A Timely Rethinking of What it Takes to Lead Your Brand Through Uncertain Times
In Stephen Covey’s famous book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” we are introduced to a set of practices that successful, “highly effective” people consistently apply to their everyday lives. Since then, the book has remained a consistent bestseller, providing a timeless framework for continuous growth and improvement. No matter how long ago you first read about them, or how often you might revisit them, Covey’s 7 habits are helpful, focusing on the things we can do to achieve the goals that are most important. At times like these, I have an extra appreciation for his own original 7 habits – but also for the new thinking they have sometimes inspired over the years. Right now, for example, I find Anita Sands’ “7 Habits of Highly Effective Leaders” to be deeply helpful and resonant reminders of what every leader can and must do to help their teams, their customers, and themselves, navigate tricky times.
These are the 7 habits of leaders who successfully manage to “bounce forward,” says Sands.By the time I got to her Habits #5 (“Evaluate Competitive Positioning”) and #6 (“Get and Stay Curious”), I recognized the customer-centered brands and organizational leaders who exemplify these habits. They’re the ones who, to quote Sands, “rather than getting triggered into fight/flight/freeze mode, engage their capacity to keep their eyes, ears, hearts and minds wide open, which is only possible when they invoke the most important characteristic of all: curiosity.” From a customer care and call center perspective, these are the organizations who are moving quickly to ensure they have the right providers in place to remain resilient, relevant, and responsive to their customers during uncertain times.
You can read her article below. If you’re curious about how Skybridge Americas has been able to provide seamless, superior customer care to our customers and if you’d like to know how we can help you, please reach out. We would love to talk!
In Times Of Uncertainty, These Are The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Leaders
Leadership expert Robin Sharma once said, “Anyone can lead when the plan is working. The best lead when the plan falls apart.”
For most, any plan we had for 2020 has likely fallen apart. This feels like a watershed month as we come to terms with the fact that the past few months may have only been the pre-season. With an election, second (and third) waves of Covid-19, and immense economic uncertainty looming, leaders are pausing to ask the questions that are critical to every organization: How can we move past merely enduring it all, to functioning effectively and even thriving?
Now more than ever, people want to be led. So what does effective leadership at times like this entail? I’ve spent my career helping organizations navigate change and have had the privilege of seeing some of the world’s top CEOs in action at times like these. Here are seven things the very best of them get right time and time again:
1. Balance Realism And Optimism
The first thing effective leaders do well is strike the right balance between reality and hope. People need to believe that better days are ahead, but they also want to know their leader has a grip on reality and is upfront about confronting it. Even putting the worst-case scenario on the table (in a thoughtful and digestible way) can provide a sense of relief. As doctors will tell you, it’s sometimes easier to handle a bad prognosis than it is to live with an unclear diagnosis.
Strong leaders know that optimism is a force multiplier. Without it, organizations can quickly fall into varying states of paralysis and, consciously or not, become overwhelmed by fear and anxiety. Grieving a past that no longer exists not only deters employees from being able to access the fullness of their capabilities, but also greatly diminishes the organization’s capacity to problem-solve or imagine a brighter future—the only antidote to which is a dose of pragmatic optimism.
2. Communicate Often And Authentically
When people are fearful about the future, they ruminate over worst-case scenarios, and rumors metastasize with speed. To counterbalance unhelpful speculation, leaders need to communicate with transparency and authenticity, making it a priority to be visible and present, even if they don’t have all the answers.
During times of crisis, it’s tempting to wait until you have a buttoned-up plan to communicate. But as John Donahoe, CEO of Nike, recently shared, “I used to think I couldn’t communicate without the answers, but during uncertainty, no one has the answers.” Instead, he has discovered that there’s power in simply showing up. As he put it, “Showing up as your most authentic self is a powerful leadership tool in our current world context.”
Effective communication during a crisis requires empathy, meaning-making and direction-giving, which are very different from simply transmitting information. These also go a long way in providing employees with the sense of connection they crave while working remotely.
3. Focus On Purpose And Culture
Before Covid-19, life often felt like we were running (or sprinting) a race. Now, we’ve found ourselves tripped up, through no fault of our own. While there are those who will simply pick themselves up and keep moving down the track, others are pausing for long enough to wonder why they were running in that particular race to begin with.
For that reason, it’s critical for leaders to double down on purpose and culture. It’s exactly when times are turbulent and employees are second-guessing what they’re doing that they need to be reminded of the company’s “why”: Why do we exist? Why would anyone want to work here? Why should they care?
High performing, elite teams have “utmost clarity of purpose and a shared frame of reference,” according to Alia Bojilova, a New Zealand–based industrial psychologist (and my colleague at Propel Performance Group) who has studied performance and resilience among special-forces military teams who are trained to perform at exceptional levels under conditions of acute stress and ambiguity.
Keeping employees engaged is entirely dependent on connecting them to the team’s purpose, reminding them that they belong to something greater than themselves and reminding them that they’re an essential part of the organization they’ve helped to create.
Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing
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