Corporate systems reward certainty. Entire risk management departments are born and maintained to ensure that promises to Wall Street are met. However, when there is so much uncertainty in the future and curveballs like Covid-19 come swinging, try applying the following principles to your everyday work to lead your team to a breakthrough.
#1: Address potential and actual distractions openly.
Since the pandemic hit, people I know and those they work with have dealt with many impactful life events- parent(s) passing, a spouse or other family members losing their job, teammates being cut, and of course the horrific death of George Floyd and the following events that ensued. Smart leaders pay close attention to the emotional wellbeing of their team. To do this, you can carve out time (5 minutes is enough) at the beginning of meetings just for “getting connected.” It pays to consciously do this, because if people don’t have a chance to express themselves and say what’s on their mind, they are more likely to be occupied with those thoughts during meetings, rather than being fully present and able to contribute their intelligence and expertise. Simply going around the (virtual) room and asking, “what’s on your mind?” can give everyone a chance to discuss the most important issues affecting them, work-related or not, and gives you as a leader an opportunity to empathize and support your team.
#2: Look for unturned rocks.
With rapid changes in the marketplace, the economy and consumer spending habits come great opportunities. This is THE time to invent new products, new ways of working, and even new functions within the organization. As my colleague, June Zeringue said recently, “Breakthroughs usually come from turning over rocks that nobody thought of touching.” She says that the rocks usually have writing on it, like “Don’t look over here,” “We have tried that before” or “That’ll never fly in this company.” As leaders, if you can look past the surface and be a champion for change, you’ll be pleasantly surprised about the abundance of opportunity when you turn those rocks over.
#3: Expect resistance, keep pushing.
Once new projects are identified, help your team navigate the unchartered territories. They are likely to bump up against people or teams that are used to “This is how it’s always been done” or “That’s not how we normally do it.” Empower your team to tackle the elephant themselves, ensuring someone is accountable for tracking the actions that need to be taken as well as helping the team overcome resistance to change. Keep in mind, a leader’s role is to instill inspiration in their people.
I hope my above three principles, all of which I am observing leaders do in real life, right now, will make a difference to you and your team.