We're having our fair share of turbulent times at the moment with Brexit and European partners pulling out of the UK as well as new leaders both elected and unelected at home and abroad. As a result of this, I'm getting lots of questions on my leadership programme about what leaders should do when there are obstacles to overcome, when markets collapse, when sales drop, when the vision suddenly seems impossible.
1. Be visible and reconnect with staff
It is absolutely essential when things go wrong not to hideaway. I remember in my early days as a facilitator that one of my co-facilitators used to disappear to the toilet if a particular review session was not going so well. This is the opposite of what we want from a leader, we need the leader there, acknowledging what has happened and working on a plan to help us move forward.
2. Acknowledge what has happened and reaffirm the organisation's key purpose and also which parts of the vision and strategy still hold
Leaders need to be open and honest about what has happened or is about to happen and explain the continuing relevance of the organisation's key purpose. Allow no room for the possibility of failure. Which parts of the vision and strategy need to be scrapped and which still hold? Acknowledge the impact of the changes on the organisation but also be positive about potential opportunities. Remind people how the organisation's purpose benefits the community and the wider world.
3. Involve everybody in coming up with new ways forward based on the new reality
There is a natural human tendency to want to go on and rebuild, and leaders need to tap into this. People need to get excited about the possible opportunities and new directions created or promoted by the turbulence. Keep everybody focused on what they can influence.
4. Set realistic short term goals
Help people to feel that they are succeeding and achieving by setting realistic short term goals that can be celebrated. Notice when they are reached and use them to create new momentum for moving forwards.
5. Prasie, recognition and reward those that rise to the challenge
Some people are depressed by turbulence while others are invigorated. The more you engage and involve people, the more likely that they'll be invigorated and become innovative and positive. Notice that and praise it liberally as well as the upholding of organisational values. Recognise those that are simply keeping things going too. Notice and reward emerging leaders.