Focus on Competencies: Leading Through Adversity

It’s an apocryphal story: There was an English-run golf course in Calcutta, India, decades ago that was overrun by monkeys, who would regularly snatch golf balls and toss them around, much to the chagrin of the golfers.

The irritated golfers tried multiple methods to keep the monkeys away, including tall fences, trapping some of the animals and trying to lure them away from the area. Each tactic failed miserably. The monkeys continued to treat the course as their personal playground.

Eventually the golfers gave in and implemented a rule to play the ball wherever it was eventually dropped by any intervening monkeys. With this realization they had stumbled upon a deep but often-forgotten truth: There is no sense in fighting what you can’t control.

Leading through adversity and change in the workplace is just like playing golf with mischievous monkeys. You can fight it, quit playing altogether and lose the game, or you can play the ball where the monkey drops it. You can choose to face reality.

Here are a few ways to hone your attitude and actions to meet adversity head-on and even use it to your advantage.

Embrace Change

Sudden and unexpected change in the workplace doesn’t necessarily mean disaster is on the way. In fact, the exact opposite is often the case. With the right approach, adversity and change can offer you an opportunity to foster creativity and innovation, and serve as a catalyst to develop better policies and tactics within your organization.

The key to facilitating this positive reaction is to be open to change and find opportunities to foster participation and learning among team members. Remember that change is constant, but progress does not happen automatically.

Demonstrate Ownership

Negative emotions and thoughts can be a natural reflex when we encounter challenging or uncertain situations in the workplace. However, leaders have to be careful not to get stuck in these negative thought patterns because they will absolutely lead to negative outcomes if left unchecked. A consummate truth of life is that we can alter our destiny by altering our thoughts. The difference in human outcomes is in the thought processes — the way we interpret life.

When you view challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow, you’re taking on a leader’s mentality that will serve you well in adversity. Conversely, victim thinking can foster a toxic workplace environment that can cripple an organization in short order.

When facing adversity, consider which of these categories your behavior falls into:

Owner vs. Victim Thinking

Try a New Approach — With Action

If you’re staring down a challenging situation at your organization without a clear solution, get unstuck by trying a new approach to move a project or initiative forward. Seek out expert counsel, research creative solutions and gather stakeholder feedback on roadblocks and obstacles. These new approaches can range from small changes like considering a new location for a meeting to larger measures like employing new tactics with a stakeholder to get different results.

When working through adversity, remember to control what you can — such as how you personally react to the challenge at hand. You can choose to keep people informed to minimize stress and uncertainty, be visible in the workplace and display behavior that brings a sense of trust and credibility.

Once you and your team map out a new path going forward, make sure to clearly define the new goals and engage others around solving the problem. Once it’s clear that a solution to this challenging situation is possible and that there is a tactical way to approach it with defined solutions, the adversity often becomes much less scary.

Looking for ways to develop strong leaders who can guide your organization through a big change? Contact us to learn about our leadership development and coaching offerings.

Success Labs is a full-service, strategic organizational and leadership development company located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years, our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.