engagement. Ask three simple individual questions to coach your team: What was your biggest challenge last week, and how did you overcome it? What is your top one or two most important challenges this week? How can I help? Note this is a leadership coaching opportunity, not an excuse to take on your direct report’s challenge.
Step 4: Know Your Role
This is your opportunity to lead. Your role as the leader is to help people maneuver around and through this crisis to opportunity.
Sharpen your saw. Now more than ever, you need to be personally grounded. Covey discusses how you will be an inefficient and ineffective leader if you are “sawing with a dull blade”. Now is not the time to put your head down and power through. Be responsible for grounding yourself spiritually, socially, emotionally, and physically. Develop a daily practice of what grounds you: exercise, meditation, journaling, prayer, yoga, etc. And finally, invest in your leadership skills of empathy, coaching, trust, and development of others. This is the time to bring people along on the journey with you.
Step 5: W.I.N.!
Continuously focus yourself and your team on everything you CAN control. Develop scenarios for the good and the not-so-good outcomes. “If X happens, we will need to do Y.” Have known and understood, pre-arranged triggers and alignment with your team.
W.I.N. – What’s Important Now? Reduce anxiety with weekly, daily, and even hourly conversations to keep your team focused what is most important, not what is most urgent.
Step 6: Own Your Own Wake
Like a passing ship, leaders leave a wake behind them long after they leave a meeting, conversation, or opportunity to influence. Our wake can be positive or negative. Be crystal clear on the intention and the shift required by you/them/us to reach your goals. Build individual and team foundations of trust with 100% integrity.
Eliminate triangulation. No one should ever talk about another teammate unless they are in the room. Get comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations. Make this situation all about those you lead. Ensure you and they understand the value for them, in their language, and how their work relates to the overall purpose and goals. Get them engaged.
Step 7: Effect Dual Transformation
Study after study shows leaders who can respond today and keep an eye on tomorrow win massively when the market turns. Find efficiencies and effectiveness today while focusing often on future opportunity discussions and planning. Where should you invest now to be ready for a market turn? How can you cut back in other areas now to have the resources to invest for the future?
Focus on the strengths, values, and capabilities that got you here, while developing a new mindset and skills to get you to the next round of success. Develop you and your team’s leadership skills.
As a leader and team, you have the ability to use this seven-step process to respond to and navigate this crisis. You have an opportunity to develop leadership skills, develop stronger strategy, and increase effective and efficient execution. You have the responsibility to impact your team’s trust, communication, and accountability.
Leading your team through this process and reflecting on it often will prepare you to come out ahead and ready for the opportunities sure to arise.
Greg Karl is an Ontological Executive Coach, Professional EOS Implementer, OKR Coach, and Strategy Facilitator. His company, Step Change Consulting, helps leaders and teams reimagine an inspired vision to attract and develop the right strategy, execution, accountability, and people to get them there. Greg recently wrote the article “Customer Acquisition: Maximizing Time on the Field” in the Winter 2020 issue of SEAT Magazine.
If you are interested in exploring how you and your organization can take next steps in your strategy and leadership, Greg is offering free one-hour coaching sessions to help you get there.