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Leading During The Storm

Here in Louisiana, the weather plays just as big a role in business strategy as talent management, revenue growth and market share. You get used to it – doing your best to factor in natural events that can be planned for and anticipated, but never predicted. That being said, the weather can still surprise us. This week, our state is facing yet another unprecedented challenge with the possibility of back-to-back hurricanes making landfall along the Gulf Coast.

Over and over again, I’ve seen the leaders I work with step up and care for their teams and communities in the wake of storms – and do it all again when the next storm inevitably comes. I’ve learned a lot from them about resilience, duty of care, and rebuilding when it seems like everything is lost. I’d like to share some of the best lessons these leaders have taught me, in the hopes of helping and inspiring others who are guiding their teams through challenging and unpredictable events.

Resilience is key. Prioritize cultivating it in yourself and your team.

Resiliency is the ability to take in and process disruptions, difficulties and turbulence – and pivot to a quick and seamless response in line with your organization’s mission, strategy and values. A resilient leader knows that challenge and recovery is a natural part of doing business, and makes a plan to absorb these shocks with their team. You can cultivate resilience practically by conducting a SWOT and preparing a strategic readiness plan for your team – focusing on financial, operational, and talent readiness. And work on your own resilience by maintaining perspective. By cultivating wellness, positivity and a forward-thinking perspective, you are exponentially growing your ability to address challenges head-on.

Show up even when you don’t have all the answers.

The 2016 floods wreaked havoc in Baton Rouge. With whole neighborhoods under water and thousands of people affected, leaders were not immune to the devastation – either on their teams or in their own families. The scale of the disaster made it difficult to know how to respond, but so many people and organizations rolled up their sleeves anyway, first to clear out the damage and then to rebuild. “Unprecedented challenge” means that you won’t have all the answers right away. Sometimes your first order of business is to show up, ask questions, figure it out, and take care of people.

Clean up in Baton Rouge following the August 2016 floods.

 

Flexibility should be the rule, not the exception.

My colleague Gloria West has written before that fundamental leadership means being flexible and understanding – whether you are leading a remote team in the wake of COVID-19, or just running day-to-day operations. We often make an extra effort to be flexible following major VUCA events – recognizing that employees likely have personal concerns to manage, on top of their work. But if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that work, home life, and global systems are all interconnected – and when one part is disrupted, the whole suffers. A leader can cultivate stronger, more resilient teams by relieving stress on employees trying to juggle it all, and extending flexibility and trust as a standard for doing business.

Harness your team for creative solutions to big problems.

Being a resilient leader does NOT mean doing it all, all by yourself. It’s ok to admit when you aren’t certain of the best way forward. However, you can still exhibit leadership and control by using this opportunity to cultivate and rely on your employees’ talents and skills. This can look like forming a “war room” to brainstorm and solicit new solutions to the problem you’re facing. Uncertainty and volatility often leads people to think in new ways, and your employees have an on-the-ground perspective that you do not. Whether it’s the aftermath of a storm or a long-term market shift, harnessing your team’s creative energy allows you to uncover innovations you may not have thought of, and develop your employees’ strengths for the future.

Stay safe out there, everyone. And always remember – leaders can’t operate in a vacuum. We are stronger together! If you are ever feeling overwhelmed or unsure of next steps in the wake of your challenge, reach out to your team, your mentor, or your community. I’m always blown away by the outpouring of help following storms and crises. It’s a remarkable testament to the good out there, even during undeniably crazy times.

Success Labs is a leadership development and management consulting firm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years, our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to grow leaders, build teams and drive results through great people strategy. Contact us to get proactive about expanding your company’s potential.

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