We face difficult situations every day in our professional and personal lives. To the degree of what severity the situation is, is always relative especially given our current world-wide situation right now. But in our own lives we are always and continually faced with challenges that push us to rise up and overcome. What some of us don’t realize is that in these situations we are strengthening our leadership muscles and developing more coping and management skills through these events. What these situations do is ultimately prepare us to be leaders among others for when times are difficult and teams are looking to someone to lead them through it all. Here are some key leadership traits that are vital to taking your teams through difficult times to success.
Keep a Level Head
This is the single biggest (and easiest) thing to do as a leader during challenging times. Teams will more often than not replicate the tone of their leaders so I can’t overstate this enough how important it is that you as a leader remain calm, reassuring and focused during challenging times. I often look at hockey coaches during games and observe their behavior both when their teams are down and up on the scoreboard. There are definitely some coaches who get more animated than others and it’s interesting to observe the behavior of the players after they see their coach (leader) display those type of actions. Sometimes the animated behavior triggers a favorable response in the team but it can also backfire as well and have players (team members) lose their cool and with that, their focus which ultimately digs them in a deeper hole. The leader is responsible for setting the tone and while it’s always great to try and light a fire under your team, you always need to be mindful that your team will mimic your tone. If you display a calm, focused demeanor, your team will follow.
Communicate/Answer Questions/Be Honest
As a leader, it’s your job to make sure that you and your team are communicating effectively. During challenging times or during a crisis event, communication is the single most important element of teamwork. Make sure your team knows what they need to know in order to respond effectively. Make sure that you know what your team knows so you can make the best decision possible. A key ingredient to keeping your team from panicking (besides keeping a level head) is to make sure that you are answering their questions and being truthful about the situation. Talk to your team, read their faces, understand their tone. Part of keeping your team focused and reassured is making sure they don’t feel ambiguous about their situation of what they’re doing to work their way out of it. Keep those lines of truthful communication open at all times.
Often times when we find ourselves in a difficult situation, we often freeze – scared to make the next move for fear of making the situation worse. Fair position to take however by doing nothing, nine times out of 10 we are going to make our situation worse. Calmly and rationally think out your next steps (notice how I said “next steps” and not “entire plan”) and act. If you have hesitation, take smaller steps rather than one giant leap. Any action is good action if you’re doing it with the best intentions to solve the problem.
Being a leader in good times is easy. Being a leader in difficult times is why you’re the leader and not someone else. Take these steps during your tough times and your team will follow your lead and take you all through to a successful outcome.