Leading Out of Crisis
Times Like These Will Test You
— and Here Are 5 Ways to Ensure You Pass
In times like these, it’s especially important to remember that leadership is a servant activity. We gave up the right to think of ourselves first when we stepped into leadership. It’s our responsibility as leaders to reduce the anxiety and uncertainty that can take hold during any crisis, but especially one as far-reaching as the COVID-19 pandemic. Even when we as leaders don’t have all the answers, sharing what we do know can be valuable to our team. Here are some points to keep in mind:
1. Connect with your people on a regular basis.
Ongoing communication is key, whether your team is operating remotely or in your normal workplace. Listen to the concerns of your team members, and let them know you don’t have all the answers. It is important to be optimistic but with an authenticity that reflects the nature of these times. This gives you the opportunity to inspire hope.
2. Trust your team members and understand their capabilities.
Communicating your trust in them and their insights unleashes their creativity. It’s important to listen to their ideas because it not only builds their confidence, it also helps your organization develop strategies for the next 2.0 for your organization. Ask for their input in a group setting because everyone will see the different perspectives. You will see people stepping up in the “new normal,” and you will develop unity in your culture. Celebrate that and be quick to applaud those efforts.
3. Be authentic and transparent.
I grew up in a trailer park in Key West, and we didn’t have a lot. My humble beginnings have helped me keep my feet firmly planted on the coral. Always remembering where I grew up allowed me to develop humility. Transparency about challenging times will help you to connect on a more personal level with the people in your organization. This can shape the leadership influence you need to lead them through crisis and change. Remember, you are not just their “boss,” you are their leader and you are a person. They need to see that person in you, and you need to build confidence in them to be part of your solution.
4. Be flexible.
Innovation is key. You may need to take inventory of your offerings and value as a company. What do you stand for? Look at what new markets or offerings you can provide that may be outside of the aperture you provide today. I spend a lot of time facilitating workshops and strategy sessions to help companies walk through transitions. Many of those companies are watching the shift in the markets and are working to “skate where the puck is going to be.” After this, and for many, their market will shift. It will shift not only in the way their customers procure their goods and services but the types of goods and services they value. Think about what January looked like compared to today. Differentiating the elements of this change that are enduring from those that are temporary is crucial. This will certainly require a nimbler approach in your business culture and your leadership style. Many around our state and our country have demonstrated inspiring agility.
5. Focus on the people.
My experience in the U.S. Navy and working with companies today has given me the opportunity to develop and work with high-performing teams. So many companies use and display the phrase “Our people are our most important asset,” but they rarely invest the resources to more holistically develop their employees. This means providing opportunities to grow as communicators, leaders and teammates. Investing your time and energy in your workers beyond their particular discipline within your company will deliver a yield that is off the chart.
Leading out of crisis demands the best from a leader. The leader’s character and ability is revealed when under the pressure that crises bring. As leaders, we have to be cognizant of the fact that the people we are responsible for will remember how we navigate this time. We need to be intentional, informed and connected to see our teams and our enterprises through this period.
When he was inducted into the Florida Veterans’ Hall of Fame in 2018, Bill “Roto” Reuter had served as the commanding officer of the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, where he was responsible for more than 1,200 personnel and an annual total budget of $1.2 billion. Among other leadership posts, he had been base commander of naval support activity in Orlando and had served in the U.S. Navy for 28 years. Today, he is the president of R-Squared Solutions, a consulting firm he founded in 2012. His nonprofit experience includes his current post as board chair of the Florida Defense Contractors Association. From his unique vantage point, this John Maxwell-trained Central Floridian shares his perspective on how the best leaders navigate their teams during and out of times of crisis.