In today's business world there are very few guarantees, but one that I promise will come your way is that you'll hit some adversity. Whether it's a bad quarter in sales, an unexpected crisis, an unanticipated competitor, or a company-wide transition, no leader I've ever met has had a pass on leading through adversity. Over the years, I have seen this and coached so many leaders through it, so I thought I would share some lessons that I have found critical for success.
.01 Embrace the suck. The truth is that it sucks to deal with adversity. Who has the time and energy for it? Unfortunately, and to be brutally honest, you are only paid the big bucks for one reason - to foresee the adversity your team will face, to solve it, and to come out the other side as winners. I’m not saying you have to love leading through adversity, but I am encouraging you to embrace it because doing so will make you smarter, tougher, and better, allowing you to quickly move on to the next lesson you will face.
.02 Do not personalize the setback. Just because you hit some bad times does not make you a bad person. It also doesn’t make anyone else on your team a bad person. Beating yourself or anyone else on your team up will waste your time, destroy their confidence and belief, and leave you with some serious scar tissue to repair later. Get outside your own head and double down on your experience, fortitude, and High Performance Mindset because these are the things you will have to draw on during times of adversity.
.03 Avoid the drama trap. It is so easy to get overly emotional and reactive during adversity rather than to get curious, practical, logical, and precise. The drama of the situation can easily coerce you into a dramatic response of thinking you’re a victim and everyone else is a villain. This drama trap will lead you to finger pointing, table pounding, shaming others, and saying things you will later regret. This can potentially damage the foundation you need to solve the situation. While drama is normal and natural, once it does its job of waking you up, you need to squelch it and move on to real solutions.
.04 Learn, process, and move on. Great leaders move from crisis to learning to action faster than the rest. They ask smart questions, look at the problems without bias, and recognize the root of the problem rather than the low-hanging fruit. Once they recognize the true problem, they keep an open mind and stay diligent, so they can dig beneath the surface to find the true causes and true solutions. Great leaders don’t have to state the obvious or make those around them feel bad for the adversity. They quickly address the situation with conversations that make everyone feel like they are part of the solution by asking for their input. At the same time, the best leaders I have seen have the ability to process what they hear and bravely take action. They blend collaboration, empowerment, decision-making, speed, and action.
.05 Teach don’t preach. During adversity, it’s too easy to forget that these situations are the ultimate teaching opportunities. In the absence of problems, there is very little real learning. For some reason, adversity has the ability to make subpar leaders suddenly become know-it-alls. Worse yet, it somehow inspires them to stand on the table and begin preaching. Great leaders don’t preach, they teach. They realize that no leader, no matter how magical or inspired they are, can overcome adversity alone. Great leaders spend their time helping those around them learn, get better, and move forward. They share their experience and beliefs to inspire others and teach them to succeed through adversity by believing in themselves, their teammates, their leaders, and their strategy.
.06 Role model success. If there is ever a time that a leader’s Sustainable High Performance matters, it is during adversity. When a leader demonstrates trust, care, and excellence, it raises everyone’s game. It creates a team of problem solvers, and it leads to better solutions. This takes energy, resilience, and mental agility. It requires preparation because every interaction with an employee, another leader, or the public is an opportunity to either build or destroy belief. Great role modeling gives everyone energy to take action and believe in their own ability to win.
Leading isn’t easy and leading through adversity is even tougher. No one ever said it should be easy, but is there any better feeling than being tested in the heat of the battle and emerging successfully with your entire team/organization even better than it was before? As always, I'd love to hear what you think.
By Scott Peltin
Founder/Chief Performance Officer