How to Lead in Uncertain Times 

Uncertain times seem to be the new normal. How have you changed your leadership style?

Often when we feel uncertain and challenged, it is easy to default to “command and control.” Just start dishing out orders and assignments. How has that worked for you?

When I have tried “command and control,” it always backfired…sometimes sooner than later. Maybe it would be different if I was the captain of a sinking ship, but in my business the situation was never that dire.

In looking back, I now recognize that if my anxiety was high because of chaos, my people are even more anxious. The best results were when I stopped and took a breath. I hit the pause button; breathe in and out. I sat down with my people. I singled out the challenging people and the leaders; I met with them individually. I got them talking about all their concerns, worries and hopes. Then I met with the team as a group and got them talking. It was hard, but I really listened to them. We brainstormed as a group what we could control and what we couldn’t control. As a group, we created a path forward. We agreed to check in once a week to monitor progress and tweak the plan if needed. It took about 7 months, but we navigated our way out of a very tough situation.

I know it is tempting to think there is not time for all of this team involvement, all of the communication and brainstorming when you are inside the pressure cooker. But think again. This experience really changed my team. They shifted to more authentic communications with each other, increased trust and accountability. Instead of me having to create the solution, I tapped into the brain power of my whole team…. you can’t beat that. And, most important, the team had skin in the game! You can’t put a price tag on working with a very high functioning team.

This past year has reinforced how unpredictable the world can be and how interconnected everything is. It has highlighted for me that it is important to be “sharpening the saw” as often as I can because I can’t predict what it around the corner. What are you doing to keep your leadership skills sharp?

Knowing Who You Are

As leaders, we are continually placed in positions where we feel like we need to have answers about outside things. We spend so much time as leaders thinking and planning and worrying about how to handle situations and people outside of us, that we forget to think about how to handle ourselves. Your job as leader is to help others be successful, but you can’t be successful if you aren’t getting the things you need.

Transform Your Team in 2021

Tune into this podcast with Kristy Pagel as she talks about one of the most powerful, yet simple, tools dairy teams can use to boost morale, empower people and take things to the next level in 2021.

Focus

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston

In normal times, those leaders who are able to maintain focus in spite of all the noise nearly always outperform those who don’t. Being able to put aside things that don’t matter, or things they can’t control is one of the keys to their success.

Never has that been more true than this year. More than ever before we are bombarded with things we can’t control. Some of them may not directly impact us, and some of them change our lives permanently. Regardless, some days it feels like we’re drowning in problems and challenges and change and noise, and there doesn’t seem to be a life boat anywhere around.

Focus is the life boat. Being able to maintain focus on things that really matter and that you can control is what allows you to keep swimming. Which sounds great, but it’s easier said than done.

Here’s one place to start. If you’re going to focus on what really matters, then you probably better have a clear understanding of what really matters. What’s really critical to your business? What’s really critical to your people? What’s really critical to your customers? Too many leaders don’t really know the answer to those questions, so they spend hours chasing things that are irrelevant.

Here’s another idea. If you can’t control it, then stop obsessing about it. Being consumed with things we have no control over isn’t new, but in 2020 we’ve managed to take it to an entirely new level. We see things on TV or on the internet that we have absolutely no ability to impact, and then we spend hours stressing about them.

Be disciplined. When you feel yourself going down that rabbit hole, stop, remind yourself you have no control over it, and pull back. And pay attention to the conversations you have. Obsessing about scary things we can’t control is contagious. As a leader, you cannot allow yourself to drag everyone around you into the abyss. They’re already struggling with the same things you are. You can’t be the anchor that pulls them down.

Keep a list of what matters at your desk where you can see it. Look at it every day. Make sure that your time, your energy, your engagement is focused on those things. Stay focused on what matters and what you can impact, and let the rest fall away.