Most of us are currently facing challenges that we didn’t expect. We had a vision for 2020, and it didn’t involve a global crisis. It’s easy to get stuck looking for who to blame, overwhelmed by anxiety and stress. However, if we can make a shift to reframe our perspective, we might just be able to turn “crisis” into “opportunity.”
Crisis means more than simply danger. It can also mean turning point. This is where we are. It is no doubt a struggle for many businesses and individuals alike. But even positive change does not grow from comfort and convenience.
Great leaders in history are often remembered by how they dealt with a crisis. And these tough times are when great leaders are needed the most. We have the opportunity to face the current challenges, not without struggle, but with strength and resilience — and to rise above and emerge on the other side even stronger.
If we can navigate ourselves and others through the storm, there is potential for a bright future. Here are 10 tips for being a leader through these difficult times.
1. Be adaptable, flexible, and resilient.
We are living through the ultimate test of these traits. And if you didn’t have them before, it’s not too late to embrace them. We are told to sculpt a vision and build a strategy. And stick to it. But of course, this pandemic is not your vision. This was not your plan. Once you get past the upset of it all, you have the opportunity to choose how you will react, how you will adapt, and how you will survive — and thrive. You are not alone in your struggle. And you might not be able to continue with the same strategy you had before, but you can stay true to your purpose. Make a new plan. And accept that you may need to keep flexibility on that one, too.
2. Keep your focus on what you can control.
There are many pieces of this puzzle that we cannot control. Nothing good will come from embracing a victim mentality, looking for who to blame. Shift from a problem-focus to a solution-focus. Move from pointing fingers to offering a helping hand. It might not be easy, but it will yield more positive results in the end. Turn off the news and dial back your social media if you need to. Focus on stories of support and positive response. And focus on what you can control.
3. Take care of your people.
Who are your people? Whether it’s your family, your employees, your customers and clients, or even your neighbors — take care of those around you in the best way you can. Have compassion and empathy for others. Listen to their struggles and do what you can to ease worries. Everyone is experiencing this situation in different ways. Some are at home by themselves. Some are adjusting to life with a house full of kids and a full-time job to maintain. Some have lost their jobs altogether. Some are out there on the frontlines, moving forward in the face of fear, to support the rest of us. Most are dealing with an inordinate amount of stress. We can’t expect to keep the same kind of balance as before. So approach all relationships with kindness and understanding.
4. Take care of yourself.
Leaders often spend so much time leading and focusing on others that they neglect their own wellbeing. But it’s important to give yourself what you need to continue to support those around you. Find a way to keep a handle on your own stress and anxiety so that you don’t crash completely. Find a meditation practice, exercise, go for walks, get enough sleep, eat well, do something you enjoy, etc. It’s often the last thing on the list, but make an effort to send it to the top. Your people, your family, your customers will appreciate it.
5. Remember the big picture.
Our notion of “normal” may never be the same as it was. But isn’t that how life happens anyway? It wasn’t that long ago that cell phones weren’t normal. Or kale. Or streaming TV shows and music. This is but one chapter in a book of many, many other chapters. Deal with the details of the present, yes, but don’t get stuck. Remember that we are all a part of something bigger than ourselves (no matter what your spiritual beliefs are). A wider perspective can relieve some of the immediate ongoing panic.
6. Listen to what your customers or clients need.
It might not be what you’re used to. People are still out there, doing their best to get by. We still have certain needs, though they may be changing. Be sensitive to what’s going on as you communicate to your customers or client base. It’s not “business as usual.” Instead of diving into a selfish mindset of “these things are happening to US,” approach it with a “how can we help YOU” mentality, and you’ll likely find that everyone can benefit. You have to be willing to shift or pivot your products and services (and how you present them to your clients and customers). Focus on how you can contribute to the solution.
7. Keep open communication and dialogue.
Just like you should be listening to your customers and clients, you should also be listening to your teams, your employees, your peers, your kids, and your partners. Be willing to listen, and be willing to talk. This experience is new to all of us. Emotions are bound to fluctuate, and being able to express our feelings in a healthy way is part of how we will get through it.
8. Embrace virtual.
We are lucky to have so much technology to keep us connected. If you work with a team, how can you help everyone succeed in this virtual realm? This requires a lot of that flexibility and adaptability that we mentioned earlier. Many of us are already using videoconferencing tools and virtual collaboration platforms. If it’s not your norm, make sure to check in with everyone and evolve your process constantly so that it’s effective for all. Additionally, many are taking their businesses to a virtual platform (where they might not have been before). How can you do the same? If you aren’t already, think of how you can take your offerings online. If you can’t monetize it, focus on how you can give value that people need right now to build potential customers and clients for the future.
9. Relax and shift your expectations.
The current situation requires a lot of letting go and a lot of grace. We are facing new obstacles — often several at once — and yet some of us are holding on to the same expectation of perfection as before. It leads to disappointment and feelings of failure. And it’s not productive. Don’t think of it as “lowering” expectations. Simply think about shifting them to align with the current reality.
This one is so hard. But it’s a journey and a process. You don’t have to get it right every time, and in fact, there is no right way to do it. The gratitude mindset is simply a way to approach life that can lead you to a greater sense of peace and calm. And you need it most when it seems the hardest. Think about the big things and the little things. It could be gratitude for your family, or for getting that last pack of toilet paper at the store this morning, or for internet and smartphones. It could be gratitude for fresh fruit or having a roof over your head. Incorporate this practice into your daily routine. It doesn’t require anything but a willingness to try.
Leadership in a time of crisis means being a person that others feel good about following. It means you inspire confidence, give support, and keep an open ear. It doesn’t mean you have all the answers. It simply means that you are willing to look for them.
“Remember, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” – Dale Carnegie