It is astonishing how quickly the current pandemic has tossed out most of our most basic expectations about the world. While we hope for a rapid return to normalcy, nobody knows whether that hope will ever be realized or what that normal will be..
All this loss--nearly 80,000 deaths and 33.5 million lost jobs--in the U.S. alone is putting tremendous pressure on business leaders. Your employees, customers, partners, and investors expect you to provide emotional support and constructive action. To deliver what they expect, you must tap into and magnify your ability to recover from setbacks.
Here are five steps to make you a more resilient leader.
1. Realize It's OK Not to Feel OK.
The world has gotten much worse very quickly. It's normal to feel a jumble of emotions: fear, panic, loss, confusion, and a deer-in-the-headlights inability to think. If can acknowledge to yourself that you're feeling such emotions, you are taking the right first step.
2. Share Your Feelings With Your People.
To be a resilient leader in such trying times, share your emotions with others whom you trust--such as mentors or other business leaders. From these conversations, you'll learn how others in your position are feeling which will help you develop the right words and stories you'll need to use when you engage with those who expect you to lead.
3. Put The Current Situation In Perspective.
Before you engage with them, I think it helps to put the current situation in historical perspective. I've lived through the same tough times as many of you--9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis come to mind. But these pale in comparison to the current pandemic.
I found it helpful to think about how my grandparents and great grandparents survived the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression and World War II.
Many of us are better off than people were back then. After all, we can get food at supermarkets (or food pantries if necessary), we have places to live with heat, clean water, and electricity; and we have access to information and entertainment. Perhaps most importantly, our health care system is better than it was then and there is reasonable hope that a vaccine and treatments will be discovered.
These thoughts engage my optimistic nature, which frees me to stop worrying and start solving problems. These steps could also help business leaders to do the same.
4. Solve The Most Important Problems First.
The first and most important problem you business leaders must tackle is how to reconnect emotionally with those who depend on you. To tweak a cliche: your people will not care how you'll solve all the business problems ahead until they know that you care about them.
Steps one through three are intended to help you show them that you care. You should communicate your care by meeting via video-conference with your employees, customers, partners, and investors. Share with them how you are feeling; articulate the values you will use to make decisions affecting the company's future; and ask them to share their feelings.
From there you'll be in a position to engage your intellect to solve the many business problems that lie ahead. Assemble a team of experts, set goals, brainstorm options, formulate strategies, gain consensus around how to implement them; and get results.
5. Model Resilience In Your Actions And Thoughts.
To sustain the momentum, you must act and think in ways that you want your people to emulate. Keep asking them how they are doing, find ways to clear your mind -- running is a big help to me, and convey a positive, problem-solving attitude.
Do these five things and you will you'll become the resilient leader that these times demand.