The Best Way to Respond in Trying Times

The times they are a-changin’. 

As we head into our third winter of the COVID age, times are tough. It’s never been more challenging to be a leader, and it’s easy to feel the weight of expectation fall upon you. 

But in addition to the “regular” stress that comes with a leadership position, we’re now faced with a long list of conditions ready to create the perfect storm.

It’s fall, which is traditionally a busy time of year. We’re heading into the dark days of winter. Things are more expensive. The coronavirus is still with us. Salaries are fluctuating. People are stressed, depressed, and exhausted. Staffing is changing, turnover is high, and it’s increasingly difficult to hang on to employees. 

Shoulder Season

As leader, it all lands on your shoulders. And as leader, it’s easy to slip into the trap and believe you have to do everything. Whether you’re filling the gaps created by turnover, covering off for tapped out or unwell staff, or resentfully tucking in where your folks are distractedly dropping balls, you may be tempted to say, “I’ll just do it myself.” 

Sound familiar? 

And how does that usually work out? You run yourself into the ground and end up burnt out but no better off. 

So stop. Roll those shoulders up and back. Take a breath. Literally and figuratively. 

Committing to your business — in good times and bad — means taking care of yourself. You’re no use to anyone when you're stressed out and exhausted. 

Instead of trying to single-handedly power through it, step back. Reevaluate what it is you’re building and why you’re building it. Then, (re)align your behaviours and actions with that future reality you want to create. 

Lead By Example

Because you’re the leader, you have the strongest influence on the team around you. 

And because of that, your behaviour matters. Your actions matter. Your attitude matters. 

It serves no one to be seen running around like a flea-pestered dog. Your team needs you to be strong, clear, and focused. 

So step back. Refocus. Get out of the dog house. 

This will require:

  • Decision Making – Clear, fast, and focused. 
  • Delegation – Lean on your best players and teach them to do the same, in a cascade that trickles through your entire organization. 
  • Discard the Notion that You’re all Alone – Find a trusted advisor to connect with regularly, whether this is peer learning, a leadership coach, or a mentor. Be proactive and brutally honest about how you’re really feeling.  

When you model the right actions and attitudes it affects the entire team from the top on down. It’s contagious. 

Mindset Matters

As leaders, we’ve got to get out of a victim mindset when things get rough and start changing the future for ourselves and our teams. 

Ask yourself: is this what I really want? Is the organization really what I want it to be? 

If you can honestly answer ‘yes’, then great. If not, you need to start making micro-changes to get there. You can’t do — nor should you expect — everything at once. 

You do have the time. 

Stopping and reframing will free up more time, enabling you to get everything done. It’s not another thing on your to do list, it’s the key to success.

Don’t let circumstances run you instead of the other way around. 

Peer Into the Future

Stop. Step back. Refocus. 

Working in a peer group with other leaders outside of your organization can be incredibly beneficial, especially in trying times. Time and space to connect with others who can act as sounding boards for us and us for them. 

You need someone who understands the challenges you're facing and can support you with  fresh perspectives, questions that bring clarity, and gentle pushes from time to time.  

You can’t do it all and you don’t have to go it alone.

So don’t. 

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