One of the most valuable talents any leader can possess is the ability to stand up and set a solid example for others during adversity.
Unexpected crisis - COVID-19 being an obvious example - underline the importance of business owners and managers being able to demonstrate strong leadership and help their employees deal with pressure and uncertainty. When your business experiences a testing time and comes out of it intact, the skills you have learned and nurtured during this period will set you up to succeed. After all, there will always be new challenges for your organisation to overcome and fresh opportunities to seize.
So what should you do to lead your workforce and keep your people well-informed and productive, even in the most challenging times?
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be honest and transparent
Your business is likely to face many tests over the years. Some will affect the wider industry and even the whole world economy, while others will be specific to your enterprise.
Whatever obstacles are in front of you, it's always best to be completely honest and transparent with your employees about the company's situation and the vital role every individual has to play in achieving success.
It's okay to admit there are things you don't know, for example, and it's vital always to give an accurate picture of how the business is performing. Being open and direct with employees helps build trust, which is likely crucial to performance when facing adversity.
A bespoke communications plan could support your efforts to embrace honesty and transparency for challenging periods. It has been argued that when an organisation and its workforce are under extreme pressure, there's no such thing as overcommunication. By supplying people with as much information as possible about the company's state and its circumstances, you get everyone on the same page and show individual workers how they can help the business make it through this time.
lead by example
Employees look to their managers for guidance on how they should behave and go about their work, so it's vital to set a positive example in what you say and do.
The strongest leaders demonstrate the values they want to see in those who look up to them. In short, you need to lead by example.
One of the most valuable ways to apply this approach during business uncertainty is by embodying a sense of calm.
You can do this by:
- Using clear, controlled language to get the right messages across to the workforce and provide reassurance for those who are worried
- Adopting rituals and habits that give a sense of structure and support mental and emotional wellbeing
- Avoiding labelling certain practices or people as 'wrong', as this can lead to feelings of victimisation and anxiety
Digital transformation has been a big theme in HR and workforce management in recent years, giving modern businesses more opportunities to use technology as they navigate periods of uncertainty.
One of the clearest examples of how tech innovation can help you be a better leader is in the ability to maintain regular contact with your employees, even if people are based in different locations or working remotely.
Videoconferencing and instant-messaging tools make it easier for people to stay in touch with each other, which is vital if you attach importance to collaboration and sharing knowledge and best practices. Strong connections between colleagues and managers at every business level could be the key to your success in the most challenging times.
be flexible in your leadership style
Various leadership styles offer a range of potential benefits and results for your workforce and your business.
- Affiliative leadership emphasises trust and harmony, which can help ensure people feel recognised and included in uncertain times.
- Coaching: A strategy that gives people meaningful, relevant goals to provide a sense of motivation and to drive engagement and productivity.
- Visionary leadership: This style provides direction and togetherness by identifying a long-term goal the entire business can work towards.
When your company faces uncertainty, and your employees look to you for solid leadership, the ability to switch styles and find the right approach for the current climate could prove vital.
Having this flexibility will enable you to set the right example for your workforce and help your employees raise their performance at a crucial time for the business.
build resilience into your strategy
One of the most important things any business owner can do to prepare for periods of uncertainty makes resilience a fundamental part of business strategy. It's always possible that difficult circumstances - either foreseen or unforeseen - will arise and pose a significant risk to your organisation, so it's wise to plan for adversity as thoroughly as you can.
Be proactive in your resilience planning and consider how you would deal with various possible scenarios. This will make you better prepared to respond to multiple challenges with speed and efficiency, rather than rushing to keep up with a situation that is changing quickly.