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How To Lead & Empower Your Team Through A Crisis

October 2016

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According to a recent Harvard Business Review Management Tip Of The Day: A leader sets the emotional tone and the example both in good times and, perhaps more important, in bad.

I agree.

As a leader, how do you help your team deal with and move through a time of crisis? Before we go any further, let’s reframe the word crisis to change. That one step will help de-escalate the negative power of the word “crisis”.

Here are 5 tips to help people navigate change scenarios:

  1. Be Present. Let people express their emotions – make it safe for them to say what’s really going on for them. Their voice matters.
  2. Be Connected. State that you’re here for them, you’re in this together, you’ll move through it together, everyone belongs together.
  3. Explain Meaning Making. See below for this—once everyone understands the stories they make about their experiences they can choose new ones.
  4. Choose A Positive Future. Talk about how everyone would like to feel once the grieving is over, the pain is lessened.
  5. Forge A Path Together. Then we’ll know how to get where we want to go.

Our ability to navigate change is directly correlated to the meaning that we make about what happens to us. And the way that we make meaning is based on the stories that we tell ourselves about what happens to us. Now the meaning that we make will determine whether our experience is positive or negative, empowering or devastating.

Example: Lots of things are changing, lots of short notice client requests and deadlines

Meaning making option #1: OMG! This is so stressful! I am emotionally exhausted by this, it’s all too much!

Result of this meaning: missed deadlines, incomplete work, stress for self and those that have to deal with the missed deadlines/incomplete/low quality work, no fun for anyone and certainly no ease-grace-joy.

Meaning making option #2: Yippee! Change means movement and growth and a chance to really shine and pace myself. I will show up fully to serve our awesome tribe. How great that I get to tap my awesome brain to become even more clear, find even more solutions as I focus on the outcomes I want to create.

Result of this meaning: empowerment, choice of how to respond vs compulsively react, ease-grace-joy, support of self and others, shine my light, honor our company values, choose my reality.

Whatever is happening outside or inside of us is still going to happen. The power that we have is in choice. What meaning would you like to make?

Making “Good” Meaning

What helps us to make positive and empowering meaning?

In addition to our internal choice, external tools can come in handy. Check out the Four Factors of Sustainable SmartTribes below.

How To Lead Your Team In Times Of Crisis

Let’s dive into each of the factors.

Behavior

Our behavior depends primarily on beliefs and our sense of safety, belonging, and mattering plays a big part too. Behavior is also affected by whether we’re in our Critter State or our Smart State and governed by our beliefs, identity, resources and all of the other goodies on our Map of the world. It’s important to note the nature of behavior. More and more we’re realizing that behavior is quite predictable. We need to constantly distinguish what is driving our behavior out of alignment and how to shift back into alignment.

Leadership Effectiveness

Desire is the first step towards leadership effectiveness. That fantastic intangible drive and passion for excellence, for being all that you can be is what makes a remarkable leader.

There are 5 factors, that I call SmartTribe Accelerators, which will help you assess your leadership effectiveness when you interact with others. These help you channel your drive and passion toward results: 

  1. Focus: The single most important practice in ensuring you are leading effectively is focus. See The Secret Behind Executive Presence.
  2. Clarity: Being truly clear means we need to take the time to discover what we need, to articulate it clearly, and to be sure the other party understood our communication. See Habits of Highly Effective Communicators, Part 1.
  3. Accountability: Accountability starts at the top, and this is where many companies struggle. See 4 Brain-Based Ways To Improve Team Performance.
  4. Influence: Real influence is about empowering others. See The 3 Things All Humans Crave And How To Motivate Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere.
  5. Sustainable Results: Sustainability is about creating win-win agreements with ourselves and others. See The Evolution of Employee Motivation Methods: Carrots, Sticks and Being Nice Aren’t Sustainable.

I went in-depth regarding leadership effectiveness in my blog 7 Steps To Maximize Your Success As A Leader.

Organizational Effectiveness

First of all, if an organization is to be truly effective, it must at heart be a learning organization, a term that was coined by Peter Senge. A learning organization is a company that facilitates the ongoing education and development of its members and continuously transforms itself.

A learning organization has five main features:

  1. Systems thinking: An understanding that all parts affect the whole and changes in any one part will likewise affect the whole. The best way to solve problems is to understand each problem in relation to the overall ecosystem and whole of the company.
  2. Personal mastery: The commitment by the individuals at the company to the process of ongoing learning and development.
  3. Mental models: Willingness to challenge internal theories, norms, behaviors, and values.
  4. Shared vision: A shared vision motivate the team to learn, as it creates a common identity that creates focus and energy for learning. The most successful visions build on the individual visions of the team members overall.
  5. Team learning: Teams that share their learning processes openly see the problem-solving capacity of the organization improve greatly. Open, communicative cultures will help ongoing dialogue and discussion grow faster.

A SmartTribe can exist only in a flexible culture where learning and communication are consistent.

Mission, Vision & Values

Too often we walk into a company and find wordy mission statements moldering on the wall.

When the mission, vision and values are stale, or not aligned, or not communicated in an enticing way, it not only does not activate the reward network, it activates the pain network. People feel a lack of belonging, they feel low social status in comparison with others who work for organizations that are alive and aligned, they may feel betrayed if there is a conflict between what they signed up for and what is happening or between a stated value and reality.

Flat or misaligned mission, vision and values don’t just fail to inspire. They hurt. This becomes extremely apparent when there is a crisis. If the individuals aren’t compelled and vested in the mission of the company, when a crisis occurs, they won’t feel compelled to push through.

It’s essential that our team lives our company’s mission, vision, and values, which means leadership must model them and reinforce them constantly. If the behaviors of an organization’s leaders are not aligned with its values, you’ll often first see anger and resentment, and then apathy in team members.

We find some people may not be able to become profoundly aligned with other people, but they can and will become profoundly aligned with a potent mission, vision, and values.

Crises aren’t always inevitable. Leaders must empower our teams to push through each crisis and this empowerment is based on trust. If the team trusts you as their leader, have been provided the tools, and they trust themselves to push through, the crisis that may not have been avoidable won’t be crippling.

 

This article was written by Christine Comaford from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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