1. Never wake up early... Keep stretching & turning in bed until you, get too hungry to continue dozing if there ar...
Sunday, March 5, 2017
How Do Leaders Excel In Hard Times?
We human beings are wired for certainty. A lack of it tends to trigger anxiety that drives people to resist anything that may further threaten the status quo...regardless of the cost. Good leaders not only work to dial down fear but to tap the passion, ingenuity and innovation it too often stifles.
Of course uncertainty is a staple in all our lives, including the organizations in which we spend much of them. Yet you’d have to be living in another Twittersphere not to have felt it dial up a notch or ten in recent times. Speculating about what’s to come has consumed a vast amount of column inches and dinner time debate. It’s also fueled a great deal of anxiety.
Our need for certainty was hardwired into our psychological DNA back in our cave dwelling days. We like to make plans for a future we can reasonably predict. At the very least, we want tothinkwe know what lies just ahead. The impact of uncertainty on our stress levels has recently been validated bya study by University College London (funded by the Medical Research Council). It found that people who are certain they will receive a small electric shock experience far less stress than those who know there’s a chance they may get shocked and a chance they won’t. When we know something is about to happen that we won’t like, we can brace ourselves. It’s the not knowing, the uncertainty, that triggers stress and anxiety.
“Let’s just wait until things settle down a bit,” a manager I know told his team last week, referencing plans to build a new manufacturing facility in Mexico. Another shared with me how they are holding off an international relocation to expand their mid-sized IT company’s business in China until they had a stronger sense of the political and economic climate. Their indecision is understandable, yet it exacts a toll.
Disruption to the status quo may produce anxiety, but it also creates opportunity. In today's climate of uncertainty, leaders have an opportunity to harness this anxiety in positive ways to fuel the innovation and productivity it so often stifles. This requires spending less time trying to guard against all external threats to their organization, and more on tapping the ingenuity, passion and potential that resides within its walls. Below are seven ways leaders can do just that.
1. Keep people focused on the mission.
Keeping people on task when the headlines are so distracting is no small feat. Good leaders communicate a compelling vision for their organization, and make sure everyone knows exactly what they need to be doing in order to achieve it. Does this eradicate all anxiety? Of course not. But when people are clear about what’s expected of them, and know that what they do provides a meaningful contribution to the larger whole, they’ll have less time and inclination to sit around catastrophizing about all the “What ifs?”
2. Dial down the anxiety-meter.
Organizational psychologists have found that every workplace develops its own group emotion, or "group effective tone." Over time, this creates shared "emotional norms" that are proliferated and reinforced by behavior, both verbal and non-verbal. Leaders have to set the tone for these norms. In many ways they act as emotional barometers, as people look to them for cues on how to think, engage and behave in the face of change and uncertainty. It’s why great leaders are very deliberate about harnessing the contagious nature of emotions in a positive way, dialing down anxiety and dialing up optimism complete with its "we’ll figure it out" mindset.
It’s why creating a safe environment is even more important in uncertain times when future security feels threatened, when people lack confidence in their ability to predict what lies ahead or how it will impact them, their family, their ability to pay their mortgage and their kid’s college fees. Leaders who focus solely on what could go wrong can enlarge the holes in people’s psychological safety net at a time when they most need to shrink them.Leaders must continually embolden people to ‘lean toward risk’ rather than away fromit as a prerequisite for their own growth and success.
5. Reward bravery.
The more frequently people are exposed to uncomfortable situations, the more comfortable they become with them. Coined the "Mere Exposure Effect" by psychologists, it explains why bomb disposal experts, given both the right training and sufficient practice, can keep their cool in situations that would turn most of us into a shaking mess.
When leaders reward courageous behaviors—not just successful ones—they’re also demonstrating to everyone what is valued. The reward should be immediate (not delayed until their annual review), meaningful to the person receiving it and, ideally, linked to the behavior you want to encourage. It could as simple as a handwritten note or a few encouraging words of acknowledgment in a team meeting.
6. Encourage decisiveness.
Auto-chief Lee Iacocca once said, “The one word that makes a good manager—decisiveness.” But let’s face it, when we’re dealing with a lack of information, ambiguity, and a future that’s anything but predictable, being decisive is easier said than done.Yet just because making a decision can create greater uncertainty, that's not a good reason not to make it. While waiting a little longer can feel like the sensible option, the price we pay for putting off a decision often outweighs the benefits we get by simply committing to a course of action. To quote
Consider where you need to lead with greater courage and move through your own fears and anxiety to disrupt old thinking, generate new ideas and set your organization up to compete in the world we’ll be living in ten years from now. While none of us can predict the future, it is the organizations which have been industrious in creating it that will be best poised to seize the opportunities it holds.