Was anybody truly prepared for COVID-19? I doubt it. But leaders across the world had to adapt, innovate, and take care of their people in ways they didn’t anticipate. Myself included. Times of great change are great opportunities for growth and a time when true colors tend to show.
Leaders are challenged all day every day. But there are few times when leadership is challenged more than when uncontrollable change sweeps an industry, a nation, or a team. In times of challenge, how you show up can make an even bigger impact than during moments of success and celebration.
The next time you face change, use it as an opportunity to be a better leader. Here’s how.
Here’s my recommendation/approach:
Depending on the circumstances, create a little space to think.
There ain’t no shame in some Me Time, especially when it comes to business. People will expect you to know what to do when the next change hits, and you’ll be in the best position to lead if you’ve had time to get your head on straight and your thoughts clear. Create a little space in your schedule, you know, block off an afternoon to assess the situation. Your other meetings can wait.
- Have the changes impacted your business already?
- To what extent does the change impact you, your business, your team?
- Does it require immediate action? Or a long-term plan? Both?
- What is the timeliness here?
Then get ready to make a plan.
Create a plan.
Once you’ve gotten your bearings, it’s time to get to work. You’re the person with the bird’s eye view of your business, the power to make waves, and the insight and expertise to weather any storm. Use your skill set and position to create a plan that preserves your business and protects your people, if possible (and it may not always be possible).
- Think about your people—how will this impact them in terms of morale, workflow, and responsibilities?
- Think in terms of timing—what needs to happen now, and what can wait until later?
- Think holistically—have you considered everything the changes touch, like payroll, PR, marketing, operations, products/services, etc.?
Make it comprehensive, and get ready to make it happen.
Communicate the plan.
Transparency is the name of the game, and is incredibly important during changes. Without clarity, people tend to fill in the blanks, leading to consequences you don’t want (apathy, panic, fear, or even jumping ship).
Moment of truth: I failed HARD at this in 2021. I couldn’t tell ya what I was actually thinking, but I think I was trying to protect my team by keeping truths to myself. Long story short - it was the wrong move. I found out my team was filling in the blanks that I had not filled in for them and chaos was starting to ensue. So, I pulled up my big girl britches and had hard conversations.
And ya know what, it was so much better after I did that. We didn’t lose anyone and if anything, we were finally on the same page. So get over yourself and have the hard conversation. Stop making your team guess what you’re thinking. Spoiler alert: they’ll never win. And neither will you.
Bottom line, your plan’s no good if the only person in on it is you. Sure, you don’t have to show ALL of your cards (some information just isn’t relevant to everybody). But take some time to share the pathway forward with your team. That communication can take place in whatever format works best for your company and its people, but make it clear and thorough.
Remember your business doesn’t run without your people. It’s your responsibility to steer the boat, but they may have insight only visible when you’re rowing. Ask for feedback on your plan by providing space for questions. Soliciting input from your team can help you refine the plan, identifying any holes and quickly filling them so your ship stays afloat.
Also, the truth is that they likely know things you don’t. So ask. Don’t assume. Plus, in doing so, you’ll give them a voice and some skin in the game. And everyone performs better when they are heard.
Act with humility.
You’re only human. You have permission to act like it. The best leaders lead with heart and recognize their imperfections. Recognize your first plan may not be the final version, that you’ll have to make adjustments as you go, and that even your best plan may have flaws and unintended consequences.
You may expect a lot of yourself (most leaders do). That’s okay. Just stay out of the weeds of unrealistic expectations when you’re navigating changes, and don’t be afraid to show your people how much you rely on them to navigate the changes with you, as a team. It’s really on the shoulders of many, and you can’t do it without help.
There’s a lot of work that goes into being a vulnerable leader. And it’s probably not the right look for everyone. But I encourage you to try it on. It’s pretty incredible what happens when you share some truths with your team. You might be surprised with their response.
Check in with your team—casually, with heart.
Changes and the plans they inspire are not one and done. Check in with your team as you put the pieces of your plan together and start implementing them. Ask your people how they’re doing. What’s working? What’s not? Are there any successes to celebrate? Show your investment by keeping lines of communication open. Leading with heart means you empathize with the people you lead and know that changes don’t just impact you and your business, but also the people that work alongside you.
- Really listen
- Give your time
- Invest in your people
In case this wasn’t clear the first time, effective communication is your golden ticket during changes. When everybody’s on the same page, it’s easier to work together, to keep morale high, and ultimately, to innovate to stay competitive.
Be honest and transparent.
The thing about dishonesty is it tends to be a gift that keeps giving. Lies tend to sprout wings over time. Honesty and transparency are building blocks for accountability, a necessary ingredient during times of change. You’ll be a better leader if you embrace both during times of change. Let your people know there are setbacks, changes in direct challenges to find solutions for because, in this case, you’re leading by example and they’ll be more likely to return the favor. Together, everybody can work as a team to head off issues and focus energy on finding solutions.
If possible, I’d recommend putting together a plan of attack to begin the conversation so your team feels taken care of and confident they still have a leader, but acknowledge that everybody can work as a team to head off issues and focus energy on finding solutions.
Don’t leave your people in the dark. Turn on the lights and you’ll keep the doors open.
Lead Better During Change.
When change happens, as a leader, you need to realize that this isn't about you. It's about the people you lead. Get out of your own way, find a bit of clarity so you can act with a glimmer of confidence, and lead. Your team is looking for the next steps. They're not necessarily judging you, they just want to know what to do, and they’re looking to you for guidance.
Being a better leader takes two special ingredients: self-awareness and action. As a small business coach, I help people get in touch with skills they can leverage and areas to grow as well as creating plans to move all of the important stuff forward, especially during changes. I’d be happy to help you too. Let’s set up a Discovery Call to make sure you’re on the right pathway for you.
Kiley Executive Coach & Consultant
Kiley Peters is a serial entrepreneur, national speaker, executive coach, and small business consultant. Having personally counseled over 100 small and medium-sized businesses on operations, business development, digital marketing, and consumer behavior analysis over the last 17 years Kiley is incredibly passionate about serving small business owners. She is the Founder and CEO of Brainchild Studios, a research and business strategy partner for small businesses and mid-market executives, and also created the Work From Home Playbook, a series of online courses guiding aspiring entrepreneurs through the steps of starting a virtual business. With these experiences in her back pocket, she understands the challenges and struggles small business owners encounter.more posts by Kiley →
Small Business, Life
Small Business, Life