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Navigating your team through choppy waters

How well do you engage your team and leverage their talent to help you get through difficult times? Navigating through challenges can take every ounce of capability your team have to give.

Let’s face it. Things go wrong in business, often when we least expect them to. The simple truth is how we choose to respond to adversity has the biggest influence on the likelihood of success. Sure, sometimes things are completely out of our control, but we always have the power to choose how we perceive reality and in turn act.

Reflect for a moment on how often you have observed leaders wasting time and energy feeling resentful about their circumstances, rather than working out what they can do about it. Have you yourself experienced the debilitating impact of wallowing in misery or allowing fear to consume your thinking?

While the stress and anxiety you feel may be understandable, staying in a worrisome head space will do nothing to help your team navigate through choppy waters.

Among the most important steps you can take to provide the strength of leadership needed to turn problems into opportunities include these.

  1. Acknowledge reality

    When the future becomes uncertain, people need to know that those at the helm are up for the battle ahead. The extent to which people respect the character and competence of their leaders largely dictates the trust they feel. Honest recognition of the reality you face is the first step toward instilling belief in the ability to get through the challenge.

    Denying or tip toeing around the truth is only likely to leave people feeling that you either don’t understand the issues at hand, or you’re in denial about the problems, or you know more than you’re willing to say. Take deliberate steps to give your team insight into your thinking. Be honest when you’re not in a position to share full insight and acknowledge what you can.

  2. Inspire confidence

    Help your team to understand why you believe in your organisation’s ability to successfully navigate through the difficulties you face. For example, share insight to the challenges you have previously faced and what the business did to come through those times. Work with your people to identify opportunities and formulate strategies to respond.

    Critically, influence the mindset of your team by leading by example. Be optimistic while grounded in pragmatic reality. Showcase the attitudes and behaviour most likely to get you through, such as being determined to find solutions. Demonstrate also the need to work smarter, not necessarily harder. The last thing you want is for your team to run out of steam before the job is done.

  3. Manage energy

    Recognise the importance of energy. People who are energised are more likely to think, feel and behave in ways that enable success. Contemplate, for example, the impact feeling energised has on your ability to maintain focus and resilience. Conversely, when drained of energy, lethargy, hesitancy, procrastination and avoidance, to name just a few, become major behavioural obstacles to success.

    Prioritise strong relationships. While your team may be under extreme pressure, don’t allow standards of respectable conduct to drop. Tolerating aggressive, rude or dismissive behaviour is only likely to drain the spirit of your team and undermine collective success.

    Celebrate wins. Look for big and small wins along the way. While there may be a lot going wrong, and many more mountains to climb, regularly stop and focus your team’s attention on what is going well. Positive client feedback, arguments won, obstacles removed – look for every opportunity to pat yourselves on the back so you have the energy to keep striving.

  4. Challenge conventional wisdom

    When the going gets tough it’s definitely time to challenge the beliefs you and your team hold about what’s possible. Take, for example, a sudden downturn in your market sector. It can be tempting to see the external environment as beyond your control, rendering you powerless to act. Taking that view will indeed leave you at the mercy of chance and circumstance.

    Leverage the insights of your team to explore new or different ways of working that can help you to achieve the outcomes you need to. Recognise when sacred cows or unfounded assumptions are holding you back from seeing the solutions in front of you. Be prepared to experiment with and test new ideas.

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