How to navigate the unknown
It's been several weeks since the world changed and sometimes it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Ok, we are in it now, aren‘t we? Week one was new, interesting, novel and experimental. Week two, the reality started to hit us a little differently, a little deeper. And at this point, some of us might have a little low-grade anxiety and high-grade spousal anger. Fear. If we are honest, we don‘t love the word. It makes us feel weak, childish, less than. AND, if we are honest, we have all felt it over that last couple of months for different reasons. As leaders some of us have seen our revenue stream disappear. Some of us have had to make hard decisions to lay off staff. Some of us are worried about our aging parents or friends and family members with health issues. Some of us are worried about our own expenses and bills and our team’s as well. Some of us are wondering if the cough that showed up is just a throat tickle or something more... And all of these variables are rooted in the same thing: The UNKNOWN; or rather, the fear of the UNKNOWN. Most of us like certainty. Sure, a little adventure every now and then is good for the soul but this level of adventure every day??? At best it makes us uncomfortable, at its worst it makes us reactive doomsdayers. Over the last several weeks, I have noticed three types of reaction and focus: 1) The Walking Dead This is it; it is the Apocalypse. Things can‘t get any worse and all hands on deck for preparing for the worst. Preemptive reactive decisions; batten down the hatches; why focus on the future? We will be lucky if there is a future. The house in on fire. Key attribute: Naysayer/Firefighter 2) The PC‘s - and by PC I mean politically correct, not political 😉 I know I should say it‘s fine; it will be ok and I am ok but what I say and do are two different things. The leaders that say they are calm but their energy and actions belie their claim. Don‘t light a match around these people as there is a probability of explosion. Key attribute: Incongruence 3) The Light-seekers This is serious and in the words of Michael Douglas in The American President, “Serious times call for serious people”. They know that they have an inherent responsibility to assess the situation, prepare appropriately including developing scenarios and making very hard decisions, AND keep focused on the future. They ground themselves in, how do we flex, innovate and find opportunity? Key attribute: Calm conscientious action If you feel yourself slipping away from being the light-seeker, which happens to all of us from time to time, here are some steps you can take to get yourself back on track:
Check in with your vision: What is it that you were focused on creating before the world changed? Doing this every day will ground you in possibility and give you a moment of peace from the chaos.
Connect with your team…consistently: Keep them connected to purpose and vision. Inspire them to look beyond the current situation. Your team’s engagement will lead you to solutions.
Handle and happen: Of course, as leaders you need to mitigate risk, so make a list of things you need to handle (cost control, technology solutions etc). As a leader it is just as important to maintain a future focus as it is to mitigate risk. You need to ask yourself and your team, what do we need to and what can we make happen? In 2008, then Senator Obama said in response to Senator McCain’s request to cancel presidential debates due to the financial crisis, “Part of the president’s job is to deal with more than one thing at once. In my mind it’s more important than ever.” The point is, as a LEADER, you need to be able to deal in duality.
Self-care: Make time to do yoga, watch a funny show, go for a run, get fresh air, whatever it is you need to fill your well. The more you take care of yourself, the more capacity you have to take care of others.