The Better Leader Newsletter (March 19, 2020)
Words are inadequate to express the ongoing health crisis across the world.
My charge to you is this: listen to those placed in authority over you, make wise decisions, and put others ahead of yourself.
On to the content…
REFLECT ON THIS
Pause and consider what’s truly important.
Life has changed abruptly for most of the world.
Flights have been cancelled. Classes have been cancelled. Gatherings have been cancelled. Events have been cancelled.
The global disruption of society is unprecedented.
As you wrestle with the changes and how they impact you, I urge you to remember to love your neighbor through the lens of the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
The new “normal” is vastly different for the foreseeable future. Use the waves of change as a catalyst to ask yourself a worthy question:
How can I love my neighbor well?
What’s on my mind.
To say leading in a crisis is difficult would be the understatement of the century. Most leaders never endure a true crisis of leadership.
Many things seem like a genuine crisis, and in the moment, they might be. But a true crisis is completely unforeseen and one that brings potentially irreparable harm.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to bear a real crisis for leaders around the world.
And it’s not just one type of crisis. It’s a crisis of management; a crisis of execution; a crisis of communication; a crisis of containment.
So what does it look like to lead in the midst of a crisis? It’s clear that nobody has the perfect answer, but there are truths and principles that we as leaders can use in order to guide our thinking and direct our actions.
1. Crisis creates chaos.
Nobody should be surprised by this, and yet when a crisis happens, most everyone is.
Crisis creates chaos. Previously unflappable systems break down. Jobs are totally disrupted. Normal is no longer normal, which means nothing normally done can be done.
It’s important to understand this principle because your natural tendency is to find calm in what is normal. The reality is calm will be found when you discover and implement your new normal.
If you have a plan, that’s fantastic. Break the glass and get to executing on it. But remember, crisis creates chaos, and those plans are likely to break down too.
In the words of the great philosopher Mike Tyson,
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
2. Emotions take over.
The well of rational thinking runs dry fast in a crisis, and you as a leader are not magically immune.
Intrinsic, “fight or flight” behavior instinctively takes over when a crisis occurs. In organizations, employees quickly settle into camps that align with their natural behavior patterns.
The difficult reality: everyone will think they are right, including you.
This is why it is more important than ever that you listen to all parties involved and acknowledge their concerns.
Your emotional response has no chance of appearing rational if you have not done the work of dutifully listening to your people.
3. Trust is your resource, and now is the time to use it.
Hopefully you have been building a reservoir of trust with your people. Now is the time to dip into it.
Why? Because in a crisis, time is the most important metric, and you have to act quickly, often without the benefit of good discussion and wise counsel.
You need to be able to say, “I need you to trust the decision I am making”, and still keep your people moving along with you.
Without trust, the chaos created by the crisis has the potential to become an unmitigated disaster.
4. Your enemy is uncertainty and speculation.
Decide, act and communicate. Acknowledge the existence of the crisis, set the timeline for the plan and let people know when they can expect to hear the next steps.
This immediately ends finger pointing, speculation or playing the “blame game” for something that is likely out of their control.
By acting decisively and swiftly, you can put a stop to the crippling emotion of uncertainty and give people permission to take action, even if it is painful.
Nobody has the clear or perfect answer to leading well in the midst of a crisis.
However, these truths and principles (coupled with wisdom on how to apply them) can help you be the leader people need you to be when the crisis is real.
FOR THE CURIOUS MIND
Broaden your horizons.
Curiosity is vital for growth. In each newsletter, I share a few resources tangentially related to leadership. I’ve found them interesting, and they’ve in turned expanded my capacity as a well-rounded leader.
Admittedly, this article has nothing to do with leadership. Except it actually does.
Apart from being an engaging, entertaining read, it uses a specific type of content delivery that is especially powerful: infographics. Specifically, simulated infographics.
I believe this has implications for you as you labor to lead others. Targeted visual representation is sometimes necessary to demonstrate the power of your point, and the right type of visual representation is often more powerful than what you say.
This headline instantly caught my attention. I’m sure it caught yours too.
This article is a great read, but I took a different approach to digesting it. Rather than approaching it with the question, “Am I an incompetent leader?”, I choose to come to it with this instead: “What does an incompetent leader look like, and how do I make sure I’m not one?”
It’s a form of inversion, a powerful problem solving technique that exposes previously unknown insights, including your aptitude as a leader!
MY LATEST CONTENT
What I’ve been writing about.
With a flurry of people learning how to transition to remote work, I’ve seen a tremendous uptick in the number of people finding value from my article on daily time blocking.
The new types of freedom that remote work brings can be difficult to manage. It requires self-discipline to create a productive routine and take advantage of all the benefits remote work can offer.
So if you haven’t yet, I encourage you to read my article on daily time blocking. I even include a helpful template and a quick walkthrough video so you can be most productive during your time working remotely.
Additionally, I’ve updated my list of Favorites. It contains books, articles, speeches and more that have been insightful and helpful in my own leadership journey.
My newest addition is a speech I stumbled upon this week called “You and Your Research” by Richard Hamming.
The presentation is dry (it’s a lecture), but the content is rich. It’s a diamond in the rough.
In the talk, Richard recalls his time at Bell Labs, an extraordinary research lab that created numerous modern marvels in the telecommunications industry. In particular, he focuses on a few narratives that are worth paying attention to:
- How being “successful” is a mixture of working on the right problem at the right time with the right approach
- Luck comes eventually, but it favors “the prepared mind”
- How you build “a prepared mind”
- Why communication is a central component to everything you do
Click here to listen to the talk (it’s a video on YouTube). It’s about 45 minutes and an excellent addition to slip in between podcasts.
Learn and grow by listening to others.
Here are a few shows I enjoyed over the past couple of weeks, and you may too!
- Lead to Win is back with another excellent show, 3 Challenges in Managing Change. It is especially prescient given what is happening in the world. The key to understand is that people are not necessarily hostile to change; they are hostile to the transition that occurs when change takes place.
- On Andy Stanley’s Leadership Podcast, he sits down with Jeff Henderson to discuss Four Groups Every Organization Should Be For. The skinny: organizations of tomorrow become champions of theirs customers. I highly recommend you make this your next podcast listen.
A QUESTION FOR YOU
Until we meet again…
At the end of each newsletter, I conclude our time with a thoughtful question designed to bring the best out of you.
How are you loving your neighbor well?
Until next time,
P.S. Has the Better Leader Newsletter impacted you in a special way? I’m looking for testimonials about your experience to feature on my website. If you have anything to share, please contact me and let me know. Thanks!
SHARE WITH A FRIEND
Grow the BLN community!
Leaders get better when they grow together. If you have enjoyed this newsletter, expand your impact by doing your part to share BLN with others. You can easily share via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or email. Thanks!
Always helpful. Always insightful. Always motivating. No spam ever.