In times of disruption and uncertainty—as 2020 has been for most of us—teams look to their leaders for clear direction. It’s imperative for leaders to remain calm, balanced and purpose-driven in crisis. To reassure their teams that eventually the noise will subside, and the storm will pass.
With strong leadership, it is possible to continue driving innovation in the midst of disruption. Here are three ways leaders can help their teams thrive, even when the odds are stacked against them:
1. Re-frame turmoil as opportunity
New situations and unforeseen circumstances force us to learn quickly and adjust on the fly. Being thrust into this kind of environment can feel intimidating, but it’s a leader’s job to remind their teams of the silver lining: uncertainty can breed innovation. Leaders are there to provide direction and create the conditions for people to do their jobs effectively in the midst of ambiguity—and in times such as these, it’s ideal to let teams become more fluid and less hierarchical, which can lead to new opportunities.
It’s important for leaders to model the mindset they wish to instill in their teams. I’ve always found it incredibly helpful to re-frame hurdles as opportunities to learn and grow, and by living this perspective myself, I’ve been able to help my teams see difficult circumstances as chances to push creative boundaries and bring forward out-of-the-box thinking.
Now is the time for appropriate risk-taking, which makes work more exciting and increases a business’s chance of success during uncertain times. Failure is always a possibility, but failure just teaches us lessons and strengthens us. It’s up to a leader to set this tone in the workplace and make space for their teams to try new things, fail if they need to, and push the boundaries of innovation.
2. Rally around your shared purpose
In times of crisis, strategy is replaced by purpose, and the pursuit of long-term plans is replaced by focus and prioritization. When the marketplace feels volatile and unpredictable, it helps to give your teams a common ground to hold onto: a shared purpose.
Identify a core value and mission to rally your teams around. A common purpose will serve as a guiding principle for people to focus on, inspiring confidence, decisiveness, collaboration, and trust.
It’s a leader’s role to tap into their team’s fullest potential and put the tools in place that enable them to achieve their best. In times of crisis, a large component of this is guiding them to understand the bigger picture of their purpose and impact so that they can channel their energy toward overcoming business challenges.
3. Connect with your teams on a human level
At the end of the day, we are all human beings dealing with challenging business and personal situations that are completely intertwined. Self-awareness and humility are imperative for leadership during times such as these; connecting with your teams on a human level allows for flexibility, empathy and ultimately the optimization of organizational capabilities.
When challenges like those presented in 2020 arise, your teams are going to be uncertain or scared. It helps to get vulnerable yourself and open up authentically. As you work to execute strategy and drive results, it’s advisable to come from a place that’s grounded in your own humanity. Under such open guidance, your teams will come together in a collaborative way.
And of course, a critical component of operating on this authentic level is prioritizing your employees’ health and earning their trust. Since the beginning of COVID-19, my team at SKYDEX has prioritized employee health and well-being. Making sure your employees know they are safe and cared for will result in improved communication, transparency and an empowered system based in complete trust. Under these circumstances, technological innovation can thrive to drive results in the face of adversity.
In times like 2020, success comes from agility, confidence, and humility. Being unafraid to take chances, make calculated risks, and execute tough decisions—and empowering your teams to do the same. Drive innovation while being tolerant, patient, and holding fast to your larger purpose. Inspire trust and trust your team members in return. And do your best to express gratitude as often as possible.