Pursue What Matters
Episode 48: Leading Through Crisis
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Great leaders are not formed during crisis. But perhaps their best gifts are revealed in the furnace of crisis. What do you think of this? Well, whether you like it or not, you have an opportunity to lead through crisis. So you might as well do it well.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:19
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters Podcast, where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. Today, we’re focusing on what the greatest leaders do during a crisis. Uncertainty can be so so scary. And today I want to talk about some of our human tendencies that do not serve us very well, and what great leaders do in response. And of course, how we can learn to become great leaders, for certainly, we are facing a crisis of epic proportions. Now, I don’t want this podcast to scare you at all, there’s been enough of that there’s been plenty of fear mongering. But the reality is, you have a need to lead through crisis because we certainly are experiencing that. And there’s a lot that we can learn, and a lot that we can do to thrive in the face of uncertainty and to lead through crisis and to lead.
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:37
Wow. And today, I’ve got a really great freebie that can help you break it down. So that you can lead Wow. And so this freebie is what you need to know to lead confidently. Now, right now, not when conditions improve, not when everything is going perfectly well. But right now, right here right now. So let’s jump in and take a look at what great leaders do to lead through uncertainty. So what do great leaders do when faced with uncertainty, when hit with a crisis? What a great leaders do great leaders lead.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:18
Today we’re going to focus in on exactly what great leaders do when crisis hits. And of course, one of our best examples of leading through crisis is, of course, Winston Churchill. And of course, he was famous for so many really perfect quotes. And here is one of his great ones, which I think applies very well at at this time. Now. If you’re going through hell keep going. And honestly, what choice do we have? If you’re going through hell keep going. So first, let’s talk about what happens to most of us in the face of uncertainty and in the face of crisis. So I just kind of want to want us to think a little bit about kind of where we’ve been the last few weeks because I do think being able to take a big picture perspective can be super helpful. Because when you have perspective, and when you have a big picture, understanding it, it really can make a big difference for helping you make sense of your experience.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:25
So of course, the first thing that happened with this COVID pandemic is that, you know, for many of us, chaos reigns supreme. So right, like everyone kind of lost their friggin minds. And so in the face of crisis, what happens for most of us is that we abandon structure, we abandon schedules, predictability, and all of the very things that help us to remain steady. And so, you know, it’s really it’s such a disservice, but that’s kind of what happens, like chaos just takes over. And so essentially we overcorrect, a ship that is already tilting sideways and create even more unsteadiness. So for example, we don’t get to sleep at a reasonable hour, we don’t get up at a reasonable hour. We don’t exercise we start emotionally eating, who’s been doing that I know lots of people then doing that. We totally abandon all of the positive health behaviors that have helped to keep us somewhat balanced. And so you know, that for for many of us, that’s kind of what was happening during the first week of the COVID outbreak when when you know, when things started to shut down, right, like when schools started to shut down, when we were told that we needed to start working from home and so, you know, I kind of think about week one As the week of shock and awe where we really were just in shock, we were trying to figure things out, we were operating on adrenaline. And so in a very real way, that’s what happens when we are in crisis mode, we are operating on stress. And so what we’re, what we experienced that first week especially was an adrenaline surge. And that’s very functional in response to a crisis. It helps you to do what you need to do and to power through. And it helps you to get to Costco and get the groceries, it helps you to get the kids going on home school helps you to get set up for work from home, right.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:40
So it’s very functional, it helps you to make the decisions that you need to make in the point of crisis. But here’s the thing, you’re kind of emotionally numb, right. And that’s also functional. Because if you were fully emotionally present, in the first days in response to a crisis, you probably would just be a puddle on the floor, like it would be very hard for you to make the decisions that you would need to make. And so that adrenaline surge is actually quite functional. And so it really helps us to figure out what we needed to do. And so I would say that was our first week. And that was kind of the shock and awe week. And then we had week two, and this was when the adrenaline surge settled down, right? And the adrenaline surge, you cannot function on that adrenaline surge for long, right? It’s not functional for long, and the surge always settles down. And that’s when the crash happens. And with that, with that crash comes all of the flood of emotions. So this is what I saw when talking to leaders and talking to folks in my clinical practice, and just, you know, friends and family, of course, with social distance in place, what I saw is people were freaking out.
Dr. Melissa Smith 7:07
So this is where we see spikes in anxiety. This is where we see a lot of fear and a lot of panic and a lot of Worry, worry about the future worry about loved ones worry about the economy, worry about jobs, right? Like, what’s going to happen, how long is this going to land. And so in the in week one with the shock and awe, everyone was kind of numb and weak too. That’s when the emotions really start to hit because that adrenaline surge starts to wear off. And so those emotions start to come into play. And write that it’s important that we have that adrenaline surge settle down. But that’s when we have that crash. And that’s when people get really susceptible to the numbing behavior. So right that numbing behavior, whether it’s drinking, whether it’s turning to food, for like the comfort food, and comfort eating that sort of thing. Not mean through Netflix, do we have Tiger King anyone? Right, like so lots of people are looking to check out and emotionally during week two, and this is where with week two, we really see week one and week two, an abandonment of structure and abandonment of schedules. Because it’s just like people are just trying to hang in there. And especially with week two, people are really doing a lot of emotional numbing. And the thing about schedules and predictability. They’re really designed to help you stay connected in your life. And so if you’re geared towards emotional numbing, then a schedule and predictability is not really in line with that. And so they don’t, they don’t really work. But of course, what we’ve probably all discovered, and maybe you discovered this, this past weekend, at the end of week two, it does not feel any good. It just feels pretty miserable. And so now we are at the beginning of week three with a COVID. Right. And so for most of us, we are realizing that we need to make some adjustments and that we’re moving into a new normal, right, so shock and awe is over. Right? The Fallout and the coming down from that adrenaline surge and the emotional exhaustion is over. And now we’ve got to figure out how to move forward on a new normal. So for most of us, you know, with kiddos we recognize like our kids are going to be homeschooling for at least six weeks, right?
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:44
So most of our kids are out until at least the beginning of May, probably longer. Most of us are going to be doing telework for several weeks. Most of us are not going to most of us are going to be quarantined. Right, all of us are going to be quarantined. for several weeks, and so, now we’re at a point where we need to learn how to adjust. And so the question for us this week, and what I really want you to be thinking about for yourself, for your families, and for your teams at work, is what do you need in place to thrive? This is a core competency of resilience, right. And specifically, today, we really want to think about developing a new normal and getting on a schedule and getting some predictability. And next week, I’m going to really be focusing in on the things you need to do personally, to thrive and to have this new normal. And today, we’re really going to be focusing on leading through crisis. And so helping your team establish some new normals.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:50
Okay, so but I want to talk a little bit about a little bit more about what’s happening in the face of uncertainty. So like I said, there are, there are four things that tend to happen in the face of crisis that we really want to help you resist. So first is the chaos reigns supreme. And I’ve already talked about that a little bit, right. And so we lose our schedules, schedules go out the window. The second thing is we take in too much information. And this is a really, this is really problematic, because we lose the power to discriminate between useful information, and unhelpful information. And so, you know, it’s like, all the TV and radio and podcast channels are on at full volume in our ears at the same time, while our eyes are being flooded with graphs and images and numbers. And most of these images and sounds are pretty darn alarming. So in a crisis, you know, we default to information overload. And of course, the result is a spike in anxiety, that leaves us freaked out,vulnerable and unable to accurately assess threats. And so that is the real danger of the information overload is that we’re already vulnerable. And so our ability to discriminate the veracity of the information is really is is really hampered. And so we lose our ability to discriminate those inputs coming at us.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:31
Okay. And then the third thing, and this is related to the second thing is that we believe more information will bring us certainty in the face of crisis. And the truth is, this is just dead wrong. Because we don’t have any certainty. No one really knows we’re trying to gather information, there are some studies being done, right, we’re doing a lot of modeling. We’re trying to gather information. But the fact is, we are facing a situation that is full of uncertainty. But this is what happens in the face of uncertainty. Of course, we get eager for information. And so our brains become like sponges, right for information as a way of trying to make sense of the chaos around us. But this is the thing, what’s happening is kind of senseless, right? I mean, it’s hard to wrap our heads around a pandemic, right? It’s, it’s, it’s not something that’s happened for any of us in our lifetimes. It’s happened before, and we can learn some lessons from that. But it doesn’t make much sense for us. And so it’s hard for us to make sense of it. So but again, we’re not very discriminating about the information. And so what happens is, we tend to undermine ourselves, because what happens with the information that’s coming in, is that we end up fueling more anxiety rather than actually being able to make informed decisions.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:13
So the other thing is that our brains are striving for certainty. And so we seek information in the hope that we will gain that certainty. And right, there might not be any certainty to be had in in the middle of a crisis. And, you know, I think the other thing that we’re seeing, unfortunately, is that there are some folks out there who are willing to peddle you certainty. And it’s just a lie, right? It’s just not helpful at all. And so, you know, anyone who’s trying to give you certainty right now, is not helpful. And so the best that we can do is to really redirect you back to To what can help you to find a sense of peace and calm in the face of uncertainty. So, you know, so the thing is we seek out more information to bring us certainty, but it’s the more information actually just feeds more anxiety, rather than certainty. And then the fourth thing that we tend to do in the face of a crisis, and you’ve probably definitely seen this, you’ve probably been part of this, is we adopt a herd mentality. So if you’ve been to a grocery store during the first days of the covid, 19, outbreak, you know exactly what I mean. So I called this my psyche of panic study, when I was at the grocery store. And let me tell you, it’s a real thing. But of course, you do not need me to tell you this. Because if you were at Costco, if you were at any grocery store, you experienced this. And like I said, you were probably part of this. So you know the scenario, maybe you go into a store to pick up one or two things. But when you see other shoppers with full carts, and rabbit eyes, suddenly you find yourself stuffing your cart with all sorts of groceries that you had absolutely zero intention of buying, when you walked into that store. And that is the herd mentality and action. I mean, I did this, like I walked into Walmart. And seriously, I had like four items on my list. I even had a list. And I walked out like 20 minutes later with like, $200 in groceries and a full cart. And I was like, What did what what just happened there?
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:41
So I became, I became a number in my own study on the psyche of panic. And, you know, I was not a control number, that’s for sure. I totally was part of that herd mentality. And this is the thing to know, anxiety is contagious. So that’s what’s really dangerous about the herd mentality. Anxiety is contagious. So when we’re around other anxious people, our reptilian brains go on high alert, because they’re like, what does that frazzled person know, that I don’t know, right? Like that person over there with like, the, you know, 20 cans of baked beans must know something that I don’t know. So I better go get some baked beans, I should be on guard, I need to fill my cart with, you know, nine packages of honeycomb cereal, because you never know. And so logic and reason have absolutely no place with the herd. And, you know, anxiety ends up ruling the day in these situations. And so that’s what happens for so many of us in the face of crisis. And of course, this is not a good recipe for wise decision making. And it’s even more disastrous when you think about leading an organization or leading a team through crisis. And so of course, we do not want this to happen to you, you know, what happens is we get very, very reactive in our decision making, you know, we take we seize control. And, you know, we take all the decision making into our hands, rather than using the wisdom of the team. And so we want to resist those urges.
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:31
So today, I want to talk about what you can do to be a great leader in uncertain times, and specifically, how you can lead while in crisis because there are several things that you can do to lead your team while and this is the thing that works equally well at home and in the workplace. And this week, we’re really focusing in on leading your team while at work. Next week, we’re going to focus on you as an individual. But let’s focus in on what great leaders do in the face of a crisis.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:16
Okay, solution one, great leaders get quiet. So right when we think about chaos reigns supreme, and all of the noise and all the information and all the inputs, great leaders take time to reflect consider vision conditions, realities, possibilities and challenges. So great leaders make space to block out the flood of inputs long enough to develop clarity about what matters most. And so do not lose sight of your organization and organization’s vision, and values and purpose. These are more important than ever, in the face of a crisis. And one of the biggest mistakes leaders make in the middle of a crisis is they abandon their vision, because they take the approach of, Hey, we just need to do what we need to do to survive. And that can be incredibly undermining. And so in the face of crisis, clarity about what matters most clarity about purpose, clarity about vision is actually more essential than ever. And you as a leader are the one that has to keep your eye on the horizon. So that that’s an essential task of the leader. Okay, so more specifically, great leaders discriminate about the information that they take in and where they are receiving this information from. So this is the time to have even higher standards, in terms of the media that you’re consuming, and to step away from some, or all media as needed. So what I would recommend is that you identify 1, 2, 3, very reliable sources of information, news outlets, so if you do like a news outlet and a science outlet, so whether that’s CDC or another resource, and then you just shut down all the rest. So if you find that you’re anxious, when listening to news reports, it’s also probably a good idea to take a break from the news. Or another idea is to use a news app. But just set a five minute timer for yourself. So on your phone, set a five minute timer for yourself, and then just use those five minutes to scan the headlines. So scan those headlines, and then you should have time in those five minutes to skim one to two articles. And this forces you to be very, very discriminating. It’s it gives you a really good overview of the news of the day without dipping you too deeply into the minutiae and anxiety laden information and news of the day.
Dr. Melissa Smith 22:30
So this can be a really good approach, especially when we’re in the middle of a crisis. And there’s information overload, because information overload is one of the biggest spikes to anxiety. You also might find that you need to unfollow certain people for a period of time, if you find that they’re posting things that are troubling or anxiety provoking. So you know, I have a political podcast that I enjoy listening to, I listened to it just about every single day. But one of the things that I found during I think it was like week one, and a little bit of week two of COVID is a couple of times while I was listening to the podcast, I noticed that it really started spiking my anxiety as I was listening to this podcast, because the podcast host was talking a lot about the economic forecast. And I was just like, okay, like, this is not helpful for me. And so one of the things that I had to do is I had to limit how often I was listening to that podcast. And I also had to limit or be very mindful about when, in the day, I was listening to that podcast. So I definitely couldn’t listen to that podcast in the evening. If it was any time close to bedtime, because game over like I was not going to be able to sleep if that was the case. But I, you know, I’ve been listening to that podcast for years. And I’ve never had a problem. But you know, I’m more vulnerable to the anxiety with this crisis as well. And so I just found that I couldn’t listen to some of the content on that podcast, because it was spiking my anxiety. And so just pay attention to your response. As you take in some information and then make decisions from there, you’re just probably going to have to set some boundaries for yourself. And you might need to do that first. You know, certain people if you find that it’s too troubling or too anxiety provoking, and that’s, you know, that’s actually just having some good boundaries for yourself.
Dr. Melissa Smith 24:32
Okay. So you also might want to take a break from social media, if the content is weighing you down. And that’s not a bad idea. And some other things to do. So right, we’re talking about getting quiet, every day, meditate daily, at least 10 minutes, use an app, do it, it’s a no brainer, for sure. Make sure you’re doing this. Connect with spirituality. So this is a bedrock for building resilience. ants. So pray connect with nature. It definitely does not need to be organized religion, right? No one’s going to church right now, that’s for sure. But what are the ways that you can connect with spirituality or faith, so maybe it’s spiritual reading, maybe it’s time in nature, but find a way to connect and get quiet, you could simply close your door and be still, you might need to, you might need to do that, especially Have you if you have kids at home, that might be hard to do. But closing your eyes and being quiet can be really helpful. Last week on the podcast, I reviewed the book in this moment, which is all about the neuroscience of mindfulness. And that can be a really good resource for you. It’s also got a lot of really practical tools to help. And so I will link to that podcast in the show notes. So you could check out that book, it’s very helpful.
Dr. Melissa Smith 26:00
And then another thing that could be really helpful is to journal. So journaling, I always say it’s like the fastest route to self awareness and self reflection. So you know, you can do this, both related to how you are coping personally, but also related to your leadership and some of the questions that your organization is facing some of the questions that you’re dealing with as a leader. And so I have several questions that you can look at, and consider as journal prompts. And I will link to these in the, with the freebie. So I mentioned at the beginning of the podcast that I have a great freebie for you what you need to know to lead confidently now. And so this resource has a lot of really, really good information. And included in there, I have like at least six really good journal prompts that will help you to think about the challenges that you face as a leader Now, what does your team need from you now? What are some of the decisions that you’re facing? And so these prompts will really help you zero in and focus on, you know, the decisions that you’re facing now, as a leader. And so I think that can be a really helpful resource for you.
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:21
Okay, now let’s talk about solution two, great leaders have a bias toward action. So great leaders are willing to make decisions and move forward even in the face of uncertainty. And this is really something that sets great leaders apart from just mediocre leaders. So great leaders recognize that there is absolutely no way to have all of the information necessary. They recognize that perfection is a plague. And that action actually decreases anxiety. And so this hemming and hawing about a decision, and about, you know, well what’s gonna happen next week, what’s going to happen next month, that that kind of stewing in indecision is like a cancer to your organization, and actually a cancer to your leadership, nothing undermines confidence more than that. And so great leaders have a bias toward action. Now, that doesn’t mean that they’re reactive, it doesn’t mean that they’re impulsive in their decision making. But it means that they are willing to move forward, even in the face of uncertainty. And consider the situation we have now, right? Like, there’s absolutely no way to have all the information you need to make decisions in this economic climate. But the fact is, every, every organization out there has got to be making decisions and changes to how they operate. And if I mean, we’re, we’re starting our third week into COVID. And if an organization hasn’t already made changes, like they’re almost too late, and so you cannot have all of the information you need to make a great decision, but you still got to act. And so, you know, one of the tools that I have for you, in the freebie in the resource associated with this podcast is some leadership action planning. And so with that, you know, I have a SWOT analysis.
Dr. Melissa Smith 29:31
So, you know, anyone who’s been to business school will recognize a SWOT analysis, right, anyone that’s done marketing will recognize a SWOT analysis, but we want to do a SWOT analysis relative to the crisis. And so a SWOT analysis is a strategic planning tool that can help you identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats related to you know, business competence. or project planning, right? And so we’re doing this relative to the crisis situation. So of course, a SWOT analysis is a really great tool to use in the early stages of decision making, to really evaluate the cost benefit analysis of specific decisions within a specific context. And so that’s really what we’re thinking about. And the context is this crisis situation, right? Like, what are the risks of doing nothing? What are the risks of doing this? And so it’s really very helpful in that it helps you to look at both the internal and external factors to help you determine competitive advantage. And you know, when we think about, of course, strengths and weaknesses, those are typically the internal factors, whereas opportunities and threats are those external factors typically. And so then, right, so that’s the SWOT analysis is pretty familiar to most leaders. But then from there, I want you to really take a look at what are your organization’s top 1, 2, 3 priorities in this crisis? So based on that SWOT analysis, so are there 1, 2, 3 decisions you need to make as a result of the SWOT analysis? And are there any actions you must take now to protect or preserve your organization’s top priorities during this crisis. So this SWOT analysis really forces you to take a look at the decisions and actions that are first going to protect your organization, but then also are going to position your organization to be able to weather the crisis, okay. So all of this is included in the freebie. So make sure with the show notes, I will give you the information on how you can access this freebie. And then make sure you go ahead and download that. And it will walk you through this process. And so I want to be clear that this solution and the next solution, go hand in hand, right? That it’s not a rigid, stepwise logic. So, you know, you’ve got to be working with your team here, right? It’s not that the leader is just making this decision on his or her own. But the point in having this solution that I just talked about, which is that leaders have a bias toward action, is that leaders must lead from the front and make it clear to their team that they will act, right. But of course, how we’ll see with the next solution that the leader does not act alone. But I think so often what happens in crisis is, first of all, it just freaks everyone out. And what happens in the face of fear is that people get really indecisive people get stuck and paralyzed in fear. So one of the most common stress responses that we see is flight fight, or there’s a third component of that, which is freeze. And that’s actually a really common response. And we see that a lot in the face of fear is people just freeze up. And there’s this, there’s this in action, that happens. And so, right when we think about solution two leaders have a bias toward action. And so they are leading from the front. And they need to make it clear to their team that the team is going to act. But of course, the leader does not act alone, the leader needs to work with her or his whole team.
Dr. Melissa Smith 33:46
And so let’s move into solution three, which is, you know, totally tied into solution two and that is that they are willing to pivot and right, these leaders recognize the need to change services, and products and messaging in the face of uncertainty. And they lead with more transparency through these necessary changes. So these leaders err on the side of over communication, during times of uncertainty, and that’s really, really important to pay attention to. Okay, so of course, the first step is for you, as a leader, to do the leader action planning, including the SWOT analysis. And of course, once you’ve done that, as a leader, it might be a great idea for you to take that SWOT analysis into your team and do that as a team. Depending on the size of your team. Maybe it’s, maybe you do that as a leadership team. But then, of course to work really closely with your team. Because you know, you won’t necessarily have all the information you need to make the decisions that must be made to lead through change, but this is where we want to get super specific. This is where the rubber hits the road. And you start to ask all of the detailed questions around pivoting. Now, all of these are covered in the freebie that I’ve got. So where do you need to pivot? And it’s, it can be kind of painful. But you’ve got to be willing to consider everything. So nothing is off the table. Because right, we’re talking about survival. And we’re talking about thriving. And when we’re in the middle of a crisis, like everything has to be up for consideration. So just, for example, we’ve got to think about products, pivot services, pivot messaging, pivot, employee pivot, you know, service delivery pivot, do we think about new products, new services, new pricing. So you really have to have, you have to have a pretty comprehensive team in place. Because you as a leader, first of all, are not going to have all of that information, you’re not going to have all the information that you need to make that decision. And like I said, earlier, the tendency in a crisis is to seize control. And it’s really not helpful, you actually want to decentralize control in the face of a crisis, because you need the strength of the team to help with the decision making. And if you just think about all of these examples that I just shared in terms of pivoting, like you need a lot of perspectives to think about, what are the opportunities for pivoting, that may be very useful or helpful or necessary in the new economic climate? So then, based on each pivot, what does this mean for existing business services? And products? So does it mean a pause, a freeze, a shift in resources? So right for each decision? What does this mean for the dominoes? Right? So we want, we really want to think about what that means? What are the consequences down the line. And so you’ve got to be able to follow that through. And if, again, you need the team to really look at that and look at the consequences of that, because it might seem like a really good pivot in the boardroom. But when you really play it all the way out and get to the shop, room floor, it may be a disastrous decision. And so that’s why you’ve got to have the key stakeholders in place. And then of course, you’ve got to communicate clearly, to and with the team about these changes.
Dr. Melissa Smith 37:42
So the next question that I really want you to be paying attention to is what must be done? And this question really brings laser focus to your priorities. And I want you to actually look at this question in terms of what must you do in the next three days? What must you do in the next seven days? And what must you do in the next 14 days, and of course, you can take that out a little bit further, but at this point, I don’t want you to go out more than 14 days, because 14 days is about as far as we can get at this point. Beyond that, there’s just not enough certainty in the system. And you know, it’s hard to be in that reality. And that’s pretty anxiety inducing for a lot of us. But that’s, that’s kind of where we’re at. But this is a little bit of some focused planning in terms of what must be done. Right? It really helps you with those priorities. Because again, right, you’ve got so much information coming in, it can be really hard to know what the priorities are. And this question just helps to laser in that focus.
Dr. Melissa Smith 38:57
So then the next question, and of course, all of these are in the freebie. So let’s make sure you definitely download that and it can be a good resource for you. Is there something you recognize that you must do that you are putting off? Okay, and then why? So this question really helps to surface avoidance, which can be such a driving force in the face of anxiety and, you know, obviously, in a crisis, so you’ve got to banish avoidance so that you can do what must be done. And this is huge. I mean, avoidance is so so big. The tendency to stuff our heads in the sand, right to be an ostrich is really, really big, because it’s painful to look at the changes that need to be made. Sometimes it means we have to lay people off. Sometimes it means we have to do hiring freezes. Sometimes it means you know, we have to drop certain product lines. It’s painful and So in the face of paying in the face of fear, we avoid, but that avoidance is so incredibly undermining. And it can really be a driving force in the face of crisis, you’ve got to banish avoidance avoidance is a plague, it will really take your company down, if you don’t address it head on. And so is there something you recognize that you must do that you are putting off? So you’ve got to take that fear head on.
Dr. Melissa Smith 40:30
So this is another great quote from Winston Churchill. He said, “it is no use saying, We are doing our best, you have got to succeed in doing what’s necessary.” And I think that really speaks to this avoidance piece. Are you able to do what you need to do? Are you able to do what’s necessary? And that really is a mark of great leadership and great leadership can be really painful sometimes.
Dr. Melissa Smith 41:01
So the next question that I want you to look at, and this can be a painful question, as well. But if you can only do one thing, what is it? So this question really clears the way all the fluff, so it doesn’t mean that you’ll only do one thing, but it really helps you to prioritize in the face of chaos, right, which is hard to do. It’s hard for us to make decisions. But this question also forces you to do some forecasting, which is one of those essential skills of leadership. So you may not want to look forward, but you do kind of need to be able to look to the horizon, for the sake of the organization. And for those you need. And of course, right that horizon’s super uncertain at this point that we need, we need you to do your best. And that’s all we can do. So, you know what, I think I’ve already mentioned this, but an essential skill of leadership is to be able to keep your eyes on the present moment, while also seeing the horizon. So in this way, right, you’re holding the forest and the trees together, right? So we don’t lose the forest for the trees. And so this is related to the other question, if you can only do one thing in the next three days, what is it? And why? If you can only do one thing in the next seven days, what is it and why? And then the same thing for 14 days.
Dr. Melissa Smith 42:28
Okay. And then the second part of solution three, which is they are willing to pivot is so so important, and that is that you must lead with more transparency, and err on the side of over communication during a crisis. And so, you know, I really want you to be thinking about what you need to be communicating with your team about during the crisis, and right, the tendency is to pull back on communication. It’s, it’s a little bit paternalistic, but or paternalistic, right, either way you want to, you want to put that, but kind of this idea of like, Oh, I don’t want to cause them, worry. And so I’ll just, you know, I won’t say anything about what’s going on. And, first of all, like, no one’s living under a rock, like, they know that things are bad, they know things are problematic. And that is just, that’s avoidance. And that’s you avoiding tackling issues head on. And it actually does not work because what it does, is it leaves the team to make up storytelling, and storytelling in the face of anxiety leads to fear mongering, and it leads to gossiping. And the gossiping is usually about layoffs. gossiping is usually about, you know, we’re all going to be out of a job in the next six months. So it really leads to that herd mentality and that psyche of panic. And so you, you cannot let that happen. Because the anxiety moves like a wildfire through your organization. And so you really have got to err on the side of over communicating during a crisis.
Dr. Melissa Smith 44:09
So I want you to think about what do you need to be communicating to your team about in the crisis? How often do you need to be communicating? And what is your plan for communicating? And so right, the mistake I see is that so many leaders clam up. And of course, it just leaves their teams anxious and worried. And, you know, don’t do that is just so so unhelpful. And like I said, right, your team’s not living under a rock they, they know that things are rough and they need reassurance and guidance from you. They don’t need you to sugarcoat it. They don’t need you to paint a rosy picture. They don’t need you to lie to them. They need you to tell it like it is. So respect your team and know that they are not fragile, so speak to them like this. Adults, and trust them with the difficult reality you all face. And this is a thing, you’ll all be stronger as you face it together. And so when you don’t communicate with them, when you don’t tell them, the situation as it is, you lose trust with your team. So it really undermines their trust in you, they need you to be able to talk to them directly about the situation. So another way that this pattern shows up is sometimes leaders resist communicating with their team, because they don’t want to be seen as vulnerable. And this is also really disastrous. And so sometimes the mistaken belief of a leader is that, you know, they, they think that leading through crisis somehow makes them weak, or is a reflection of their leadership, like, if they were a better leader, they wouldn’t be in a crisis. And so like, That’s such a cognitive distortion, that’s just like, ridiculous because there are, you know, millions of really phenomenal leaders who are leading through this pandemic right now.
Dr. Melissa Smith 46:11
So you’ll be judged by how you respond to a crisis. So be willing to square your shoulders, lean into the vulnerability and have the difficult conversations that you need to have with your team. And this is not weakness, this is actually called courage. And your people will respect you for it, for sure. So again, err on the side of over communicating, even if you need to have the conversation or send the email of I don’t have any updates for you. But I want you to know, I’m thinking of you. And I’ll follow up as soon as I know anything, or just the email to say, Hey, I’m checking in with you, I hope you guys are doing okay. If you have any questions, let me know, I might not have any answers for you. But I want you to know, I’m here. So always, always, always err on the side of over communication. The other thing that you can do in the middle of a crisis is to create more opportunities to connect. Of course, right now, that needs to happen virtually. But that’s okay, we can do that. So this is this is the time really that your team needs reassurance, and they need more opportunities to connect, because that’s one of the ways that we cope is through connection, it’s actually one of the most important ways that we connect. And so, you know, we don’t need the false reassurance of everything is going to be okay. Because first of all, you can’t give them that reassurance. No one can give them that reassurance. But what’s the reassurance that you can give them, you can, you can say we’re all in this together, we’re doing our best, I’m going to communicate with you about what I know. Right? So this is not the time to get rid of team meetings. This is not the time to eliminate your team connection points. Because we heal and we cope in the context of social connection. So make sure you’re using those times and maybe even implementing more, especially with everyone working remotely these these types of connections are even more important.
Dr. Melissa Smith 48:18
Okay, so now solution four great leaders take on challenges. So this is where I want you as a leader to do some vision casting, and consider the kind of leader you want to be in the time of crisis. So great leaders are not afraid to mess up to iterate and to keep learning. So not only do great leaders forecast for their organizations, but great leaders vision cast for themselves. And so what I mean by that, is that we want you to ask yourself, what kind of leader do I want to be in this crisis? when all of a sudden done? What do I want to set of me? And now that’s not in an ego centric way. But really, you know, when you look back at this, you know, how do you want to feel about how you lead? When you look back at this crisis crisis, you want to feel what you want to feel proud that you lead with Florida to make the difficult decisions required, kept your fake capture team together in the face of extreme economic conditions. What you know, looking back, say the crisis is all over. How do you want to look back and see that you carried yourself through the crisis and carried your team?
Dr. Melissa Smith 49:47
So that’s what vision casting is all about. And so with the resource, I have a lot of questions that I want you to look at. And these are all about self awareness and self leadership. They actually help you to build some fortitude to do what needs to be done. Because this is this is hard stuff, it is difficult to lead in the best of times. But to lead in crisis is incredibly difficult. I mean, I have certainly felt the stress, and the worry and the anxiety of that myself, I, you know, it’s been challenging. But it also this is where you can really connect to purpose and to meaning and as you can do that, you can take great strength in that. And, you know, it takes strength for the path ahead, you can ask yourself the question, if not me, then who.
Dr. Melissa Smith 50:47
So, you know, what you do is you start with the end in mind with vision casting. So again, it’s not a, it’s not about ego. It’s not about how you want others to see you, but more about your own self respect. And in this way, like, it’s not about ego at all, it’s really about service, it’s about contribution, it’s about how you want to show up for others. And so that’s really what we’re talking about, with vision casting, and it’s all about living to your values, living to your purpose, and, and really helping you to be aligned with that. And so this is a really great time to take inspiration from great leaders who have led during times of great difficulty. So a great book that I just finished, was the splendid and the vile by Eric Larsen, all about Winston Churchill, in the opening days of World War Two, brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, so good. Winston Churchill said “courage is rightly esteemed, the first of the human qualities, because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” I love that right? courage is what we need to live all of our other qualities. And then another great book that might be good for you at this time, is Tim Ferriss tribe of mentors. And it’s a collection of words from leaders from every walk of life, and it can be really inspiring as well.
Dr. Melissa Smith 52:19
Okay, and then the last solution I have for you, is that great leaders take care of themselves. So they refuse to undermine their own health and well being in a crisis, and really understand that they’ve got to put their own oxygen mask on first, if they are to be of service to anyone else. Right. So what they say on the airplane is true, you got to put your own oxygen mask on first. No one is getting an award for being a martyr. So as a leader, you do not do anyone good, if you are sacrificing yourself on the altar of your organization. So we don’t need any martyrs. You need to recognize that you’ve got to remain steady, if you’re going to steer the ship, and your team needs you to steer the ship. I’ve talked about this a lot in recent weeks. But predictability is an antidote to stress. So do not abandon your schedule, do not abandon structure, even in chaotic times, right, it’s more important than ever. So you know, like, this is the time to stick to your exercise routine, this is the time to stick to balanced eating, this is the time to stick to your sleep schedule. And then, of course, stay tuned, because next week, I’m going to be focusing on the very specific things that you can do to personally thrive in the face of uncertainty.
Dr. Melissa Smith 53:48
And of course, I also have a leadership survival skills workshop that’s available now for a limited time, that can be a really valuable resource if you could benefit from some skill building and a little more structure relative to thriving in the face of uncertainty. So it’s a two hour mini course. So it does not take that much time. And you can watch it wherever you are. And it really is laser focused on the evidence, base skills and mindsets that will help you remain steady during times like these. So it also includes a leadership Starter Guide with specific skills, prompts and additional resources to really deepen and extend your learning so that you can apply what you’re learning.
Dr. Melissa Smith 54:35
So right we’re starting week three, where we really need to move into a new normal. And so this leadership survival skills workshop can really give you some nice structure for you know, taking care of yourself and really getting on a good a good schedule because right this chaos has kind of thrown us all off a little bit and, you know, you definitely can lead and you’ve got resilience, but we kind of got to get that, that ship back steady again. And so I’ll include a link to that workshop in the show notes if you’d like to check it out. So again, with this episode, I have a really good freebie What You Need to Know to Lead Confidently Now, and so make sure you check that out. I think it’s going to be really helpful in terms of the prompts and questions to help you lead your team and think about the decisions that you want to be making at this point. And you can head on over to my website to check out the show notes. With all the great resources the link to that freebie at www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-48 one more time. That’s www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-48 All right. I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai